Contact centres: A tale of efficient scheduling

Times have changed. Every industry is facing new challenges and adapting to new ways of working. Contact centres are experiencing a rapid evolution and have had to accelerate their plans and innovate, due to the increase in demand across multiple inbound and outbound channels caused by the pandemic. And now, we’re once again faced with a new set of circumstances: lockdown restrictions are easing across countries, but there’s a long road of uncertainty ahead before life as we used to know it returns.  But what does this mean for the future of the contact centre? Well – it looks like a busy time ahead. 

The exponential increase in customer demand, coinciding with entire workforces being sent to work remotely, turned the management of contact centre capacity into a far tougher task than usual. To succeed in current times, and in a post lockdown world, brands must focus on maximising the skills and talents of their agents, to maintain and increase customer satisfaction.

Focus on your employees

Today’s environment demands that contact centres need to strive to assign their agents to the most appropriate task to magnify agents’ talents and achieve the highest levels of customer service. When they get that right, agent morale and productivity will be boosted, and so will customer satisfaction. And ultimately, this is where the success of a contact centre lies. 

Success also relies on being able to forecast and schedule accurately.  Fortunately, advancements in Workforce Management (WFM) have made it possible for businesses to create fast, flexible and accurate schedules for their contact centres.  And for smaller contact centres the new breed of WFM software can now be used without specialist planning skills.   If anything, the chaos caused by the pandemic has made it even more important to get scheduling right for employees, to keep the end customer satisfied. 

Everyone, including agents, is adjusting to home working and will need to implement more flexible working practices as economies come out of lockdown and people adjust to the new normality that we face. These adjustments will need to take place while simultaneously managing fluctuations in customer demand, and across different inbound and outbound channels. With this in mind, now is the perfect time to pause, re-evaluate, and put in place efficient processes for scheduling efficiency. 

Optimise your call centre staffing

Some WFM solutions are now built on the concept of optimal net staffing. This takes into account and calculates the fact that there will always be times when the contact centre is either under or overstaffed, which leaves businesses with either a deficit or surplus of hours.  

Conversely, the traditional approaches calculate schedule efficiency based on a simple calculation of the available intervals throughout the day that meet the acceptable criteria threshold. This approach can significantly distort the actual situation. Success lies in aiming for optimal net staffing, which focuses on optimising the hours and agents available to maintain quality of service.  

This simple change in mindset will free your team leaders and resource planners from the constraints of static shifts and routine activity placements, as well as start and finish times.

Three ways to boost schedule efficiency with WFM  

The combination of WFM and optimal net staffing can bring significant performance improvements.  Here are three ways you can use workforce management to make your contact centre more efficient: 

  • Accurate forecasting is a long and challenging task when working solely with manual methods like spreadsheets and traditional software, especially in today’s omnichannel world. The intuitive design of cloud WFM solutions makes this process straightforward for both first-time analysts and established resource professionals. Out of the box integration produces meaningful forecasts based on historical trends, direct from your contact centre solution.  
  • Optimised scheduling – WFM can become the ultimate in workforce optimisation too, building instant, optimal schedules and making changes in real-time using a simple ‘drag and drop’ facility to boost agent capacity and service levels. This can help keep agents engaged and happy by scheduling time for homeworkers to deal with children and manage busy households. 
  •  Real-Time Adherence (RTA) – knowing what call centre agents are actually doing against their scheduled activity enables supervisors to gain immediate insight into agent performance to support real-time decision making. Graphical displays within RTA show what agents are doing versus what they should be doing and highlights any differences or recurring ‘out of adherence’ (OOA) events that can interfere with any scheduling efficiency.  

Businesses using optimal net staffing and cloud WFM are now evolving and adapting to take control of their contact centres, and introduce new operational models.  Motivating agents and increasing productivity, while most importantly improving customer satisfaction.  Which, after all is the ultimate measure of success. 

 Thomas Rodseth is Chief Technology Officer at Puzzel

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