A complete guide to call center workforce management

by Andy Nguyen
call center workforce management

Customer service teams usually operate 24/7 and often face unpredictable challenges while handling customers. 

Fortunately, strategic solutions like call center workforce management (WFM) enable call centers to operate smoothly while keeping customers and agents happy.

In this article, we’ll cover why call center workforce management is important and how technology makes it more efficient. We’ll also share five excellent tips to develop a solid WFM strategy.

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Let’s get started.

What is call center workforce management?

Workforce management in a call center is a set of ongoing internal processes that help ensure:

  • Round-the-clock availability of skilled workforce.
  • Efficient workload distribution among agents.
  • Productive and motivated workforce.
  • Excellent customer service at minimum costs. 

 A workforce management cycle usually involves the following components:

1. Forecasting

A call center may experience regular fluctuations in call volumes due to external factors. 

If a call center doesn’t have enough agents during heavy call inflow, it may lead to long waiting queues and an unsatisfactory customer experience. On the other hand, overstaffing results in poor resource management and added costs. 

Accurate forecasting helps managers or WFM analysts plan ahead by accurately predicting the workload and staffing needs. 

They usually consider factors like:

  • Historical data to identify low and high call volume periods.
  • Changing business and consumer trends.
  • New product or service launch.
  • Special events or holidays.
  • Equipment failure, bad weather, and other such contingencies.

2. Agent scheduling and assigning

After anticipating the staffing requirements, the WFM team creates agent schedules by determining the time and duration of the shifts. 

The scheduling and assigning process has three main objectives:

  • Determine how many agents are required during each shift. 
  • Design shift patterns such as fixed, flexible, or rotating shifts based on the expected call volumes and agent availability.
  • Shortlist agents with the right skill set and assign them to a shift. 

Advanced WFM software use technologies such as call pattern analysis and skills based routing to assign agents most suitable for the job.

3. Intraday management

The WFM team constantly monitors real-time call data to ensure everything goes as per the schedule and there are enough agents to meet customer demand.

However, despite thorough planning, a call center team may face scenarios that could affect their service level.

There could be an unexpected workforce shortage due to employee absenteeism or poor schedule adherence by the agents. 

There could also be sudden spikes in the volume of inbound calls due to:

  • Product recalls.
  • Power outage or technical system failures.
  • Floods, earthquakes, or other natural disasters.
  • Civil unrest.
  • Disruption in public transport. 

Intraday management involves taking reactive measures to restore normal functioning and the service level. 

Some of these measures include:

  • Reassessing the workforce requirement and priorities.
  • Bringing in additional workforce to meet the customer demand.
  • Scaling up the resources.
  • Creating a customer self-help portal to ease call volumes.

Intraday management practices help restore the call center operations after a disruptive event has taken place. 

However, it’s a good practice for a call center or contact centre to prepare for such events in advance and develop a solid business continuity plan. 

Your WFM team must identify as many of such disruptive scenarios and come up with preventive measures. Additionally, they must create an SOP (standard operating procedure) for each one of them. 

4. Performance management

For many call centers, performance management is a part of WFM rather than a separate quality management system.

The main goal of performance management is to monitor agent performance and help them improve over time. 

To get a clear insight into agent performance, an operations manager or a WFM analyst regularly tracks metrics such as:

Once they identify a productivity or performance issue, they can give actionable feedback to the agents or ask them to undergo additional training.

3 key benefits of workforce management in a call center

Let’s check out how managing and optimizing your workforce can lead to a significant performance boost.

1. Agent satisfaction

Only when agents remain happy and relaxed can they effectively empathize with the customers and deliver a great service experience.

But irregular agent schedules and excessive workloads may quickly lead to burnouts. Additionally, if the agents don’t have a medium to share their grievances with the senior management, they may lose the intent to give their best. 

That’s surely not a recipe for happy customers. Moreover, it may cause a spike in agent turnover rate.

How can WFM help with agent engagement?

An efficient call center or contact center workforce management system prioritizes agent wellbeing. It empowers them by taking a thoughtful approach to work distribution and performance management. 

For example, it focuses on ongoing training and constructive feedback. It gives the agents a solid foundation to improve their skills and boosts their morale.

Call centers may further boost agent satisfaction by adding employee engagement routines to their WFM program. These may include:

  • Open communication channels with higher management.
  • Gamification to boost performance through healthy competition.
  • Informal outings to ease work pressure and improve team bonding.
  • Reward and recognition programs to keep the workforce motivated.

These WFM efforts will surely help you build a happy and productive workforce, ultimately translating to satisfied customers.

2. Consistent customer service

Customers expect fast and effective service every time they reach out to your agents.

Long wait times may impact the service level and affect your brand image through negative feedback on social media.

Efficient forecasting and employee scheduling help you maintain adequate staffing levels at any given time. With a robust workforce management system, your customers get a faster response and a satisfactory one, thanks to highly skilled agents.

3. Cost savings 

A poorly managed workforce can significantly increase your operating costs. Quite often, you may over-allocate agents and resources during low customer interaction volume.

This inefficient management of resources can add up over time and impact your profit margins.

WFM strategies help you make informed decisions on resource and agent allocation. 

Here are some ways it can help reduce costs:

  • Regulate unplanned overtime requests.
  • Prevents time theft by accurately logging work hours.
  • Reduces administrative costs associated with attendance and leave management.

You’ll be surprised how WFM can help you operate at lower costs and still deliver impeccable customer experiences.

Now that you know why WFM is important, let’s see how you can do it with workforce management software

5 major reasons to use workforce management software

call center monitoring

Workforce management is a complex process that involves huge amounts of data. Many businesses rely on spreadsheet tools for scheduling and assigning shifts.

However, it’s a time-consuming and error-prone way to carry out WFM processes.

An advanced workforce management tool is a step-up from Excel-based workforce planning. It allows you to harness the true potential of workforce management.

Let’s explore a few ways in which a software solution can boost your WFM success.

1. Dynamic scheduling and assigning

Modern scheduling software enables managers to optimize schedules in real-time, which isn’t possible with spreadsheets.

For example, scheduling tools can prompt managers to initiate overtime opportunities during surging customer contact volumes and voluntary time-offs during low contact periods.

Additionally, it can reschedule agent break times on the fly to ensure they’re available during high call volumes.

A WFM tool can also empower agents with shift bidding, where they can bid for available schedules as per their convenience and get assigned to a shift in real-time. It boosts agent satisfaction since they have greater control over their work hours or changing their schedules. 

For agents under remote work or part-time contracts, the software can track availability and assign shifts without any manual interference. It gives you the freedom to hire and retain top talents worldwide without worrying about manual scheduling and assigning.

2. Efficient communication

Most WFM software offers efficient communication tools to keep all stakeholders in the loop.

For example, agent portals are great for streamlining communication between agents and managers. It helps communicate key information such as shift timings, policy changes, performance benchmarks, etc., through notifications and alerts. 

Additionally, managers and supervisors can use agent portals to see reports like schedule adherence and give personalized feedback.

A highly versatile workforce management solution may support communication through multiple channels like web and mobile apps.

3. Workforce management automation

Automating routine workforce management tasks will help you save time and money while increasing accuracy.

An artificial intelligence (AI) based WFM program can automate processes like:

  • Timekeeping and attendance management.
  • Call volume forecasting.
  • Schedule management.
  • Budget and resource allocation.
  • Performance tracking.

Research shows that companies that use WFM automation use their workforce more effectively and enjoy improved customer satisfaction by up to 5%.

4. Insightful reports

A standalone WFM solution has advanced analytics and reporting features that transform your call center’s data into insightful and actionable reports.

It can intelligently gather data from various sources like your CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems. Most WFM software also has built-in tools to log time and schedule adherence data automatically.

The software then measures key performance indicators (KPI) to generate reports, such as forecast accuracy, daily or monthly schedule adherence, real-time adherence, adherence violation, etc.  

These reports will help you:

  • Increase schedule efficiency using accurate forecast reports.
  • Monitor how well your agents stick to the planned schedule.
  • Track demand (inbound calls, outbound calls, and web-chat requests, etc.) and manage supply (available agents) to maintain service levels.
  • Take preemptive measures to minimize unused or wasted time, like scheduling off-phone tasks during such time periods.
  • Track agent productivity and performance to give them constructive feedback.
  • Process employee salaries quickly and accurately.

5. Customizability

While all call centers and several contact centers work towards similar goals, their approach to workforce management might vary.

That’s why there’s nothing like a ‘one-tool-fits-all’ solution for workforce management.

A good WFM solution has features that you can customize as per your needs. Moreover, if you’re planning a long-term workforce management strategy, you should choose a scalable solution to accommodate future needs.

5 actionable tips for effective call center workforce management

Here are five excellent tips to ensure that your workforce management program runs efficiently.

1. Build a workforce management team

Building a specialized workforce management team will go a long way in ensuring long-term success.

A workforce manager, together with analysts, should constantly monitor WFM processes. It will help them identify operational bottlenecks and performance issues at the earliest. 

Using analytics, they could see patterns and trends in customer demand and agent response. They can use these insights to optimize the WFM program further.

2. Stay compliant with labor laws

A call or contact center must take the necessary steps to safeguard the interests of its employees.

You can do that by integrating your WFM program with regulatory compliance management for labor laws such as:

3. Set targets and measure KPIs

The success of workforce management, or any other business process, can be measured by setting realistic targets and monitoring performance.

By tracking vital indicators, you’ll be able to evaluate the ROI (return on investment) of your WFM initiatives.

Moreover, it’ll help you identify where your team excels and what its weaknesses are. You can then make informed decisions towards workforce optimization. 

4. Build an employee self-service portal

The ultimate goal of a WFM program is to empower your agents to excel at their job. A simple yet effective way to achieve this is by developing self-service portals for your agents.

These portals expedite routine tasks like agent scheduling and leave management with features like auto-approval.

Additionally, managers could use these portals as a platform for continuous agent training. It promotes self-learning by giving agents access to refresher training modules from anywhere and anytime.

5. Share your WFM success

WFM plays a key role in ensuring agent job satisfaction. It’s important to share the success of your WFM initiatives with your team and the public. 

It’ll help you set WFM benchmarks that your team should strive to improve upon year after year. Moreover, sharing your WFM success boosts your employer image and will help you attract top talents.

Final thoughts

Workforce management helps call centers and contact centers balance customer happiness, agent satisfaction, and profitability.

It’ll help you build and nurture a solid workforce that consistently delivers a top-notch customer experience. Use the tips shared in this article to develop a successful workforce management strategy for your business.

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