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4 Tips: Preparing for fluctuating contact volumes with WFM

Preparing for fluctuating contact volumes with Workforce Management in Contact Centres

With one of the UK’s largest Workforce Optimisation consultancy teams, we’ve installed and provided training for Workforce Management tools across a variety of industries including Banking, Public Sector, Telecommunications, Health Services and Transport -  just to name to a few.  

Our experience has taught us that these industries all share a common factor - they will all experience various seasonal peaks and lows, dependant on certain variables, when it comes to their contact volumes and talk time. For example, one client of ours experiences major peaks and troughs based on the weather; whilst another is impacted by transport delays.

Dealing with these seasonal peaks and lows can prove a challenge for contact centres resulting in high call abandonment rates, poor service and even worse - poor agent engagement.

So how do you avoid this happening?

Here are our top 4 tips brought straight to you by our Workforce Optimisation team - with over 50 years' worth of Workforce Management (WFM) experience combined, these tips could be a life saver for your contact centre!

1. Put pro-active plans in place for when the unexpected occurs; improving customer experience and saving on additional costs such as overtime

Sometimes despite factoring in accurate volume, call profiling and scheduling to your contact centre, the unforeseen can still occur!

Being ready for this requires not only pro-active preparation but also the flexibility of a powerful Workforce Management tool.

Here are some pointers on how a WFM tool can keep your prepared:

  • One click re-optimisation: a powerful WFM tool aid which can re-allocate agent activities, breaks, lunches etc; all within user driven criteria. Often eliminating or reducing the cost of overtime by making better use of the agents you currently have.
  • Flexibility: Using a WFM tool can help you cater for shift flexibility, multi-skilling, multi customer contact types and blended environments. This will dynamically improve your ability to be both pro-active and re-active.
  • Templates: When the unforeseen does occur many WFM tools allow you to keep call profile and volume templates ready. This then means you can use the same or similar data when re-occurrences of a previous issue occur, allowing you to adapt your forecasts accordingly.

Although the latest features and tools help, let's not forget that you also need to consider tips and tricks in your strategy when it comes to the unexpected!

Here a couple below:

  • Speed is of the essence: In today’s day and age, customers expect instant gratification, so ensure you provide your customers with the option of multi-channel touch points to connect with your organisation. IVR messages, website alerts, SMS etc, are all options to reduce incoming volume and provide first class customer service.
  • Set boundaries: Agree a service level alert threshold which when breached requires urgent step by step actions in a staggered manner. Don’t forget to also put in a place a reliable alert process throughout the event which keeps you updated such as wallboard notifications or an SMS message.
  • Emergency scripts: Consider emergency scripts for different ‘what if’ scenarios which your agents can use to ensure the issue is articulated by all in a consistent manner and will also keep talk time consistent.
  • Keeping track: Keep a log and track of what went wrong and what went well and how it was managed. After the event, don’t forget to evaluate. If it could have been better, then adjust processes for future references, and if it went well then don’t forget to praise those who helped make that happen!

2. Get to know your employees, engage with them and allow them to engage back. You'll be thanked with lower absence and attrition! 

Finding out about the culture of your contact centre as well as any key events happening in your location can all prove extremely valuable. These key events may be the annual pride festival, Diwali or Ramadan where employees could be taking extra time off.  Being realistic about which extra holidays you will need to factor for, will reduce on the day absences allowing you to schedule more accurately.

Here are some scheduling tips on how to boost employee engagement:

  • Scheduling Types: Consider the use of “Preference Based” and “Availability” scheduling which helps you not only achieve you service level targets but also balances employee engagement and morale.
     

    Preference Based Scheduling: Preferences allow agents to give input regarding required shifts. Preferences can be accepted or declined when scheduling by the planner. The sole purpose being to balance the achievement of service levels with agent satisfaction to an optimal level.

    Availability Scheduling:  Agent availabilities are set-up around the days and time periods an agent is available to be scheduled. The purpose is to allow the tool flexibility to meet required service levels by providing greater flexibility; whilst also factoring in agent requirements to improve satisfaction.

  • Mobile App: Make use of a workforce management mobile app so the agent can plan events and request them without being at work (you’ll be thanked with lower sickness and attrition!).
  • Flexibility: Some workforce management tools allow the movement of breaks and lunches within certain set criteria. This can help agents flex around certain events such as prayer times during Ramadan for example.
  • Shift Trading: Allow shift trading as an option, so that when holidays aren’t able to be approved, there are alternative work shifts agents can consider which fit their lifestyle. 
  • Notifications: Notify agents of upcoming holiday dates within their calendars to improve engagement.
  • Consider engagement: Consider the use of wait listing for holiday bookings for example, so the agent feels further informed rather than a request just being declined.

3. Recruitment and Planning are Key

When seasonal contact volumes hit you usually know what to expect. In order to cover peak demand, make sure you are communicating months in advance with your HR and recruitment teams. The months building up are critical. While you are experiencing seasonal lows in contact volumes, use this time to train your employees on extra skills making sure this is spread out equally, so you are not reliant on one individual or one department in the contact centre.

Here are some pointers on how a WFM tool can help you plan for those looming busy months:

  • Capacity Planning Feature: Make use of your WFM tools capacity planning feature which will aid your recruitment planning strategy. Capacity planning can help you determine appropriate resource to meet expected demand. This demand is then optimised against available resources to highlight capacity issues the contact centre might be having such as over staffing.
  • ‘What If Scenario’s: Most leading workforce management tools will provide you with the use of “What If” scenarios. This feature allows you to model and plan to various eventualities with ease.  
  • Scheduling Features: Use your WFM tools scheduling features to look ahead and plan for quiet periods. Certain tools have dynamic functionality such as “Activity Planners” for example which will automatically select the best slots for training and additional coaching at the touch of a button.

4. Research, Research, Research 

Knowing the drivers in your business and understanding what metrics may be suffering and what can help you start uncovering root cause issues. Trying to improve the metric without understanding the real issue may be tempting but will not benefit your contact centre in the long run.

They key is to investigate the issue as to why. Once this is done, this will ultimately provide you with data-driven insights and tangible information to take to the board if needed. In order to understand the drivers, work collaboratively with operational colleagues and departments who play a role in your customer life journey. Use your spare resource and get the team together!

Here are some pointers on how a WFM tool can help you uncover root cause issues: 

  • Intraday Live Reporting: Use effective intraday live reporting which will instantly allow pattern detection across your call, talk time and staffing metrics so you are ready for a proactive or quick reaction.
  • Reporting: Many WFM tools allow historical and, on the day, reporting allowing for detailed drilled down data into intraday analysis. Make sure you share this insight across your organisation for “one single version of the truth”.
  • Flexibility: If you are moving from an excel based WFM set-up to a dynamic tool and have a highly technical team with Excel and SQL skills, then consider a WFM tool which allows data extraction direct from the backend of the tool. This will allow for creation and adaption of reporting and ultimately drilling down into those root cause issues and analysis you will want to uncover.

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Workforce Management: Long Term Forecasting Techniques
 

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