Workforce Management, It’s a Family Affair

There is always a base stream of contact volume coming in to the Contact Center. Most of the volume is however driven by factors in other parts of the business. The WFM team must be fed with relevant information about expected outside call drivers and the process must be set up to enable them to create an accurate forecast in a timely manner. The forecast must be updated with any known changes, continuously and repeatedly, up till the moment of truth. All departments in the company must contribute to a successful WFM implementation. It’s a family affair.

The Marketing Department launches campaigns encouraging the customers to contact the Contact Center. The market channels can be as widely different as an advert in a monthly magazine to a TV-spot or a personally addressed email. Each channel has its own contact pattern and frequency. The experiences from earlier campaigns must be used in forecasting the expected contact volume. Often CRM-tools are used to budget and follow up the result of a campaign, at least in sales volume. By combining knowledge about the campaign and the sales result with call volume history from previous campaigns a high degree of forecasting accuracy can be achieved. Campaigns distribution schemes are often planned to detail, both in number and time. Every change in the distribution scheme must be promptly communicated to the WFM-team. Campaign success is dependent on the readiness of the organization to answer the customers call – a sales opportunity from a customer eager to buy can easily be turned into a loss of goodwill if not handled promptly.

Marketing Manager – it is your responsibility and in your own interest to ensure that information flows freely from your department to the WFM-team to enable them as well good long term forecasting as well as accurate detailed day by day forecasting. When you have set up a tight interaction with the WFM-team, the flexibility in the Contact Center can be leveraged to make the success of your campaigns increase.

The Sales department has a direct impact on the call volume. A new sale is often followed by questions from the customer concerning fulfilment or support. The sales budget and actual sales numbers are base ingredients in a well-managed forecast. The total number of customers also has a direct impact on workload in the Contact Center as each customer generates a number of contacts. Hence the budgeted customer base must be shared with the WFM-team.

Sales Manager – by selling a product, you have invited the customer to your Contact Center. Make the new customers feel welcome by preparing the Contact Center for their visit. Giving the Contact Center timely information will give them time to up- or cross sell. By sharing information with your WFM-team you will see the Contact Center highly contributing to increase the value of the customer.

Billing departments have a huge impact on most Contact Centers. The billing cycle is often set up from a logistical perspective or to optimize cash flow. The billing cycle often causes the highest peaks in the Contact Center, and too little consideration is given to the limitations in available staff or available seats. Even an outside distributor can be given more impact on how and when the invoices and reminders reaches the customer, than the Contact Centers ability to handle the call flow they bring. Small disturbances in the fragile billing process grow to huge queues in the Contact Center. File transfers, print- and distribution routines must allow the WFM- team instant access to information in case of any deviations.

Billing Manager – make sure you share your distribution plan with your WFM-team, keeping them up to date on both long term plans and current changes. Make your distribution plan fit your Contact Centers ability to handle the calls. The contact with the customer caused by the invoice can be a sales opportunity, but few customers are in buying mood after having repeatedly heard a queue message.

Production departments also impact the contact flow. New and developed products will change the contact pattern and may also demand competence changes in the staff. Many services today such as TV, telephony and Internet services are consumed in ‘real-time’. Customers are highly dependent upon the service working. Any unannounced disturbance will cause the customer to contact you. Even disturbances that are scheduled and announced in advance are likely to increase the call volume.

Production manager – make sure your WFM-team gets the information on planned or unplanned disturbances as soon as it is available. Calls this category is surely among the category “unnecessary” calls from irritated customers, costly, causing queues and almost impossible to turn into a positive and revenue generating contact.

Excerpts from “Workforce Management From the Outside Looking In” by Ulrica Engbrink, Sr. Business Consultant specializing in contact center management.

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