In this article (the last in a three part series looking at how to leverage your Workforce Management [WFM] capabilities) Jeff Austin examines how properly applying the strategic outputs of an evolved WFM department can convert a contact centre from a reactive to a proactive business. The previous two articles in this series examined forecasting and scheduling (the foundations of WFM) and how correctly integrating Capacity Planning is the key to evolving WFM into a powerful strategic decision making tool.
by Jeff Austin
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Austin is the Managing Director of Siyandza Skills Development Training which delivers call centre and middle management training solutions.For further information visit the company’s website at http://www.siyandza.co.za/ or contact them on 011 403-9056.
Playing catch up Contact centres (CCs) usually only use WFM to ensure maximum logistical efficiency by maintaining the most effective balance between staffing and service level requirements. But WFM can add much more strategic value and become a transforming business enabler. One common example of reactive organisational behaviour is ‘service level catch up’. In this instance, should a CC have a monthly service level goal of 80% and discover that it is only achieving 70%, the business will then cut training, coaching and other overheads in order to increase the service level and ensure that more calls are answered. While this cut in overheads may boost service levels in the short-term, the knock-on effects of such reductions is reflected in impaired performance in the medium to long-term. The organisation in turn then needs to respond to these effects and consequently becomes trapped in a cycle of weakening and reactive behaviour. In a well-planned and executed business however, proactive training and recruiting takes place and changes in the business are more proactively managed. Service levels and associated staffing requirements are for example monitored and managed throughout the month to ensure target service levels are attained consistently. Recruitment planning is also improved; giving the Human Resources (HR) team time to hire the right people and also ensure that performance against operational targets is reported on and proactively managed.
Embedding a proactive approach Once the core WFM basics are in place and capacity planning has been integrated into the WFM process (refer to first and second articles of this series), an organisation makes better strategic decisions and no longer merely reacts to its environment, but it is still unlikely to respond proactively. The key to embedding a proactive approach within the organisation is to leverage off the evolved WFM department and engage it in:
Monitoring the operational environment and identifying decisions well before they need to be made so that effective planning can take place;
Eliminating common reactive triggers by assisting every department to formulate effective risk mitigation strategies;
Preventing avoidable financial restraints through the development of a dynamic budgeting process (based on active ratios and forecasts;
Assisting in the setting up of a dynamic operational performance tracking process, including providing feedback on performance against specified targets; and
Supporting internal staff development strategies i.e. anticipating future requirements based on probable call volume growth.
A sure sign that the WFM department is providing the required inputs across the CC is the eistance of an expanded collection of stakeholders to whom it starts to provide feedback. Prior to its evolution the key WFM stakeholders are often only CC agents and team leaders. Once the WFM team has been properly integrated the stakeholders may increase to include the CC managers and owners, the IT department and the finance department; and then(when the CC is integrated to the delivery channels in the organisation) stakeholders may even expand to the overall organisation.