Contact center staffing, commonly referred to as Workforce Management, is one of the most critical functions of planning and managing a call center. Since the majority of costs associated with the call center are attributable to personnel, it is imperative to get just the right number of staff in place. Overstaffing results in spending needless dollars, while understaffing results in poor service, over worked staff, and the risk of lost revenues.
The process of Workforce Management is critical to the success of every call center. The basic steps of the Workforce Management process are:
1. Gather and analyze data
The first step of the Workforce Management process is gathering a representative sample of historical information that can be analyzed to predict future volumes and patterns. This data typically comes from the automatic call distributor (ACD) and represents numbers of calls offered and handle time information from a representative period of time. The data should be reviewed carefully to ensure no data aberrations exist and that non-representative data is normalized or discarded before the forecasting analysis begins.
2. Forecast call workload
The second step in resource planning involves the application of forecasting models to the historical information in order to predict future workload. The most reliable forecasting model, called time-series analysis, is used to isolate trend rates and seasonal patterns in predicting future months’ call volumes, which are then extrapolated into daily and hourly volumes and patterns.
3. Calculate staff requirements
The third step in creating a call center staffing plan is to calculate the number of staff required to handle a given amount of workload in a desired service timeframe. Numerous staffing models exist that take into account call arrival rates and call center queuing scenarios to predict staffing and service levels. Various trade offs are evaluated to determine the impact of staffing on service, productivity levels, and costs.
4. Create staff schedules
The fourth step in the resource planning process is to create a set of workforce schedules that best match the call center workforce to the expected contact workload. Base staff requirements are calculated and then matched up to an organization’s potential staffing pool and its scheduling rules and constraints to design a schedule plan.
5. Track and manage daily performance
The final step in the Workforce Management process involves tracking actual performance against the staffing and service plan. Actual call volumes, handle times, and available staff are compared to the forecast to derive net staffing counts and make necessary adjustments to meet service levels.
Inefficient Workforce Management in contact centers causes poor service, unhappy customers, unbalanced employees, and high costs. Overstaffing results in low productivity, high shrinkage, and bored agents. Alternatively, understaffing leads to long waiting times, an inconsistent service level, overworked agents, and a negative customer experience.
Staffing a call center properly is not an easy task. It’s complicated by the externally generated work, the random arrival of calls, the invisibility of the customer queue, and the high service expectations of customers. It requires a systematic approach with attention devoted to each of the major steps: gathering historical data, forecasting workload, calculating staff requirements, creating staff schedules, and managing daily staffing and service levels.
The Call Center School offers a plethora of knowledge on the topics of resource planning and call center staffing. To learn more about courses offered, visit our Workforce Management library.
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