Call centers have operated by utilizing their workforce for decades.
The employees of a call center form the front of interaction between the customer and the company.
They play a crucial role in directing how business works, and determine the success or failure of the company to a significant extent.
Recently, we have seen a lot of changing patterns in demands and requirements for the industry.
Some of the traditional methods of running operations are proving ineffective in modern markets. Competition has intensified, technologies have advanced and newer strategies have been developed to boost sales.
This is why Workforce Management (WFM) strategies play a crucial role in the day to day operations of call centers today.
We have mentioned how the market has evolved and the demands of customers have changed over the years. On top of that, internal dynamics in call centers have also changed significantly in recent years.
An increasing number of employees today are aware of the conditions they require to work to their full potential.
The number of millennials in the workforce is increasing every year, with employees catching on to new technology quicker than their managers.
The emergence of trends such as working from home or evaluation on quality-centric metrics are now established traits being followed all across the globe.
As a result, the traditional techniques that companies have used so far regarding managing their workers are also changing rapidly.
Workforce Management is the collection of processes and technology that enable a business to manage human resources in the most efficient way possible.
This involves putting the right people in the right place to suit their skill sets, managing tasks to draw their best performances, optimizing the technology to aid in processing and perform analytical actions and paying attention to workplace setup, staffing, scheduling & productivity.
In this article, we present some ways to optimize your WFM strategies to suit the requirements of today’s industry.
1. Flat organization structure. Traditionally, you have call center agents reporting to a team leader, who reports to his manager, who in turn reports to the director.
This hierarchical approach has allowed call centers to provide consistent service, since there is a clear chain of command to keep things moving.
However, demands have changed, with customers now demanding a more customized approach as opposed to the general consistency that this hierarchy provides.
That is why companies are shifting to a flat organization structure where the accountability is more employee-to-employee rather than top-down as was the case previously.
There is more feedback and review among peers in the same rung of the positional ladder, and they share the accountability for their customers.
This allows the people at the grassroots level to understand and define their jobs more personally, and provide more specific services.
2. Work from home options. Working from home is no longer a very new concept.
However, far too many call centers have still not picked up on it, and it is hurting their brand.
One of the reasons employees say they cannot work up to their full potential is that they are unable to work around other commitments, and a layoff of even a day sets them back significantly.
Allowing employees to work from home has many advantages. First, it gives them more room to work as and when they find themselves at their most productive.
Second, it allows agents to have the ability to spark online at a moment’s notice, in case volumes get out of control.
Third, it gives a company a much wider range of candidates to hire from, since territorial limitations are done away with.
3. Scheduling flexibility. Working 9-to-5 is an outdated concept. Different people are at their most receptive at different times, influenced by factors beyond a company’s grasp.
Therefore, it serves to benefit the company if employees are allowed to choose their working hours, or if their hours can be pooled in together over several discrete sections.
Another way to go about it is to introduce target based timing rather than a specific number of work hours.
This means that an agent would be expected to work until they have finished a certain target for the day, as opposed to having to stay online for 10 hours a day regardless of productivity.
This helps in creating a result-oriented atmosphere in the workplace and drives agents to come up with efficient and smart solutions.
Staffing and scheduling is undoubtedly one of the key elements of workforce management.
4. Define your metrics. A lot of companies lose out because the key performance indicators that they outline are not in line with the goals they have set for customer experience.
It is very important to define your metrics correctly, because they are the parameters that you will judge your performances .
These parameters need to reflect the real scenario in terms of client interactions, sales and marketing statistics.
The KPIs you adhere to would influence all other areas of your workforce management.
For example, if your primary metric is Average Handle Time, your staffing strategies would be different to a company which prioritizes their First Call Resolution Rates.
In this manner, other aspects of your operations would also reflect a difference.
Now whether handle time most closely relates to your goals or not, is up to you to decide.
Define your standards of service and the metrics which correctly evaluate those standards.
5. Review historical data. Intelligent workforce management is not just a question of how many men to put on what tasks.
It is also a question of which men would be right for a certain task, and how you can regulate the resources you have in the best possible way to achieve your desired results.
In this regard, a keen insight in accumulated data helps to understand what sort of patterns have emerged in the past and the ones that are likely to emerge moving forward.
Historical data shapes your operational strategies.
Analysis of collected data reveals exactly what sort of skills are demanded by a certain position, and how the performances of agents with varied skill sets have proven to be in those positions.
From such an insight, we can work out what skills to look for in an agent we want to put in that position.
Applying this logic for other decisions equips your company with proper employees given the tasks they would be best at.
6. Keep everyone informed. Clarity and transparency is important for your organization to be successful.
In keeping with the idea of enforcing accountability in a more peer-to-peer manner, it helps to have data accessible to all members of the team so that they can analyse it in their own ways and share their ideas, leading to a more wholesome and efficient solution.
Forecasting needs to be public so everyone has an idea of what to expect.
In addition, meaningful information logged on the go should be made available for other employees, so that they can take it into account on their next call.
Performances of the team in terms of the KPIs outlined, should be available for all to see, so that they can judge where they are going wrong, and reinforce what they are doing right.
Overall, maintaining transparency also helps to keep the morale up, and gives the team members a sense of shared purpose.
7. Manage your technology efficiently. We are blessed to be living in the age of technology.
The world is at our fingertips, if only we know how to use it right.
An important element of good workforce management is encouraging more and more usage of technology to solve the real problems.
Agents need to know that mundane calculations are to be left to their computers, since their own time is far too valuable to be wasted on it.
Data-driven decisions need to be taken, relying on technology to show the best path forward.
Software can sort out the noise and the meaningful data that is collected, and provide insights by analyzing this data.
Employees need to focus on the trends generated from the data and follow it in future interactions to bring out the best results.
8. Keep communicating within the team. Communication is key to success.
Agents need to be interacting with each other, learning from each other’s experiences and then implementing it to better their own results.
Agents and managers also need to have clarity in communication.
Agents should be able to share their ideas and offer their suggestions while decisions are being made.
On the other hand, managers should make it a point to give agents quality feedback so that they understand exactly what is expected of them, and how they can work to improve their performances.
Interacting with each other infuses team spirit and gives employees a better outlook to think of the correct approach to solving a problem.
These communications allow them exposure to a wider range of issues, give them perspective of what others at their level are thinking about and allow them to implement the collective ideas in order to improve the quality of service they are providing to their customers.
The Case Study
We have seen how workforce management has evolved today to become a more comprehensive and interactive approach as compared to that of years gone by.
There is far more emphasis of collaborative efforts and technological influence.
Call center software has been designed especially to draw out helpful insights from semi-structured data.
Managers are encouraged to be more hands-on in their approach and spur their agents on as a team rather than backing them as individuals.
This can be seen clearly by studying a real case such as Centauri Solutions, a telemarketing agency providing call center solutions for a large organization.
We will take a look at the state of their company, the challenges they faced and the solutions that they came up with, in addition to the results they saw and how they got back to a positive note.
The Problem Scenario
Centauri Solutions had been operational for about two decades, but over the last two years they have seen their growth rate flat-lining, and the productivity levels have been down.
The company was keen to sort out this problem as soon as possible because it was beginning to hamper their quality of service and in turn, their sales.
The specific challenges that the company faced are listed below.
1. The company did not offer a work from home option, so employees were left wanting more flexibility in their schedules.
2. There was not enough training put in place to help employees get acquainted with the technology they were expected to use.
3. There was a lack of communication between the employees, which led to customers complaining about a lack of continuity in subsequent conversations with the different agents.
To counter these problems, the company outlined the following solutions.
1. Employee suggestions were taken into account while scheduling shifts, and an option to work from home was kept for employees who preferred it.
2. The call center software solutions were demonstrated and explained to employees, and they were encouraged to take the help of technology to derive deeper insights.
3. A feedback mechanism was put in place so that the employees were able to communicate with their managers and their performances could be evaluated more comprehensively.
Once the new workforce management strategies were put in place, the productivity of the company was on the rise once again.
Agents were more comfortable in their workplace, which allowed them to put in a better effort.
Customers reported better quality of service and the customer retention rate was also up.
The company brought in and utilized the best call center software to produce maximum efficiency.
Sales also saw an increase within the first year of implementation of these changes.
Thus, we see how crucial role workforce management plays in establishing the operation of a call center.
With changing dynamics, the methods of implementation also have to change in order to continue delivering top-notch results.
The WFM strategies discussed here will help you bring out the best in your human resources and boost your performance.