By Susan J. Campbell
Contact centers are consistently under pressure to improve overall performance, reduce attrition, and achieve optimal efficiency, no matter what size of center. Those contact centers that function as telephone answering services are no exception. Implementing effective workforce management solutions can assist with proper scheduling, forecasting, technological innovations, and help to ensure that agents are properly matched with incoming calls.
According to a survey by the Society of Workplace Planning Professionals (SWPP), 90 percent of contact centers have some sort of workforce management system in place. The benefits that were cited most frequently by contact centers were that of intraday forecasting performance capabilities, real-time adherence modules, and ease of use, maintenance, and administration.
The most common function that workforce management systems facilitate is that of agent scheduling. The Call Center Learning Center’s Best Practices Report revealed that 47 percent of contact centers set scheduling priorities based on performance and not seniority — with or without a workforce management system in place. Those contact centers utilizing a system realize skills-based scheduling 75.2 percent of the time, where in the telemessaging industry the average is closer to 45 percent, indicating a significant need in this area.
A majority of respondents to a Workbrain Corporation survey revealed that total workforce management was a critical element to improving total customer service. While nearly 50 percent viewed sales improvement as the greatest benefit of workforce management systems, improved productivity was a close second.
In the inbound telemessaging area, the “selling” involved to drive customer service includes politeness, accuracy, and timeliness. When these deliverables are achieved, clients of the telemessaging call center will recommend them to their peers, thus increasing overall revenue.
Forecasting for the contact center can be a time-consuming and often daunting task. Without an effective workforce management system in place, contact center managers could be faced with trying to predict future call volumes based on previous years, anticipated trends, and potential contracts. Manual forecasting can drain valuable resources, and the margin for human error is significant.
The contact center is an extremely dynamic environment. Customers call for a variety of reasons; agents possess different skills sets; volumes can peak at different times during the day, week, or even month. For these reasons and more, contact center management has to be able to effectively match callers to agents, schedule according to call volume, ensure minimal waits for customers, and make sure that each caller receives exceptional service. This is a lot to manage in any size contact center.
When a contact center can execute effective processes, accurate forecasting, and efficient agent scheduling, agent satisfaction is improved, ensuring that customer service levels are increased. As such, the center can ultimately establish a competitive advantage. For a company in an industry overflowing with competitors, differentiation is critical to long-term success.
As contact centers increase their level of technology and the consumer continues to expect higher service deliverables, the center faces significant challenges to be able to handle customer contacts as efficiently and effectively as possible. Workforce management systems can go a long way to enabling the center to achieve its goal of optimal performance.
Susan Campbell is a freelance writer. She was commissioned to research and author this piece by Onvisource, providers of contact center software and outsourcing solutions. They can be reached at 800-311-3025, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.onvisource.com.
[From Connection Magazine – March 2007]