Making the Most of Your WFM Software – Ideas from the SWPP Sponsors

Some of the most popular sessions at the SWPP conferences are the ones that allow our members and sponsors to share quick ideas in a round-robin format. The panelist try to give each idea in one minute or less, and to share as many as possible during the session timeframe.

At this year’s conference, a panel of seven workforce management experts from our SWPP sponsors shared some great ideas with the conference attendees, and we wanted to share them with you as well. Panel participants included: Tom Tritten from Genesys, Kevin Zimmerman from NICE, Trudy Cannon from Verint, Brent Haferkamp from Interactive Intelligence, Eric Hagaman from Aspect, Derek Lanham from WorkFlex Solutions, and Brian Henson from Calabrio. The panel was moderated by Duke Witte of Wyndham Worldwide.

  • WFM is about people – It is too easy to get caught up in the math and technology. We need to make sure we understand we are affecting people.
  • Gamification in WFM used to be seen as silly and unproductive but now we can do things like quests, power of one, etc.
  • Always keep an active actual forecast versus one based on the budget so that you can know the staffing you really need if someone asks.
  • WFM managers should not be tool administrators just pushing buttons. Don’t be tied to one process and methodology. Communication is important.
  • Jargon is everywhere but we need to communicate with senior management, the WFM team, and employees in ways they can understand.
  • Transparency is kind of like playing Battleship where we are always trying to guess what others are doing. If agents know more about the WFM process and why things are done as they are, they accept better.
  • Don’t be afraid to look at your center and processes to see if there is a better way to do it. Ask why we are doing it that way and whether it really supports the organization.
  • WFM personnel do a lot of busy work because they seem to be the only ones who can and will. Learn to delegate work to the other folks by giving them access to the systems and data to do it themselves. It will open their eyes to what WFM really does and why since they will see the bigger picture.
  • Find that balance of efficiency and agent satisfaction. Ask agents what would make them happier, then do “what if” analysis to see how it will work.
  • Often there is a lack of focus on training the WFM team members. Statistics say 80% of knowledge transfers in the first pass from one employee to another, and then the second person trained is more likely to get about 65%. Be sure your employees in WFM get the training needed directly from the vendors.
  • Make sure processes are fully documented especially for new hires in WFM. Don’t try to make new software fit your process since they all work differently. Identify what the end goal is that you want to achieve and then figure out how this system gets it done.
  • Most people look to the experts for best practices but it may make sense to gain the perspective of the people who actually interact with customers – your agents. Identify those that get great results and replicate it across the operation.
  • Some of the new ideas you want to implement cost money. Studies show that a 1% of improvement in agent satisfaction = 1% lift in customer satisfaction = 1% reduction in attrition = 4% improvement in absenteeism.
    What is the cost of attrition? $6,000 direct cost but $9-15,000 in indirect costs per Frost and Sullivan.
  • Try to be a problem solver – always offer an alternative when you need to say “no.” You have the tools to identify alternatives. As a problem solver, you will be sought out to be a trusted advisor.
  • Excel is not good enough to do the WFM tasks because fixed schedules just don’t work. WFM software packages have tools for flexible schedules, breaks, etc. You don’t have to go all the way to either flex time or fixed schedules. There are lots of options in the middle. Agents don’t always want or need fixed start times for example, but need to know ahead of time to plan their lives.
  • We typically do long-term, mid-term, and tactical weekly planning. Most people spend more time on the shortterm and the least on long-term. Try to skew more time to the long-term issues. It is a much bigger issue if the long-term forecast is off and hiring is not timed right.
  • Let agents pick their own training times. People may learn better at different times of day.
  • Seek partnerships with folks like HR. Understand their processes and timing so that they can meet your needs. Better to get the right people rather than just “bodies that can fog a mirror.”
  • WFM people are humans so don’t act like an ACD. Don’t move people around by re-skilling. It is reactive, and rather than damage prevention, it is crisis control with manual processes and then you have to remember to return to normal. Re-skilling breaks all of the WFM plan report accuracy. Use the automated capabilities of the ACD to do these adjustments.
  • Too often the complaints to vendors about “it is not working” can be attributed to people changing skills and assignments so they don’t sync with the WFM plan. Ensure that people understand how service level is calculated and how the goals are measured.
  • Create a partnership with your IT team. Routing changes can get made and not calibrated with the WFM routing expectations without communication.
  • Forecasting is not an exact science – there is a fair amount of art. Look at your volume by interval, not just by day or week. Even when your forecast and schedule are very close overall, each interval may be off by a significant amount.
  • Do you know who your top performers are and who are not? Try to schedule top and bottom together so that the top performers can mentor and help others.
  • Use your networking resources such as you are doing here at the SWPP conference. Talking to other WFM professionals only taps part of your potential resources. Use your vendors to help as well. They would love to have these conversations because it helps you but also helps the vendor to better meet your needs.
  • Everyone thinks their call center is unique and different and they are. Then they ask for the industry standard for everything – there is no standard. Get a good grip on your business and what makes your customers and agents happy instead of seeking someone else’s goals.
  • When there is a good partnership with WFM, Operations, and HR, things work a lot better and early attrition is reduced. Be sure HR sets the right expectations for new hires. In one case, a checklist for HR had to be completed with prospects and signed off to ensure all was discussed.
  • You can experience agent attrition because your shrinkage does not account for the needed training and coaching and team meetings. Understand what you really need and build it into your shrinkage long-term so that employee development can happen.
  • Note why when the forecast is off in terms of volume and/or handle time. An example is higher AHT in evenings that might not really be a function of new hires on shift as many assume. It could be something totally different like customers with more challenging issues waiting until they are home from work.
  • How many KPIs do you hold agents responsible for in performance management? Five is probably too many and they often don’t know what they are, why they matter, and how they can improve results. Focus on one at a time and it may improve results.
  • Performance-based routing incentives with outsourcers do not incent them to achieve top performance but more likely incent mediocrity. Instead incent your outsourcer to put their best performers on the phone.
  • Technology enables success – it does not create it. Understand how the tools work and avoid garbage in and garbage out.
  • Make sure you have a direct communication link to the people doing the routing strategies in the ACDs. You are in charge of a lot more money in terms of salaries versus the technology so exert your power over the process.
  • Goals for schedule adherence are so widely varying there is just no industry standard. Look for your best performers with no adjustments considered as the benchmark and avoid the whole exception entry process.
  • A 99% service level is a wasteful goal. Cap the top range for your service level goal because above X is just overstaffing.
  • Wear sunscreen.☺
  • Use the networking connections you have gained at this conference to share your ideas and gain from others.
  • Preplan real-time decisions so help the analysts have a “playbook” to draw on for consistency of reactions.
  • Feedback is a gift. Don’t be afraid to learn from mistakes.

Join us for another session just like this and more than 60 other sessions specific to workforce management at the 2016 SWPP Annual Conference, which is set for April 4-6 at the Omni Nashville Hotel.