Case Study

Workforce Management That "Flies"

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor  |  January 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the January 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions Magazine.

Scheduling contact center agents can be compared to scheduling flights. Too few at peak periods or the wrong aircraft assigned can lead to frustrated patrons – who may go to competitors – while too many will waste scarce resources.

Delta Air Lines knows the challenges of meeting both types of schedules extremely well. It is the third largest U.S.-based air carrier, serving over 470 destinations in 105 countries. It serves its customers through 15 contact centers that employ 8,500 full- and part-time agents.

One of the Delta units is its Reservation and Sales Organization (RSO). Unsatisfied with the “Trust us – Our schedules are optimal” corporate claims, it carried out a study to generate and compare schedules generated by the traditional workforce management (WFM) systems available in the market in the past. Disappointing results in schedule efficiency levels from this study led the RSO, in collaboration with Delta Technologies, to pioneer its own proprietary technologies to achieve higher schedule efficiency levels.

Even so, the Delta RSO wanted to fly higher. Continued interest in improving schedule efficiency and service levels prompted it in to invite ac2 Solutions ( to participate in a six-month study, facing off against solutions from competing firms.

ac2 proposed that Delta trial the AWO Optimal Scheduler. The software uses ac2’s proprietary mathematical optimization models and algorithms for concurrent optimal scheduling to determine the total costs and scheduled agent time for the schedules with the highest schedule efficiency attainable in a contact center environment.

With the AWO technology, work and off days, daily start times, break times are optimized for all agents concurrently, according to tour group and shift template parameters – and agent and skills availability – to meet performance targets for forecast contact volumes and handling times. This eliminates significant schedule inefficiencies created by the incremental heuristic approach used by the other WFM software scheduling agents, incrementally, one at a time.

The Delta RSO developed a plan to benchmark the agent scheduling capabilities of participating solutions over a target week for the division, consisting of:

  • Six contact centers in three time zones
  • Two environments (work areas)
  • 918 full-time and 151 part-time agents
  • Two skill groups and skills-based routing

Using the same contact center data, weekly agent schedules for the two environments were generated by the AWO Optimal Scheduler and the other WFM software participating in the study, including Delta’s proprietary scheduling technologies. Schedules generated by different WFM systems were checked by the RSO for conformance to weekly tour, daily shift and break scheduling parameters, agent and skills availability, and operating hours.

The AWO Optimal Scheduler showed a remarkable advantage and improvement opportunities in all metrics used over other WFM software, including the proprietary technologies used by the Delta RSO, reports ac2 president Dr. Turgut Aykin. Major benefits realized included:

  • 12 percent savings in schedule costs
  • 98.5 percent schedule efficiency
  • 73 percent reduction in excess agent time:
  • 100 percent elimination of agent shortages
  • Even distribution of % Agent-on-Duty time into each interval.

Schedules generated by the AWO Optimal Scheduler distributed agent-on-duty time in to each interval by even percentage, another requirement of Reservations and Sales to avoid substantially higher shortages over weekends generated by the other WFM software that participated in the study.

Delta adopted the AWO Scheduler after this study. It also recently rolled out the AWO Forecaster and AWO Capacity Planner. Using the data driven benchmarking approach, Delta Air Lines developed a road map for increasing efficiencies that impact both service levels and bottom line.

 “Our selection team agreed that ac2 Solutions’ AWO Portal was... providing by farthe highest schedule efficiency and functionality available on the market today,” says Steve Scheper, Delta vice president Reservation Sales.“The AWO Optimal Scheduler showed a remarkable advantage and improvement opportunities in all metrics used over the other WFM softwa Petruzziello re including the proprietary technologies used by Delta Reservations and Sales,” says Dr. Aykin.

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi