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What-if scenarios - how can they help you plan and schedule?

Our brains love to run ‘what-if’ scenarios, we’re in a constant state of what if’s!  What if I win the lottery?  What if I injured myself home-alone? What if my staff suddenly all fall ill?

And…  as a result of that you catch your mind taking one of those situations and preparing for the future.  So what if I win the lottery, will I retire?  What if I injure myself home-alone, can I get to the phone for help?  What if my staff suddenly all fall ill, how will I cope?

So, running hypothetical ‘what-if’ scenarios within your Contact Centre can take away that crystal ball or finger in the air moment and help you plan and schedule for the future.  Make sure you’re not wasting time and misinforming colleagues and senior stakeholders with guesswork when a ‘what-if’ exercise can help you with forecasting and reliably plan for future requirements.

In this blog we’ll take a look at how some of our customers are using what-if scenarios within Teleopti to help them plan, schedule, understand the impact of events on the future and recognise what action needs to be taken.

Example What-if scenarios

  • Multi-skilling Agents

Running regular hypothetical ‘what-if’ scenarios can help a scheduler to assess the impact and benefits of multi-skilling agents.  Multi-skilling agents can help drive a more efficient contact centre operation by allowing agents to switch between tasks and channels.  Often finding the best way to manage and schedule multi-skilled agents for maximum impact relies on technology that can generate optimal forecasts and schedules. However, what we really need in order to achieve success is for the solution to identify staffing requirements and schedule accordingly based on optimal skill combinations (based on your agents’ skill sets and the available skills-based routing tools).

  • Increased Demand on Business

So, your organisation wants to take on new business or a new contract, there will obviously be an increased demand on your business.  If you bid for it and win, will your business be able to cope?  Do you have the capacity?  How many more people would you need to make it work?  Your ‘what-if’ scenario can help you plan for the impact of this new contract on your business.  It can identify precisely how many more staff you will need and precisely where and when you will need them. In doing so you can prepare yourself accordingly to continue meeting your desirable service levels.

  • Increased AHT

You’ve decided you need to make changes to your script because of a new type of legislation, a survey or a promotion.  This could add another 30 seconds onto the call.  You could use a ‘what-if’ scenario here to understand what the impact is of increasing that call handling time by another 30 seconds. 

  • Achieving Service Levels

How can you achieve your service levels?  Do you run at 80/20?  But you want to run at 90/10, how would you go about achieving this?  How many more staff would you need to ensure this happens?  Again, you can run a ‘what-if’ scenario to help you figure this out.  You can also use this to calculate what your service levels would look like with less staff if your business came across financial constraints - how many staff could you save if you went to 70/30?  This could be assessed across the board or even based on those changes in service levels being applied to specific intervals or days only.

  • Outsourcing

Are you considering using outsourcers? A ‘what-if’ scenario could help you make decisions on what percentage of your work you would need to outsource and understand how many people you would still need to keep in your own business.

  • Marketing Initiatives

Every business will at some time run some type of marketing initiative or a product launch.  The marketing team have mailed out a mass campaign with 20% off and free delivery around Christmas time or they’re offering a free upgrade of your product which requires technical knowledge. You can expect to be inundated with calls.  The ‘what-if’ scenario, using historical data (if event has occurred previously) or predicted impact on demand reflected, will help you plan accordingly to ensure you have the right number of staff available with the right skills.

  • Flexible Shifts

To help with employee engagement, you could build in some rules for flexible shifts.  For example, Toby is a pro rugby player, he needs to train on Wednesday afternoons and needs to leave the Contact Centre by 3.00 pm.  Alex works 4 days a week but only works during school hours.  They both need to be declared on the system as being available around those constraints.  The system will look at every single availability and allocate schedules accordingly.  However, using a ‘what-if’ scenario before agreeing to these constraints will let the planner know that in fact it does work for the business and they are still able to achieve their desired service levels.

Flexible rotations can be introduced, with the scheduler adding a little variance/flexibility in start and end times, for example your agents still work the same hours, but they could start any time between 7.00 and 8.30 am - how would this affect your schedules and expected service levels? Would it help if varied shift lengths were introduced, longer or shorter?

Using the ‘what-if scenario’ really allows you to see the before and after picture.You don’t want to make drastic changes which impact people’s lives without knowing what the benefits/downsides will be.This could also help you to avoid going through unnecessary consultation with HR if in fact the ‘what-if’ scenario can tell you it wouldn’t work in the first instance.

  • Preference Based Scheduling

Preference Based Scheduling is a hot topic right now and ‘what-if’ scenarios can be created to help you understand how it would work for you.  Are you thinking of implementing it?  Before you do, you need to understand the impact it will have on your business.  For example, you’ve always had set shifts but now you’ve implemented a Workforce Management solution you have the flexibility to introduce preference-based scheduling - but you can’t just jump into that on day 1.  So, you can use ‘what-if’ scenarios to play out scheduling with preferences.

Agents can enter their shift preferences directly into the system.The scheduler will initially schedule based on preferences at 100%, however at this point the schedule isn’t published.The scheduler will work with the preference fulfilment percentage ensuring the right balance between what is good for the agent and what is good for the business.For example, they can change it to 75% thus stripping out a quarter of the preferences and then see how well aligned they are to demand.The scheduler can play out these situations using ‘what-if’ scenarios.You can also give your agents a ‘must have’ day off which saves the agent having to take annual leave or in some cases sick leave, all of which improves employee engagement.This can be done on 2 ‘must haves’ in a 8 week schedule period or 1 per 4 week period, whatever works for your organisation.

Summary

In summary, using ‘what-if’ scenarios can help you play out different scenarios to understand the impact actions will have on your business.  Make sure this isn’t a one-off exercise, keep repeating it to help you assess, take action and measure impact.

Lesley Bell of Zen Retail a Business Systems customer said “Teleopti is fantastic for creating different scenarios with my forecasting which I did not have before.  The software allows me to make informed decisions regarding assigning workload whilst being able to forecast with better accuracy potential challenges which could come up when managing the day-to-day operation of the department”.

 

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