Call Center Scheduling

Finding an Easy Formula to Do the Math is a Challenge for Contact Centers

When you google “contact center metrics,” there’s no shortage of suggestions to peruse. Lists of varying numbers of suggested metrics to be monitored pop up on the screen: 7, 13, 20, 27.  But which are the right ones for a company’s specific environment? The across-the-board metric cited is First Contact Resolution (FCR), which is a standard that just about every contact center views as critical to maintain and improve.  Similarly, Customer Satisfaction ratings, while not always quite as simple to define, are also a universal target to be monitored.

But it gets murkier from there. Many other commonly cited metrics, such as service level or average handle time, are not always directly comparable across channels; and evaluating teams that share some — but not all — queues is not always a precise process.  An ICMI study revealed that 39% of contact center leaders struggle to identify and measure key performance indicators.

A deeper understanding of metrics and how to calculate them helps a business set the right targets and reach goals to support its mission and vision. Each measure used to help determine how teams are performing needs to be understandable and actionable to individual agents, supervisors and management alike.  When all parties agree on what is important, a company can consistently track performance and see where to improve processes and training to help its agents do better.

Having this level of clarity on goals and metrics and knowing how they’re tracking towards those goals, creates employees who are more engaged with their work and empowered in their roles. A Dale Carnegie infographic shows that companies with more engaged employees outperform companies without engaged employees by 202%, and have customer retention rates that are 18% higher, according to loyalty strategy research by Colloquy.

Setting goals to measure performance can be somewhat tricky. Targets should not be so difficult to attain as to make them daunting for agents. There must be flexibility and compromise in determining how to balance between goals that appear to compete with one another, such as average handle time – where saving and time and reducing cost is paramount – and customer satisfaction, especially in cases that involve more complex interactions. When creating scoreboards to measure agent performance, businesses need to ensure that goals are instantly comprehensible and ready to act upon. They also need to make sense mathematically in tracking drivers across all contact channels including traditional, social, and mobile.  It’s helpful to use the same classification system across all interactions and equip agents to use it consistently.

Of course, simply knowing which metrics to use and how to score them is not the be-all, end-all for optimizing agent happiness. Going back to Google, one would find an astounding 147,000+ results for “benefits of a happy contact center agent”. The major areas of focus in these listings range from the obvious: “why agent satisfaction is important,” to the ubiquitous “fun things to do to keep agents happy” and the more specific evaluations of software and services to promote agent satisfaction.

Companies must be proactive in their approach to building models that are consistently accurate in predicting probabilities and outcomes in their contact centers. Models that are less than precise lead to failure to maintain desired service levels and result in cost overages. Businesses need to find innovative but proven methods to calculate the proper variables and the right things to look for in developing analyses that result in accurate forecasts.

Data abundance and complex operations make it challenging to develop, implement, and present clean, clear reports and on-target analyses. Over the next several months, agent-first solution provider Sharpen Technologies, developers of an always-on contact center platform built for the enterprise, will present a comprehensive series of complimentary webcasts on CrmXchange.

The four sessions are designed to demystify the process of determining the right metrics, show businesses how to measure and accurately analyzing contact center performance, and to implement those analyses across the operation so the entire organization stays focused on excellence. It will culminate in a discussion of how to put together the most efficacious math models for contact center executives and managers to glean actionable insights.

The first webcast in the series, “Attributes of Solid Contact Center Performance Metrics – and Attributes of Poor Ones”  will take place on Thursday, March 5.

The second,” Learn How to be Great: Helping Agents, Supervisors, and Execs Perform,” will be presented on Tuesday April 21.

The third session, “Setting Performance Goals and Scorecards,” comes up on Thursday, August 13.

The final presentation “Building Great “What-If” Models and the Resulting Analyses for the CEO” will be delivered on Tuesday, October 20.

All webcasts will be jointly presented by Ric Kosiba, Chief Data Scientist and Adam Settle. Chief Product Officer, Sharpen Technologies. Ric’s vast background of expertise goes back two decades to Bay Bridge Decisions Technologies which he co-founded in 2000. In that role, he developed the contact center industry’s first “what if” decision engine, a complex set of algorithms designed to forecast proper staffing levels. Adam is an experienced education professional skilled in Sales, Coaching, Team Building, and Training. He combines his extensive knowledge with hands-on experience as a trainer at Apple and Angie’s List.

Register now at no cost for the individual presentations or the complete series. Each webcast is at 1:00PM ET. If you cannot attend the live presentation, a link to the recorded session will be available within 24 hours.

An Online In-Depth Education Program Without the Cost and Inconvenience of Traditional Live Conferences

While there are numerous quality live conferences in the CX/contact center space that delve into workforce optimization, attending these events often entails a series of complex decisions. First, you must determine if it includes enough seminars that are relevant to your specific needs and exhibitors with the right solutions to advance your program. Then, you need to obtain approval and funding, plan the details of the trip and make sure all your responsibilities are covered while you are away. While some consider traveling to an event a welcome break from routine, others find it a time-consuming, expensive disruption that they simply can’t justify.

The need for ongoing education in this critical operational area continues to grow. Over the past 12 years, an increasing number of workforce planning professionals have found a flexible, no-cost, no-travel alternative in CrmXchange’s annual online Best Practices in Workforce Optimization virtual conference, produced in conjunction with the Quality Assurance and Training Connection (QATC) and the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP).

Over the past two years, the event has been expanded to provide even more in-depth education. For 2019, it will take place the first two weeks of November, with the first week (November 4-8) focusing on QA and Analytics and the second (November 11-15) examining strategies for Workforce Management and Performance Optimization.

The enhanced conference content reflects the evolution of how contact centers now approach workforce planning responsibilities. It used to be handled in independent groups, with one team handling quality assurance, another conducting training, and yet another developing agent schedules. Supervisors often tried to do coaching with no input from other functional areas, while managers simply ran and reacted to reports. But this disconnected approach no longer works in today’s complex, omnichannel contact center environments. Workforce Optimization is a wide-ranging field that now encompasses all these elements as a unified discipline. And the CrmXchange virtual conference provides WFO professionals with the year’s most convenient and comprehensive opportunity to gain greater insights on the latest technologies, tactics and best practices.

Attendees have the opportunity to meet in real time with industry experts and colleagues who can answer their questions and offer business solutions tailored to their contact centers, without the cost and time away from the office of an on-site conference. Anyone can attend learning sessions the same way they would in an on-site conference.

The format allows entire WFO teams to share newly acquired knowledge throughout an organization. Team members can attend live sessions together or attend different session tracks. All sessions will be recorded and available on demand for one week after the conference – giving those who could not attend the initial presentation the opportunity to view the sessions later.

In addition, attendees can visit the virtual exhibit hall to download product videos, and obtain product information, press releases, white papers, and much more. Sponsors, including Calabrio, CallMiner, NICE, NICE inContact and Verint, are ready to share the latest innovations that may benefit your contact center.

And while you can’t sit down over a drink after hours, you can still chat with presenters and peers in the virtual lounge, a specially designed virtual networking forum for registered members of this online event. Learn what others are doing, meet colleagues, pose questions, and offer your own insight.

The Best Practices in Workforce Optimization virtual conference kicks off on Monday, November 4 at 12 noon ET with a high-interest keynote address Building a Customer Experience Movement which examines the true elements required to create a culture-changing CX program that is built to last. It will be presented by Nate Brown, Co-Founder of CX Accelerator, a virtual community of customer experience professionals.

Join the thousands of industry executives who have already benefited from this powerful complimentary two week online conference Register now and check out the broad ranging agenda.

4 Essential Components of Your Workforce Optimization Software

Delivering a positive customer experience is no small feat ­– there are a lot of moving parts that have to work together, with workforce optimization (WFO) being a major component. When considering which WFO suite to go with, keep the following four must-haves in mind.

  1. Integration with Existing Systems

The WFO system you use should be compatible with the rest of your contact center. Cloud WFO solutions are typically the easiest to integrate ­– they can be custom-fitted to your contact center, prepped and tested before going live, and even run along with your current WFO solution as you make the switch so there’s no downtime.

  1. Creation of Reliable and Adaptive Schedules

With the right WFO solution, scheduling becomes much easier. Your WFO software should generate schedules with enough agents to cover daily shifts, accounting for agent requests like certain days or times off, flex shifts, or work-from-home shifts. At the same time, your software should review shift data to accommodate for high and low patterns, which will affect things like breaks and training sessions. Your WFO solution should also be flexible enough to adapt when something unforeseen occurs that requires a quick change in the workforce.

  1. Real-Time Schedule Adherence

In order for management to know if an agent’s daily activity is in line with contact center objectives, you’ll need to see reports about schedule adherence. Your WFO solution should monitor and record real-time adherence, tracking log in and log out times, plus lunch breaks and other types of breaks. For contact centers that have out-of-the-box needs, like after-hours coverage, your WFO solution should let you create custom guidelines.

  1. Accurate and Robust Reporting

WFO (and just about everything else at your contact center) revolves around reports ­– otherwise, it’s very difficult to know what’s going on in your business. Even the best managers can’t be everywhere all the time, which is why they rely on reporting. The data that’s gathered will help you figure out where changes need to be made and what type of training needs to occur moving forward. Comprehensive reports will help you make the right workforce decisions.

The philosophy of WFO ­– shifting the workforce for the sake of optimal productivity ­– has been around for a long time, but actually embracing this philosophy by seeking out the tools to achieve it is still new for many contact centers.

Why Your Contact Center Needs Remote Agents

When agents are twiddling their thumbs because calls aren’t coming in, it costs the contact center money. When a barrage of calls come in and wait times skyrocket, the customer experience drops. Having the correct capacity of agents without over-staffing is a tug-of-war that every contact center has had to play.

Even with insightful analytics, you can’t perfectly predict how much activity your contact center is going to have. There will be unexpected lulls and spikes in activity regardless of what the numbers prepare you for.

The goal of flexible WFM is to increase the contact center’s agility while maintaining a high level of customer service.

Traditional vs. Flexible Workforces

One way to increase workforce flexibility is to have a number of remote agents who are able to work from home. Here’s how that can help:

Hold Times

Agents in a traditional contact center can easily get overloaded with calls, leaving a lot of customers on hold. Call abandon rates increase while service quality decreases. Remote agents are often able to deliver quicker call resolution.

Ramp-Up Time

Ramp-up time in a traditional contact center can take weeks, but on-demand remote agents are able to ramp up in just a few hours.

Scalability

If there’s an unexpected rush of communication or a shift has to be covered in an emergency, the resources at a traditional contact center can’t always scale as quickly as needed. With the support of a remote workforce, though, agents can cover gaps in even a non-standard schedule at the last minute.

Encourage Customers to Use Other Channels

Unexpected spikes are going to happen. As you continue managing spikes, particularly the ones you can predict, create a contingency plan for the spikes you don’t see coming. One way to do this is to encourage customers to use other channels, like chat, email, SMS and social media.

This can limit the number of incoming calls and may also lower the number of times a customer reaches out to customer service before being helped. For example, if you have a team of agents providing social media support, they can connect with a customer after the first complaint and possibly solve the issue before is escalates.

Even contact centers that have always had rigid staffing measures can see the benefits of a flexible model, which saves resources during downtime and allows for adjustments on-the-fly.

Callback Queuing – Benefits

At first, callback queuing (CBQ) sounds counter-intuitive: why would a customer call a company just to talk to them later? Nobody wants to wait in a queue.

Actually, this type of “return later” queuing has been used for years. This is the same idea as taking a number at the DMV and passing time in the lobby, sipping a cocktail at a restaurant bar while waiting for a buzzer to alert you that there’s a table, or having fun in a theme park until your scheduled time to ride a popular attraction.

In contact centers, there are unavoidable times when there isn’t enough staff to meet demand. When that’s the case, CBQ is beneficial to both the contact center and the customer.

Features of Callback Queuing

First-in, first-out is one way to handle CBQ, but it’s also possible to prioritize the calls according to customer profile and issue. There are two types of connection options with CBQ:

1. Obtain Agent First: The system dials the customer only after having an agent on the line. The benefit is that this option is customer-focused, but it increases the amount of time the agent spends on the call. There’s also a risk that the customer isn’t there, which is a loss of time for the agent.

2. Obtain Customer First: The system connects to the customer and then connects to the agent. This is efficient for the center, but not a great experience for the customer, and they could even be placed back into a queue to wait for an agent.

If the customer gets tired of waiting for a callback, some CBQ systems will let them know their current place in line if they the call the contact center again. Alternatively, the initial CBQ option can ask the caller for a window of time to call back so they know exactly when to expect a call.

CBQ isn’t just for calls. The feature can extend to mobile apps and websites. For example, a website can have a “Call Me” option that puts the customer into the callback queue without them having to place a call in the first place.

Benefits of Callback Queuing

According to Shankar Vedantum, the science correspondent for NPR, customers don’t think about an experience as a whole; instead, they determine an experience by how it ends. When a contact center isn’t readily available to answer a call, the customer’s initial feeling of disappointment is replaced after having an agent call them back to resolve their issue. This increases customer satisfaction and helps the contact center meet certain metrics, like service level.

Contact centers can avoid using extra staff for unanticipated peak times, like when an electric company has an outage or a flight is canceled due to a change in weather. Short-lived peaks can be accommodated, too, like when a retail company runs a promotion that gets more traction than expected.

How to Use Callback Queuing

CBQ isn’t a chance to under-staff a contact center. If volume is high for an entire day and over a long period of time, staffing solutions, not CBQ, are the answer. When routine callers get asked to opt for CBQ each and every time they need help, they’ll feel like their call isn’t important.

CBQ works best when the wait is over five minutes. Offer the option, but don’t require it. The customer should choose to use it. Set the right expectations by letting the customer know what the experience will include, like expected wait time and how many times the contact center will attempt to call.