What Is Workforce Management in a Call Center?
Call center workforce management (WFM) is the process of adequately staffing your customer support operations.
Managers need to be able to accurately forecast demand so they can then schedule and assign their agents. They must also monitor intraday variables and reports to ensure service levels are maintained.
Effective workforce management in a call center also depends on having the right combination of skills and experience to cover customer support needs. This requires a healthy mix of new and seasoned employees to deliver efficient service.
Traditionally, managers have used spreadsheets, simple documents, and calendars to juggle workforce management. However, these outdated tools depend on data entry and open the floodgates to human error.
Progressive businesses are therefore looking to workforce management call center software. These solutions streamline the scheduling process using automation. They also provide a centralized space for data collection and analysis, helping managers forecast demand with greater accuracy.
Better still, some call or contact center software solutions integrate with WFM tools. Vonage Contact Center, for instance, connects with both Verint® and injixo® platforms.
Why Is Workforce Management So Important for Your Call Center?
WFM is crucial to the daily operations of a call center. It ensures your team and customers both have what they need. An effective workforce management approach is required to maintain this delicate balancing act.
When this strategy is combined with the right call center workforce management software, your organization stands to gain many benefits.
Maintaining Service Levels
As its most basic advantage, WFM ensures you have enough agents at all times of the day and night. It also accounts for the varying skill levels of individual employees to help managers put together cohesive and efficient teams.
Workforce management planning can also create contingencies that account for unexpected demand, so you can ensure consistent levels of service in every situation.
Optimizing Employee Performance
Workforce management tools can make it easier for managers to identify the strengths and weaknesses of team members. Managers can then allocate human capital to cover all bases for each shift pattern. Essentially, this means different ticket categories can be fast-tracked to the best agents.
Contact center solutions like Vonage Contact Center can support this process with skills-based routing of calls, where customers are directed to product specialists and other subject matter experts for rapid assistance.
When your employees are given problems they know how to solve, their performance can only improve.
Better Customer Experience
A workforce management strategy doesn’t only improve operational efficiency — it’s also a boon for customers. Having the right amount of people on shift facilitates greater first-call resolution (FCR), and handling tickets quickly and efficiently is the best way to increase customer satisfaction (CSAT) rates.
Customers who can’t resolve their issues promptly may take their business elsewhere, with bad customer experiences often shared on social media or elsewhere. Naturally, this is a scenario you want to avoid.
AI and customer experience go hand in hand, which is why Vonage’s contact center solution helps you level up your customer service by using artificial intelligence virtual assistants to meet service needs.
Optimizing Labor Costs
Preventing understaffing is a crucial aim of workforce management. However, a WFM strategy can also prevent overstaffing. Having too many agents on shift means your company is spending money unnecessarily.
Frequent overstaffing is a wasted opportunity. Those extra hours could have been better used at other times. Additionally, employees want to be productive and stay busy while at work. They don’t like to sit around watching the clock, so morale is also boosted by the right workforce management software.
Boosting Agent Morale
On that note, improved job performance and satisfied customers all add up to happier employees.
WFM can also increase agent morale by providing them with flexible working options. That’s because lots of call center solutions come with integrations that allow for automated scheduling, shift bidding, and real-time schedule adherence.
ContactBabel’s 15th annual Contact Center Decision-Makers Guide provides further insight. The survey of 205 contact center managers and directors between September and November 2022 found that 28% of respondents believe higher pay to be the number one factor in boosting agent morale.
Besides monetary motivation, though, it was found that flexible shifts, customer support technology, and opportunities for working from home were other top methods for boosting agent morale and retention — all facilitated by call center WFM!
Streamlined scheduling tools allow your team to work at the times that are best suited to them. They also allow flexibility in terms of lunch breaks, time off, and shift swaps, which management can approve automatically.
The Principle Elements of Call Center Workforce Management
Workforce management in a call center relies on several components. Each of these is interrelated and depends on the others to succeed.
Managers must effectively govern each of the elements that make up their overall WFM strategy.
The first principle aspect of workforce planning is predicting agent workloads. You can’t write a useful schedule without some indication of the cover that’s required. While no one can predict the future, having a ballpark estimate is half the battle for successful WFM.
Demand forecasting should be based on historical data, tracking inbound calls over weeks, months, and years. This data can be segmented by time of day, day of the week, or other methods. Segmentation can lead to more useful insights and greater precision.
Historical data is not the only pillar of demand forecasting. It also depends on other factors, such as sales, recalls, seasonality, and promotions. Managers must forecast based on meeting service objectives and predicting the agent skill levels required to satisfy demand.
Today, many businesses use call center WFM solutions that rely on algorithms and predictive modeling. These modern technologies empower your management team with real-time forecasting.
Despite your best forecasting efforts, things won’t always go according to plan. Intraday management is therefore a necessary facet of WFM, and managers must create schedules that balance staff numbers and skills with customer expectations.
So what happens when a few agents call in sick? Maybe there’s a bug going around the office. In this case, it’s up to managers to develop a solution that works around the problem. For example, this might mean asking staff to come in earlier to cover peak demand.
Another WFM tactic is to have on-call agents — but be careful not to overwork your team.
Managers will need tools to adjust forecasts and scheduling on the fly. This is the best way to encourage adaptability, meet demand, and maintain service level goals.
Scheduling for the Future
As well as helping inform day-to-day management, forecasting can also aid managers in planning for the future.
Employee scheduling must align with demand forecasting to ensure short customer wait times and higher FCR rates. This can be more complicated for omnichannel contact centers. Managers must account for shifts during peak times and also staff team members to cover the most popular customer support channels.
Using a manual process like a spreadsheet can become tedious if a manager has to account for more channels than just phone calls. Fortunately, contact and call center software like that offered by Vonage can integrate with robust workforce management solutions like Verint®. These tools can then automate and streamline schedule creation in real-time.
Smart scheduling will help you put a strategy in place to maximize agent effectiveness and boost operational efficiency.
Call Center Workforce Management Best Practices
WFM in call centers is one part art and one part science. There isn't one right path for every business to follow. Rather, you must build a customized workforce management system that fits your business..
Here are some best practices to help you:
Create a WFM Team
Delegation is part of good management, so assemble a team of managers and supervisors to oversee your strategy. This can be done internally or externally, and this group will become your workforce experts.
Your WFM team should have clear goals and objectives. They need the right tools to help them maintain service levels and optimize employee scheduling. Workforce management software can empower them with real-time data visualization and the automation of administrative tasks.
By giving ownership to a purpose-built team, you can rest assured that nothing will be overlooked. As time progresses, your WFM will improve as the team gains more experience and knowledge.
Build a Knowledge Base
Knowledge bases are a popular self-service tool for many customers. They help people find quick solutions and lower customer service demand.
However, there are other knowledge bases you should explore, i.e., learning resources for your team.
You want a knowledge base that guides agents on tasks such as shift swaps and educates them on any WFM tools.
Empower Employees With Self-Service
On that note, you can also use scheduling tools that allow your team to view, request, and make changes from an online portal or mobile app.
Self-service in these areas gives your agents greater control and flexibility — both of which contribute to employee satisfaction.
It’s important to build a culture of continuous learning for all your employees. This means providing learning materials and training for managers, supervisors, and agents. Training resources can include a knowledge base, call recordings, live coaching sessions, webinars, and more.
Managers should stay informed on current call center and workforce management trends. This will ensure your WFM team is up-to-date with the latest forecasting and scheduling tools.
Call Centre Helper’s 2022 “What Contact Centres Are Doing Right Now” survey of 294 contact center professionals found that 86.7% of contact centers had multiskilling as an agent initiative. The majority of respondents without multiskilling had it on the “wish list.”
Reskilling and upskilling your team gives managers greater flexibility, making it easier to maintain schedule adherence and service levels.
Fostering a culture of learning is therefore a win-win scenario.
Don’t Forget About Shrinkage
Getting forecasting right is a daunting task. On top of this, managers need to account for call center shrinkage.
Shrinkage isn’t only about not having an employee on shift due to vacation or illness. You can also have shrinkage due to loss of agent time. Contributors to call center shrinkage include team meetings, coaching, training sessions, and arriving late/leaving early.
Managers will need to use a WFM solution that fully accounts for shrinkage. This is the only way to achieve true call center optimization.
How Software Can Support Your Call Center Workforce Management
The right call center solution can work with WFM software to promote improved workforce management, increased performance, and better customer experience.
Here are some more ways software can support WFM.
Track KPIs and Metrics
Workforce metrics are in constant flux. Predictions are made and a plan is put in place based on these metrics. However, your WFM must be agile and ready to react to disruptions and unexpected increases in support demand.
The best way to stay on top of everything is by continually tracking vital contact center metrics. These include FCR, CSAT, average handle time (AHT), and cost per call.
Contact center solutions like Vonage Contact Center come with real-time reporting and analytics dashboards. This gives your team a convenient space to review your most important metrics. Insight into the customer experience and call quality can indicate what’s working (or not) with your WFM strategy.
Historical reports and analytics can unearth the root cause of what’s broken, too. You may even be able to spot trends early enough to gain a competitive advantage.
Automate Schedule Adherence and Approvals
Leave the spreadsheets behind and adopt call center and WFM solutions instead. Implement software tools for automated and real-time schedule adherence. This lets you automate processes like shift bidding, shift swaps, and other flexible scheduling processes.
With built-in adherence, you can rest assured that shift changes will only be approved if they meet expected service levels. This means managers and supervisors can spend less time on admin and more on improving the customer experience.
Enable Skills-Based Routing
It can be tempting to keep scheduling simple. For call centers, that might mean comparing availability against demand forecasts and filling in the gaps. The problem with this line of thinking is you aren’t accounting for the individual skill level of each agent.
For example, some of your staff will have much more customer service experience than others. And certain agents will be more knowledgeable in areas like returns, refunds, or products. WFM software lets managers build schedules that monitor agent skill levels and ensure the right people are working at the right time.
At the same time, call center software, which has features like interactive voice response (IVR) menus and skills-based routing, allows you to direct calls based on agent skill. That means you can send customers to a knowledgeable agent for quicker answers to their problems.
Use Predictive Forecasting
Asking your managers to make accurate forecasts based on historical data and spreadsheets is like asking them to predict if a coin will land heads or tails.
So take advantage of modern workforce management solutions that gather data in real-time. Using platforms like Vonage Contact Center and Verint in combination can arm your team with more extensive data and insights.
Predictive analytics will change based on algorithms and machine learning. As a result, your WFM analysts will be able to adjust forecasts on the fly and make sure your call center can keep up with constantly evolving demand.
Call Center Workforce Management: Keeping Agents and Customers Happy
Effective workforce management is the best solution to a rapidly changing world. Customers today expect better and more personalized service, and your team wants to be able to focus on what they do best — helping customers.
With the right call center solutions and WFM tools, you can take the pain out of scheduling. More accurate demand forecasting means customers are never left hanging, and your representatives will be available to help in their time of need.
When your customers and agents both get what they want, everybody wins.
Get in touch with a Vonage expert today to learn more about our solutions and how they could help with your call center workforce management.
Still Have Questions About Call Center Workforce Management?
A workforce manager’s primary role is to oversee and optimize your call center team. They must be able to plan for customer service demand, as well as schedule and assign employee roles and shift patterns.
It’s not all about long-term planning; managers must also account for daily fluctuations and unexpected occurrences. Intraday management might include adjusting staffing levels according to real-time data to maintain consistent service.
WFM and HR both deal with aspects of the workforce. However, they’re two distinct areas of the business.
HR oversees people management. Every employee in the organization falls under the HR umbrella. HR activities include recruitment, onboarding, compensation, benefits, and policy development. Their role is to nurture the employee relationship from beginning to end.
WFM has a much narrower scope. It mainly deals with the optimization of staffing levels and skills-based scheduling. Workforce managers are only concerned with getting the right people in at the right time, whereas HR is responsible for finding, training, and retaining talent.
Schedule adherence refers to how well your team sticks to written schedules. This includes planned tasks like meetings and lunch breaks. Schedule adherence is crucial in WFM because it’s the only way to achieve optimal resource utilization.
For example, if a team member decides to take lunch early, a shift may be understaffed during their break. This could lead to longer call waiting times and unhappy customers.
Schedule adherence also ensures your call centers meet minimum service levels. Demand forecasting should have accounted for break periods, so if everyone sticks to the schedule, even peak call times shouldn’t be a problem.
Want to know more about call center workforce management? We’re here to help! Call us at 1-844-365-9460, or fill out this form! A dedicated specialist will show you how WFM can:
- Optimize employee performance, making it easier to identify the strengths and weaknesses of team members
- Maintain proper service levels at all times of the day and night, and create contingencies to meet unexpected demand
- Boost the customer experience through better first-call resolution and more efficient ticket handling
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