Using WFM to Deliver Cost Savings and Plan for the Future
2009 and 2010 are expected to be tough years for most contact centers, due to the economy. But planning ahead while addressing today’s many challenges, such as reducing expenses without negatively impacting service level, delaying investments, retaining customers and increasing revenue, will enable you to come out of this recession well ahead of your competition. The right workforce management (WFM) solution can help you meet today’s tactical needs – reducing your staff-related budget by 10% – 20% – and prepare for the future, as well. As author Alan Lakein aptly says, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
What is Long-Term Strategic Staff Planning?
A long-term strategic staff plan for the contact center is a systematic strategy formulation and planning process. It is supported by technology and can create multiple scenarios that result in staffing plans aligned with enterprise-wide forecasts, resource plans and budgets.
How it Works
Strategic staff planning tools help managers balance customer service, profitability and employee satisfaction, in the short (6 months), medium (1 year) and long (greater than 1 year) term. They help managers plan contact center activities based on changing business scenarios, such as economic downturns or growth spurts. Long-term strategic staff planning solutions help answer questions such as:
- What is our ideal staffing level at different times, given different business scenarios?
- When should we open/close a contact center?
- What type of staff resources should we use to optimize performance and budgets: hire, overtime or both?
- If we have to reduce our agent-related budget by 20%, what is the best way to minimize the impact on service level?
- When should we hire additional agents who can be fully trained when business picks up?
- What is the anticipated budget and financial impact of any of these decisions?
Workforce Management and Beyond
Workforce management solutions are used in contact centers to forecast the projected transaction (calls, emails, chat session) volumes, determine the number of agents needed to handle these transactions, and then create appropriate agent schedules. The solutions are intended to optimize the performance of contact centers by making sure that the organization has the right number of agents with the right skills to handle the forecasted transaction volume. Because WFM solutions are complex and it is challenging to apply their results, most managers take advantage of only a small portion of their capabilities. Managers who are willing to optimize their use of WFM, however, will likely be able to reduce their staff-related expenses substantially, avoiding the need to cut staff and compromise service levels.
Long-term strategic agent planning tools (which may be part of some WFM solutions) can be used to plan agent staffing needs one to five years into the future. A contact center manager must be able to plan, forecast and schedule to support the enterprise’s overall business objectives. Strategic agent planning solutions identify the number of agents, skills, and when to hire them; they also supply the associated budget and financial information required to plan ahead.
How It Works
Long-term strategic staff planning combines art and science. Using anticipated contact volumes, handle times, agent attrition rates, hiring plans and service goals, scenarios are developed to address various projected business conditions. The end result is not just a forecast designed to meet service level goals (average handle time, average speed of answer, acceptable number of abandoned contacts, etc.); rather it’s a series of plans and budgets that support a number of “what if” assumptions. It enables good decisions to be made proactively, based on business plans, so that when a business grows, the contact center can be fully staffed and ready.
Planning Your Contact Center’s Future
The long-term strategic staff plan should be conceptual and directional. A good strategic plan identifies the best approaches for meeting long-term enterprise goals. An effective contact center long-term strategic staffing solution delivers practical and tactical recommendations. While it’s essential to meet your current goals, it’s as important to plan for the future so that you are prepared to grow in sync with the business.
DMG IN THE NEWS
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|2/1/09||IVR Goes Proactive (ANSWERStat)|
|1/28/09||Workforce Management Market Grows by 7.4 Percent Despite Global Recession
DMG Consulting Estimates Workforce Management Can Trim Contact Center Costs by 10-20% without Affecting Service Levels or Customer Experience
|1/26/2009||Ask the CRM Expert: Questions & Answers – Creating work-at-home agent agreement for call center employees (SearchCRM.com)|
|1/22/09||Quality Management/Liability Recording (Workforce Optimization) Market Defies Recession
DMG Consulting Attributes Record 2008 Revenues to Increased Sales of Analytical Applications and Continuous Vendor Innovation
Ask the Experts
What is your opinion of open source software in the call center? How can a large call center with multiple locations benefit from this sort of model? We are considering it but have some concerns about data security, and we aren’t too familiar with many of the vendors.
Enterprises of all sizes have been adopting open source software at an ever-increasing rate. So far, however, call centers have not been major adopters of open source software; this is because call centers are often mission-critical functions and require applications that are highly dependable and are backed by strong support organizations. While data security is an important issue for all types of software, open source software does not present greater security risks than most other applications. The real issues surrounding the use of open source software in call centers are system features, stability and availability of support. [Read More]
DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.