Scheduling and Adherence Are Still the Contact Center's Biggest Challenges
The contact center as a business function goes back to the mid-nineteenth century. You would imagine, then, that most companies, particularly those that have been running contact centers for years or decades, would have mastered the process fully by now.
In many ways, technology and the best practices have solved the contact center challenges of years past. Callback solutions, for example, have taken away the need to wait on hold. Better self-service channels and the Web have offloaded the need to answer very routine questions. Cloud-based IVR systems with click-and-point administration have eliminated the nightmare that used to be maintenance of the IVR.
One area where contact centers haven’t gained much traction over decades past, however, is scheduling. Forecasting contact center volume, just like forecasting the weather, involves seeing into the future, and nobody has built a workable crystal ball just yet. While we may have better clues today with which to build forecasts – analytics solutions to examine historical traffic, for example – there is still an element of guesswork and instinct involved.
In a recent blog post, Monet Software CEO Chuck Ciarlo notes that forecasting and scheduling remain such a challenge because each of these objectives involves a number of moving parts, and a wide range of variables that must be calculated in advance. If these calculations are even a little bit wrong, it can put the schedule off.
“Inaccurate forecast? There goes the schedule,” writes Ciarlo. “If a manager schedules 20 agents on a shift and call volume is higher than expected, average wait time increases, other KPIs are impacted, and customer service suffers. If call volume is lower, agents are at their desks with nothing to do. The customers are happy, but accounting is not – no one likes to pay agents when they aren’t doing anything.”
Many companies find better results when they use a workforce management and scheduling solution that allows both agents and managers better visibility into adherence, so small variations can be corrected before they turn into large ones. Agents who understand the importance of adherence and are offered a way to check it regularly will take steps to correct it. Managers who are able to keep an eye on adherence via dashboards (on the wall, on their desktop or on their mobile devices) or receive alerts when the contact center falls out of adherence will focus on corrective action sooner in order to salvage the schedule.
As with most functions, the more care schedule adherence gets during the day, the less likely it is to fail. With a successful workforce management solution in place, managers can build better schedules and everyone else can ensure they are being met.
Edited by Cassandra Tucker