Call Center Workforce Management: A Complete Guide
Different industries have different workforce management needs. When it comes to humble call centers, this is often on the complex side of the spectrum. Like restaurants or even healthcare businesses, call centers are influenced by long hours, quick needs from the public and hectic, constantly changing levels of demand.
Somewhere amidst all of this, call center managers need to adapt agent schedules and plan shifts in such a way to make the most of their call center teams to meet these challenges.
In this article, we want to go through the key challenges facing call center managers in scheduling shifts and managing a productive workforce, as well as how digital call center workforce management solutions can help. In turn, this will help you find the right solution for your contact center’s most pressing challenges.
Why is call center workforce management important?
When it comes to call centers, all the typical challenges of maintaining shift and operational efficiency are heightened. A typical call center often operates long hours, if not 24/7, so agent availability is a key challenge.
What’s more, there’s also a direct line between call center performance and a great customer experience. For example, today’s callers will only wait a few minutes at most so in order to maintain operational efficiency and customer satisfaction, shift managers need to ensure the right number of staff for each shift, anticipating demand, and then improving individual agent performance.
Add on to this different departments, lines of communication and even multiple regions or individual call centers, and an effective workforce management strategy becomes essential. Workforce management needs to consider all of the above needs, while keeping the operational costs of their contact center to a minimum.
Empowering managers with workforce management software
When it comes to contact center solutions, we can look to workforce management (WFM) solutions. There are a wide range of workforce management tools on the market, but due to the specific challenges and scale of running call centers, such businesses need to choose the very best options.
An effective WFM solution should do a number of things for a contact center workforce manager:
- It should solve so many problems as possible, proving it’s worth and greatly enhancing shift adherence and optimization.
- It should have tools not only for the workforce manager, but also for employees to help streamline day to day operations and avoid having to manually enter data into the new system.
- It should integrate with not only your call handling setup, such as your automatic call distribution (ACM) but also often software tools used by call centers, like customer relationship management (CRM) tools. With it comes to measuring employee performance, such integrations will be essential.
- It should also be simple and easy to use. Call center managers do not need an additional headache!
Note that such tools will also likely be used en masse across the company. Individual leaders will use the workforce management tools on a daily basis, but even contact center agents and HR departments have their own needs as well. As such, there are a wider range of criteria and features that need to be considered.
Key criteria for contact centers
Let’s take a look at the biggest factors of call center workforce management and how managers and HR can best meet the challenge. We’ll be looking not only at the specific needs of contact center managers, but also how the right workforce management software tools can help.
With multiple shifts and various responsibilities, employee scheduling is a complicated aspect of any workforce management. Leaders need to meet the needs of every shift, ensuring there are enough workers for each role, but that’s not all. When it comes to agent scheduling, we need to consider the likes of absences, changing demands and even ensuring each worker is assigned time equally to avoid paying unnecessary overtime.
The larger your call center operations, the more complex the scheduling process. Proper workforce management software can resolve this in many ways. Automated scheduling can help eliminate the manual agent scheduling process, and provide alerts to unfulfilled shifts and other issues, avoiding any mistakes.
Forecasting staffing levels
Demand in a contact center is rarely stable. There are peaks and periods of low activity, and shift schedulers need to be able to predict both as effectively as possible.
For instance, call volumes might be higher during lunch periods or after common working hours, when people are free, or may even vary between weekday and weekend periods. Add to this seasonal volumes, changes in different regions and other unique factors relevant to your business, and the need to plan ahead is clear.
Some of these things will be obvious. If your business has released a new product or service, or there is a key holiday season tied to your product, then you can clearly expect more calls and anticipate demand. On the other hand, however, there are day to day differences that aren’t so easy to predict manually, but this is where historical data can come in.
With machine learning, we can look to both real-time data feeds, as well as past performance, to predict spikes. The right workforce management tools can identify trends at the earliest stages and aid you during the shift scheduling process.
Intraday management – the act of assigning agents or changing the schedule inline with real time performance – is essential in call centers. If there is an irregular spike in activity, or calls start to take longer overall, shift leaders need to be able to respond as quickly as possible.
There are many ways that WFM tools can help here. Similar to our previous point, machine learning can handle real-time data and provide instant alerts if there are any problems.
For example, if phone calls are taking longer in certain departments, you can assign agents from other teams to handle the workload. If the volumes are expected to last, additional shifts can be adjusted in real time to accommodate.
Time and attendance tracking
Planning shifts is one thing, tracking if everyone scheduled has turned up is another. When you have multiple contact centers, or even agents working from home, this need only becomes greater.
Most workforce management solutions offer a companion app that employees can use to digitally sign in and out of each shift. While efficient, it’s also important to watch out for fraud. Movo’s anti-fraud features, for example, ensure users only clock on when they’re supposed to. In the busy environment of a call center, this is something that leaders can not manually do for each and every worker under their purview.
This, in turn, alerts leaders to workers that are late for a shift, leave early or otherwise don’t work the set hours needed. The sooner you know, the sooner you can adapt.
Time off and shift swapping
It’s inevitable that workers will request time off now and then. Managers already work around this as best they can, often by limiting the number of people able to take time off at any given point in a team. However, while earlier factors such as demand forecasting can help here, we also need to think about the specific need to fill in shifts with additional workers.
A digital workforce management dashboard can readily solve this problem. It keeps track of agent availability for non-scheduled workers, helping to fill in gaps automatically. This is also another area that scales with your business. Larger operations means more teams and more workers. An effective solution will help the wider organization adapt to these growing needs.
Alongside meeting customer satisfaction and ensuring schedule adherence, contact center managers also need to think about labor costs. A call center team should always strive to be as cost efficient as possible, but there are a lot of moving parts to consider. For example:
- How many agents should be on each shift?
- What’s the average call handling ability of each worker?
- When does performance drop the most – and why?
- Which shifts are the most efficient?
- Where does performance need to be improved the most?
The answer here is simple: data. With digital call center workforce management, you have access to customizable dashboards and reports on a variety of needs. Want to view the overall performance of different teams and shifts? That’s easy. Want to drill down to individual contact center agents and their performance? Call center workforce management tools like Movo can do this easily, helping leaders spend significantly less time gathering data and much more time acting on insights.
The additional benefits of workforce management software
While the above represent the key needs of call center workforce management, it should be noted that implementing a digital solution brings additional benefits, too.
The automation provided by a WFM system doesn’t just make manual processes easier, it frees up management’s time to focus on priorities. This, in turn, allows the leadership team to do more with less people, leading to even more savings in the long run.
For shift managers
For individual team leaders or shift schedulers, call center workforce management tools help to streamline the most chaotic aspects of managing a team. It helps in both long term planning and intraday management, helping managers to see the larger picture.
What’s more, the additional data generated gives managers objective information that’s useful for measuring agent performance. When it comes to key performance indicators, such as length of calls, customer satisfaction levels and overall handling ability, workforce management tools can track them all in real time.
All of this helps leaders jump on urgent situations, provide feedback for improved employee performance and offer direct training in the most needed areas, improving their effectiveness as a leader.
For individual agents, WFM software helps workers to both sign in and sign off with ease, but also request time off and swap shifts as needed. This helps workers to effectively manage themselves when it comes to minor issues, as the automated solution can automatically adjust to preset requirements from leaders.
It keeps center operations going, but also gives employees immediate answers to questions, rather than having to wait to talk to a busy manager and wait for a response. This greatly changes the relationship between employees and their leaders, removing the typical administrative tasks and focusing on developing agent performance and satisfaction.
Of course, a streamlined process for requesting time off is a clear benefit but, for HR, a workforce management solution also represents a powerful tool for helping line managers in their leadership duties. It collects performance on an individual and team wide level. In turn, such teams can focus on improving overall efficiency, keeping labor costs down and addressing any needs at an individual employee level, together with their respective manager.
Furthermore, such call center workforce management software also helps with any local or national compliance laws. Whether its ensuring staff are not overworked, there are sufficient gaps between each worker’s shifts or that their time off is accrued and granted appropriately, the most robust workforce management solutions can implement all of these rules into their automated shift scheduling process.
Finally, it should go without saying that payroll integration is also a huge boon. With rapid changes to shift scheduling, as well as more accurate data on attendance, HR teams get real-time information for calculating final payrolls. As any expert knows, this was previously a huge manual task.
A data-driven approach to call center workforce management
For the contact center overall, a workforce management solution represents a big step towards a data-driven approach. It helps leaders balance customer satisfaction with the costs of maintaining a workforce, eliminating wasted expenditure and maximizing the time of all contact center workers.
What’s more, if the business expands to multiple contact centers, different teams or even different levels of customer response, a call center workforce management solution will help the company scale effectively, keeping the core principles of cost efficiency and business continuity.
And if that’s not enough, it’s also a well known fact that you can’t improve what you can’t measure. A typical contact center already asks customers about their experience, but workforce management tools enable so much more. From individual performance to how shift demand and schedules impact customer satisfaction, the ability to track data will uncover unseen trends that you can then act on and improve.
How to choose the right call center workforce management solution
As we said at the beginning, there are a wide range of workforce management tools available, so how do you find the right one for your contact center? Since every business is unique, we recommend a 3 step process.
Step 1: Identify your budget
Your budget is likely the most obvious question, but this too needs to be calculated reasonably. Don’t calculate it as an additional cost, but rather how much you could potentially save. Once up and running, a call center workforce management solution will save you money on a yearly basis.
Step 2: Identify your additional needs
Other than this, consider all of the criteria we’ve mentioned throughout this article, as well as the different roles of HR, team leaders and employees. Which are absolutely essential to solve? What integrations are necessary?
Knowing these answers will help you find a robust, suitable answer for your contact center.
Step 3: Do the research
Armed with the appropriate information, you now know what you need from your new call center workforce management solution. Now you need to filter down the available options to ones that specifically meet those needs.
If you’re not sure, it’s never a bad idea to get in touch with the company directly and ask any key questions you may have. This way, you can specifically check-off each of the requirements found during the first two steps.
Optimize your workforce management with Movo
Movo’s call center workforce management software is designed for busy and hectic businesses such as contact centers. With automated shift scheduling, performance and attendance monitoring and AI-powered forecasting, our software is designed to meet all of the above needs and more.
It’s also cloud-native, ready to integrate and easy to use. If you’re looking for a tool to not only empower your workforce management team, but also ensure excellent customer service, Movo is the ideal option for you. Get in touch and let’s talk about how Movo can optimize your contact center and its workforce!