Learn to Use All―Not Just Some―of Your WFM

It’s time to turn to the Pareto Principle (aka the 80/20 rule). In the case of WFM, it works like this: 80% of the users of a WFM solution only use 20% of its capabilities.

Often, companies we talk to about Teleopti WFM ask us if our system does this or that that their system doesn’t. We know our mainstream competitors’ features lists pretty well. Sometimes the things those companies “wish they had” are actually available in the system they’re using. They just don’t know it.

Sometimes of course the features just aren’t there. You’ll see this in bargain-price and free solutions—in knock-off systems, where R&D means copying features from mainstream vendors and development means finding a third party bolt-on module to provide it. Their strategy is “stay far behind the curve.” But I don’t want to spend much time on this: if your system can’t do it, then it can’t be done.

I’m more focused on those companies that don’t know how to use the full capabilities of first-quality systems. This applies to companies switching systems and to those implementing their first WFM alike. We find that these companies don’t understand how to apply the WFM to their existing operation at a level deeper than what they can learn from what I’ll call “user manual training.”

It’s the difference between asking “how do I” and asking “I wonder if I can….” Between learning to “use” WFM and learning to ”think” WFM.

I spoke with Dave Hoekstra, my colleague at Teleopti, who has spent 15 years answering these questions for upstart and experienced WFM users.

“Users are routinely taught how to perform mechanical, basic tasks with their WFM, but they’re not taught to apply an understanding of how WFM really works to solve critical business problems,” said Dave. “WFM is not about “click here to print a schedule.” You can do that with Excel. WFM is about knowing how to accumulate, manage, mine and apply its large amount of data to create and execute better business strategies.”

This knowledge gap isn’t a surprise. Training and support costs can reach 20% of a software vendor’s revenue. For many companies, when they try to increase profitability and cut costs, training and support are at the top of the list of cuts. That’s definitely the case with knock-off systems, but it’s also true for some of our mainstream competitors. You’ve seen the signs. Companies with no support number, just an email address. Companies whose training offering is a series of how-to videos or “one size fits all” webinars. And very little else. Even those companies that do provide training will save money by forcing the customer fly to them, and herding customers into a single, group session.

I asked Dave for examples and he didn’t disappoint. “We spoke with a company not long ago that was using a competitive system (a good one) to manage scheduling. But as we talked about it, it became clear to our team that they were only scratching the surface of what their WFM could do. We asked questions about multiskill scheduling. We asked if they used forecasting tools to create schedules that take into account the volume of specific types of calls at specific times during the day. We probed the mechanisms in place to prevent agents from manufacturing overtime events (for example, routinely taking a call within the last two minutes of their scheduled shift to force them into overtime).

Their response to all of these questions was that they didn’t do it because they didn’t know they could. (Which translates to thousands of dollars in overhead costs that they didn’t eliminate.)

Much of the problem lies with the vendors. Even those that build robust, data-rich systems don’t put the time and creativity into teaching their customers how to apply a conceptual understanding of WFM. That means understanding how the system generates data, how it manages data, and how that data can be mined to uncover answers to myriad questions that drive business decisions every day. It’s not about understanding how to press, click, swipe or pinch. It’s about understanding how the system really works. And that can’t be taught on YouTube.

But understanding those concepts is where you have some skin in the game too, and that’s where you carry some of the responsibility for not getting the most out of your WFM. You need to develop critical thinking—let’s call it “creative curiosity”—in the people that manage the WFM, run its reporting, handle its forecasting and more.

So what’s the answer? If you’re looking to switch systems or if you’re taking the WFM plunge for the first time, it’s not difficult. Probe the kind of training and support your vendor offers, and conduct due diligence on the qualifications of their training team. Ask your current vendor what kinds of intensive training programs they have—programs that will teach your team the true ins and outs of the system. Make sure they’re not just putting you on the training assembly line, overloading you with canned learning and underwhelming you with critical thinking skills development. And bring the right people into the process. Managing your workforce needs the right kind of aptitude, energy and creativity from your team.

Good training and good students is the simplest formula for great workforce management.