WFM Strategy

Why you should never manage a contact center without WFM software

Charles Watson 7 min read Download as PDF
Why you should never manage a contact center without WFM software

Virtually every large company uses a workforce management system. According to a recent survey on US contact center operations, 90% of large contact centers, actively use WFM software today. Around 66% of those contact centers are actually satisfied with their solution whereas 24% are looking to upgrade or replace their WFM software.

In this article I will show you reasons why workforce management is not implemented in many contact centers and explain the main consequences to the business. Also, I will give you an insight on the different Workforce Management functions such as Forecasting, Scheduling and Real-Time Management and their increasing complexity when done without a WFM software.

The entire topic of WFM is driven by the need to continuously improve contact center operations to meet the growing demands of customers – both in terms of service level consistency and the various channels they want to reach out the business. While many large centers already have a WFM system in place, the majority of small contact centers  (<50 agents) are not using a dedicated WFM software as they have a much lower utilization.

In fact, only 43% of these contact centers use a system. And only 2% are actively looking to replace or upgrade their system.

The WFM cost challenge

Why is there such a gap between larger and smaller contact centers?

The obvious answer is funding!

Larger companies often have greater funds to invest in these types of tools. Smaller companies have to get creative and make the best out of what they have.

However, given the importance of contact centers to a company’s brand reputation, costs/margins, and customer satisfaction matter and become more and more important to remain competitive.

 Ask yourself: How can you afford not to have a workforce management system?

Add to this the fact that any workforce management system – if used properly – will carry a positive return on investment (ROI), it’s not only free in the long run, but it will make you more profitable.

The problem isn’t actually funding. Workforce management technology can be incredibly cheap. Take cloud-based technology, it is affordable and flexible. The costs are often OpEx (Operational Expense), which means it doesn’t require the same type of business case that expensive new hardware does. The costs of licenses hit the regular operating budget, just like the costs of the front line agents themselves. So if it isn’t an expensive issue, what is it?

Common trends about WFM

See if any of these resonate in your business:

1. Workforce Management doesn’t have a voice at the table:

  • Often, decisions around technology are made by senior leaders who don’t really understand workforce management. They know they need to achieve a service level, but just think it’s a simple math calculation to determine staffing.
  • In smaller organizations, the highest level workforce management professional may be a manager, and not likely to have a voice in those conversations.

2. Workforce Management isn’t a priority:

  • Believe it or not, many companies actually don’t care about their service level. In some industries, customers getting through drives revenue (e.g. in a sales contact center). In others, such as customer service or tech support, all calls are costs and they may not want to spend money to staff this.
  • This can also be due to a lack of understanding of the function. How many call center managers or directors actually worked in workforce management? Often, their experience with workforce management is in more of an adversarial relationship. Conflict in managing employee satisfaction (operations) and service levels (workforce management) can drive a wedge between the decision makers and the experts.

3. There is no workforce management business case:

  • It’s easy to assume that workforce management technology is critical and it shouldn’t require a business case. But in reality, any change requires clear documentation about the benefits, costs, and impacts of making the change. Doing this is an opportunity to educate leaders on the importance of workforce management.
  • Perhaps a business case was made in the past, but it wasn’t adopted. Has leadership changed since then? Have you explored newer, less-expensive cloud workforce management technology? If you don’t have technology for this, you should pitch a business case every year. Don’t give up.

There are some nice erlang calculators you can get for Excel as an add on. These are great ways to model some requirements or service level estimates at the interval level. 

However, these tools are less-effective when you’re looking at multiple intervals, because what happens in one interval will impact the next.

For example, your calculator may show you need 10 people, but if you underperformed at the previous interval, then those calls carry over. You won’t actually achieve service level in that next interval.

This is just one example of the complexity that is so much easier to manage when you’re doing it all in one system.

Workforce Management functions without a system

1. Forecasting

Many people use Excel. Even if you have a WFM software, you may continue to do weekly or longer term forecasting in Excel.

But when you get to the day-of-week and time-of-day distribution of volume and handle time, a workforce management system can quickly apply historical patterns to your volume - Excel cannot!

This is often the best starting place for your more granular forecasts. You may need to adjust this if you know the future distribution will be different than the past, or if you have a holiday. But most of the time, you can just adopt these patterns and move on to scheduling. Simple.

>> Read: This is what successful forecasters do.

2. Scheduling

I don’t recommend in any way to perform scheduling without technology. The only possible exception may be if you have a 9:00 am -5:00 pm Monday – Friday operations, where there is no chance to vary schedules.

It’s not just that a system will automatically determine when everyone needs to work in order to achieve service level. It’s that the system will build schedules that all complement each other.

Scheduling is like putting together a very complex puzzle.

Without a software, you may be able to create schedules that meet service levels, but you’re likely doing it as a result of overstaffing your operations.

You won’t know just how much you’re overspending until you model it in a workforce management system. So these costs can stay hidden, but they are real.

Remember: It's essential to measure schedule efficiency.

3. Real-time Management

Without a workforce management system, you’re likely looking at your ACD or Unified Communications tool to see how many agents are staffed, how long calls are queueing for, and what the service level is. This is all critical information.

The gap here is you have nothing to compare it to. If you build an accurate forecast and effective schedules against that, then real-time management is largely about making sure that everyone adheres to that plan.

Get started by checking out a free demo of a WFM software that appeals to you. 

Vendors will often help you create a ROI (Return on Investment) document that you can use in your company to help sell the value.

Actively share the value of workforce management within your organization.

It may take time, but keep chipping away and getting your message out there.

Always keep in mind: Companies save millions of dollars per year through effective workforce management processes and technology.

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