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The Contact Center Workforce Manager Skills Series

[fa icon="calendar"] December 18, 2019 / Ashley Kalcic

Part 3: Intraday Management Skills

If you’ve been following along in this series you know the skills required to produce an accurate forecast and optimized schedules, but without effective intraday management your efforts towards these first two steps of the WFM process will be lost. Therefore, you must take the proper steps to ensure the plan is working. This is the art and science of intraday management.

  • It’s tracking and analyzing all the individual components that drive service to determine what’s worrisome and what’s not.
  • It’s communicating any relevant impact of service to the necessary stakeholders.
  • It’s creating strategies for reacting where necessary and managing all the various sorts of activities that take agents off the phone throughout the day.

Traditionally, the process of WFM is divided over the following steps; forecasting workload, scheduling staff, and intraday management. This is the third part in a series of blog posts that covers the skills your Workforce Management (WFM) team needs to be successful. In the first part of the series we outlined the skills required to forecast workload, in the second part we covered the skills needed to create optimized schedules, and this third part covers the skills necessary to complete the final step of the WFM process, intraday management. 

Managing Intraday Staffing and Service

After mounds of historical data are gathered and analyzed to create a forecast, the number of staff needed to meet service goals is calculated, and schedules are optimized to meet a reasonable ratio of efficiency and acceptability, don’t let it all fly out the window.

You need to be able to meet service goals throughout the day, even when unexpected situations arise. And you can be sure, the unexpected will arise. The three general steps in the daily contact center performance tracking process are:

  1. tracking and analysis
  2. communication
  3. reaction

Step 1: Tracking and Analysis

There are a variety of service indicators that provide insight as to how well performance goals are being met throughout the day. You can look at the number of calls in queue, the age of the oldest call, or the current number of agents available. However, these real-time measures of service may be useful as warning signals, but you don’t always want to jump into action and start making adjustments. Oftentimes an alarming number will level out within a few minutes. 

You can usually get a better representation of service by tracking performance within the day by looking at call volume, average handle time (AHT), and staffing levels. By carefully reviewing these statistics by timely intervals (such as by the half-hour), you can note deviations and calculate how much over- or under-staffing occurs as a result. Then you can project what the net staffing might be if the pattern continues as the day goes on.

So, a good workforce manager knows;

  • How to gather intraday information and evaluate service statistics within the day
  • Which service indicators are available to them 
  • When service indicators should direct a real-time reaction
  • How to calculate over- and under-staffing to project net staffing

Step 2: Communication Strategies

Once a significant deviation is detected, the next step in the intraday management process is to communicate the net staffing and the staffing impact to relevant groups or individuals. The communication strategy to be used depends on the situation, who it impacts, and how much impact there is. A small variance might only need to be communicated directly to supervisors, a more significant deviation could require informing all agents and the call center manager, and if service levels are being affected dramatically a communication to the customers may be necessary as well. It is important to be prepared by having a solid plan in place so that when problems do arise, there is no time wasted wondering “who should we tell?” and “how should we tell them?”.

Therefore, a good workforce manager knows;

  • Why it is critical to have a good communication strategy in place
  • When they should communicate what to whom, depending on the severity of the situation
  • How to appropriately communicate important information efficiently and effectively
  • How to create a strategy for communications that can be implemented at a moment’s notice

Step 3: Reaction Strategies

The first step in any reaction strategy will involve asking some questions. How severe is the problem? What is the impact on service level? How long will it last? Can the cause be fixed? What are the options from easiest to hardest? What will it cost? Once you’ve determined a situation exists and that it should be addressed, there are several options with regards to how to react. Some of these options involve staffing changes, such as pulling supervisors in to take calls or delaying training sessions or meetings, while others are primarily technology adjustments. 

A good workforce manager knows;

  • All the different types of reaction strategies at their disposal
  • Which reaction strategy will make the most meaningful impact on service depending on the scenario
  • How to create reaction strategy plan to deliver consistent service to callers at all periods of the day as cost-effectively as possible

Managing Intraday Activities

One of the key components to successfully managing performance throughout the day has to do with managing different agent activities. Some activities are scheduled and built into daily work plans, but others just pop up. These schedule exceptions must be tracked and recorded so they can be properly managed as part of the workforce management process. Monitoring schedule adherence can be done in a number of ways, from highly manual to highly automated with the help of a workforce management tool.

A good workforce manager knows;

  • How to track schedule adherence and exceptions
  • How to calculate the impact of schedule exceptions on service level 
  • How to use workforce management (WFM), automatic call distributor (ACD), and real-time adherence (RTA) technology and tools to track schedule adherence
  • How to calculate the service and cost implications of adherence issues

Conclusion

Once the forecast is in place, staff calculations are complete, and staff schedules are assigned, there’s daily work to be done in the workforce management process. Tracking the call volume, handle time, and staffing levels will provide the information needed to communicate status and make necessary changes to ensure service goals are consistently met. A crucial part of the daily management process is tracking and managing schedule adherence. The key to successful workforce management is having a systematic process in place to track the information so there’s sufficient time to react to make a difference for the day.

We hope you found this list of skills useful and that it will help you determine development plans for your WFM staff. If you are looking for training to develop the intraday management skills of your WFM staff, then we suggest to take a look at the “WFM - Intraday Management" course from The Call Center School. This course focuses on the intraday management step of the workforce management process. It provides the fundamental knowledge needed to accurately assess deviations from the plan and react accordingly. Students learn how to identify the components and manage the process used to track daily performance, how to develop a communications plan should intraday staffing changes be required, reaction strategies from both a staffing and technology perspective, and the types of intra-day activities that affect staff availability and how to track them.

Topics: Workforce Management, WFM Skill Set

Ashley Kalcic

Written by Ashley Kalcic

Ashley Kalcic is dedicated to global success of The Call Center School, focusing client acquisition, retention, and market presence. With a foundation in contact center workforce management, she has a strong basis for contact center training and development. Ashley has worked on addressing the training needs and initiatives of hundreds of clients from small contact center organizations to large fortune 500 companies. With a B.A. in psychology from Northern Illinois University with a focus on Industrial Organizational and Cognitive processes, Ashley Kalcic has a firm understanding of what helps motivate, retain and satisfy individuals in the workplace. With that knowledge, she promotes ongoing training and development at all levels of the contact center, from frontline staff to contact center supervisors, workforce managers, and quality assurance specialists.