At the end of the day, a call center is only as effective as the employees who staff it. Workforce management is the term that describes staffing, scheduling, and managing those employees. Some of the processes included in workforce management are recruiting, hiring, HR management, performance management and coaching, scheduling, and staffing.
When it comes to call centers, your call center agents are your product, so workforce management is even more important in call centers than it is in other businesses. It is the key to providing a great product and having a great business.
Workforce management in a call center is a little different from other businesses in that forecasting is such a crucial component of it. In many businesses, you pay the same number of employees all year round. In some businesses such as retail, this might fluctuate a little based on the season. Few businesses see large fluctuations from week to week the way call centers do.
While this amount of change can be maddening, there is one advantage that call centers have: data. Call centers produce huge amounts of data such as total volume of calls, average call duration, response rates, the reason for the call, call outcomes, and more. This data can be extremely useful in forecasting.
The first step in proper workforce management in a call center is to use as much data as necessary to make accurate forecasts of anticipated call volume and the workforce required to meet that volume. It is rare to nail forecasting on the first attempt, so it is important to continually adjust your model in order to get a more accurate picture of anticipated volume and the workforce requirements necessary to meet that volume.
Once the volume has been forecasted, the next step is to schedule your employees. Because individual employees will need to balance their social lives, family commitments, vacation days, community obligations, and more, it is important to take care of scheduling well in advance.
Effective scheduling is an art that it takes years to perfect. It is nearly impossible to be perfect when it comes to scheduling. Rather than having an expectation of perfection, call center managers should expect to have some understaffing or overstaffing, and do their best to minimize this error.
Recruitment and Hiring
It is difficult to fix in management what gets messed up in hiring. Having the right employees can make all the difference. Employees who have common sense, good instincts, and an ability to understand the purpose of their phone interactions will require less training and management, will cause fewer issues, and will ultimately help you provide a superior product.
Continual recruitment is important because the hiring process can often take time. If a call center finds out that they only have a week to staff up for a big influx of calls, it is already too late to begin recruiting.
A big part of workforce management in a call center is monitoring and managing the quality and performance of call center employees. There are a number of ways to manage this performance.
One is to encourage compliance with strict rules. Management utilizes scripts and workflows to dictate exactly what an employee will say with no exceptions. While this style of management has the benefit of standardizing the quality of interactions, it is inflexible and keeps employees from responding creatively to dynamic situations.
Another performance management technique is to encourage personal judgment. This has the effect of allowing outstanding employees to really shine and utilize their best techniques. It also leaves less-gifted employees to flounder. The quality of work is uneven.
A third technique is called “network judgment.” This technique utilizes group dynamics to continually refine and improve performance. This style requires the most work but can be the most effective. With network judgment, call center agents and managers meet together to discuss ways to improve performance. Calls are listened to together and analyzed by the group. Managers and agents occasionally switch positions for a day to see the process from another perspective. Agents listen to each other and provide feedback. In all these ways, call center employees receive knowledge beyond their own experience, with more guidance than their own personal judgment, but more freedom than a strict script.
If you would like to improve your call center workforce management, contact ROI Solutions today.