Though customers should be the key focus of all call centers, agents are the driving behind-the-scenes force who ensure these customers enjoy a timely, empathetic, and efficient experience. From live voice interactions to online chatting, social media messaging, and post-interaction administrative work, call center agents must juggle multiple tasks on a daily basis.
So, because agents are the lifeblood of the call center, it is vital that their managers do everything possible to promote their professional success and wellness, and nurture a positive work environment. After all, happy agents lead to happy customers and, ultimately, award-winning customer experience.
Your first step to keeping agents happy and working efficiently is creating and executing a thorough call center workforce management (WFM) strategy.
What is call center workforce management?
Whether you’re operating in an enterprise, startup, or small business, you likely already have some form of call center WFM strategy in place, even if you don’t refer to it as such. In a nutshell, workforce management solutions are the tools call centers employ to ensure the right number of agents are scheduled at the right times, and that every agent’s specific skill sets are being put to good use in those moments, too.
Why is call center workforce so important?
With the right WFM solution, your call center will be more cost-effective, your customer service will be top-notch, and your agents will be more engaged and efficient while performing their daily tasks. Here’s why:
- You’ll save money in the long run by adjusting staffing levels—knowing when your call center is quietest means you can safely have fewer agents scheduled to work at those times.
- Customers will rarely experience long wait times in the queue since enough agents will always be ready to promptly answer inbound calls.
- Call spikes will never catch you or your agents off guard. You’ll have developed a thorough understanding of call volume patterns on an hourly, daily, and weekly basis.
- There will always be enough staff working to allow for proper breaks and for agents to catch up on administrative work in between calls.
A Voice Call-Back technology is a great way to help keep call spikes at bay. Customers will be asked if they’d prefer a call back from an agent once it’s their turn, so they don’t have to wait in the queue. An added bonus? Your agents feel less overwhelmed, and customers get time back in their day—a true win/win for all involved.
How do I start WFM planning for my call center?
The idea of developing a call center WFM strategy may seem daunting at first, but with a solid base of information, it becomes a little less intimidating. Try starting with these 3 steps to kick off your WFM plan.
1. Analyze historical data.
An easy way to predict future call volumes is to check out past statistics. Go week by week for the last 12 months and see if you notice any meaningful patterns. If there were anomaly days when volumes were particularly high or low, be sure to cross-check them with events like holidays, special offers, sales, or anything else that might have affected the metrics.
2. Focus on forecasting and scheduling.
Once you’ve analyzed historical data, forecast your upcoming weeks and schedule accordingly. If you know Monday and Wednesday mornings are busy, be sure to have more than enough coverage for those specific times. Mix up the experience levels of your agents, too. During the busiest times, it makes the most sense to load up on your fastest agents and ones with higher experience levels. On days you expect call volumes to be low, newer agents will be able to take more time on their calls—but be sure to schedule a few senior agents to train new hires and answer burning newbie questions.
Research from Quality Assurance and Training Connection shows that the average turnover in call centers ranges from 30–45%. That’s a high number for any industry. Placing an emphasis on proper training for new agents can help turn new hires into long-term employees.
3. Repeat the process once a week.
Sure, doing a once over of historical data is super helpful right out the gate, but to ensure consistent WFM efficiency, constant monitoring of call volumes, agent performance, and CSat scores is a must. Book yourself some time to go over data for the previous week at the start of your current week. If you notice any anomalies, you can catch them early and staff accordingly for the weeks to come while you sort out the why’s and how’s.
Still confused? Consider investing in workforce management software.
Especially if you’re running a medium to large-sized call center with hundreds or thousands of agents, manual WFM solutions may not be the best fit. Plenty of easy-to-use WFM software options are available that automate the entire process including historical data analysis, real-time call volume monitoring, agent scheduling, time tracking, and more.
What’s to come for call center WFM in 2022?
After studying trends from 2020 and 2021, 2022 promises to be a disruptive, ever-changing year for call center WFM. Here are a few predictions we’re making for the coming months:
Total transitions to remote work
Many call centers have realized that operating remotely is more cost-effective and provides employees with a better work-life balance. As such, we’re seeing a reduction in the “return to office” mentality within the call center industry. Many organizations are choosing to give up their pricey office leases in favour of all-remote work, while others are opting for a hybrid approach.
More digitization and automation
With more employees working remotely, we’ll likely see an increase in the amount of call centers that invest in automated scheduling technology. Since many remote employees will be working in different time zones across the country (or internationally), scheduling even just 30 or 40 agents becomes that much more of a complex task for call center managers, which makes opting for automation an easier choice to make.
Flexible scheduling to fill labor shortages
Globally, many industries are currently experiencing major labor shortages. The recent pandemic has caused a shift in the workforce, leaving companies worldwide with huge staffing gaps to fill. As the demand to hire new employees increases, call center managers will have to more agile and thoughtful about the types of employees they hire, whether that means seeking alternative options like part-time workers or even temps.