We introduce you to the basics of workforce planning, earlier than setting out 20 key guidelines that each contact centre planner ought to know.
The Planning Cycle
There are 4 key components of workforce planning, as highlighted under in “the planning cycle”, which was shared with us by WFM professional John Casey in our article: Useful resource Planning: What You Have to Know
Every of those 4 key components of the planning cycle is highlighted within the graphic under:
After all there are different duties of a workforce planning skilled within the contact centre, and many new channels, methods and instruments coming into the sector, however this cycle stays as essential as ever.
With this in thoughts, let’s discover every of the areas a little bit additional and current some golden guidelines for every, which can actually enable you to to maximise your workforce planning efficiency.
The primary stage of our workforce planning cycle is forecasting. That is the place we predict contact volumes, based mostly on pattern and seasonality.
With this in thoughts, let’s have a look at a number of the guidelines good workforce planners stick by when making an attempt to make the very best contact quantity predictions.
1. Create at Least Three Forecasts, Not One
As John Casey of CCplanning as soon as instructed us: “We shouldn’t be guessing what would possibly occur to be able to make a forecast based mostly on this estimation. To be totally ready, we should be making a number of forecasts.”
All of our forecasts could have a certain quantity of uncertainty inside them, so we should be ready and to know what’s happening…
We’ve obtained to arrange for what would possibly occur. All of our forecasts could have a certain quantity of uncertainty inside them, so we should be ready and to know what’s happening – inside our firm and the entire numerous exterior influences.
There will likely be conditions that we wouldn’t have considered if we’d created forecasts three or six months in the past.
So, we need to create upper-, middle- and low-level forecasts that symbolize numerous eventualities that can change why and what number of clients need to name us.
2. Analyse Outliers in Your Historic Contact Volumes
We need to take away outliers from our contact historical past, in order that they don’t affect future forecasts, however the trick is figuring out when and what to take away.
“You should analyse what you will take away, since you don’t know what’s an outlier and what could also be changing into a enterprise as common sample,” provides John Casey.
So, we have to analyse outliers, so we all know:
- Why they occurred
- What influence they’d
- Are they taking place frequently?
However our closing level right here is that, if you’re eradicating outliers, don’t neglect to take away the brief ones in addition to the top-end lengthy ones, when name size.
3. Goal to Forecast in 15-Minute Intervals
The final purpose of forecasting is to make it as granular as doable. This implies forecasting down to fifteen minutes, if doable, so we are able to higher match our workforce to our workload.
Additionally, this can assist us to keep away from the state of affairs the place we meet our general service degree goal, however have actually unhealthy dips in service ranges all through the day.
But, this isn’t all the time a golden rule. If we’re 30% out on the week by way of forecast accuracy, there’s not a lot level in making an attempt to get all the way down to 15-minute intervals.
“At this level, you simply need to work on hours and days as a result of, in any other case, all you’ll be doing in making the error even greater within the 15-minute intervals,” says Dougie Cameron, COO at The Centre for the Transferring Picture.
So, for those who’re on this place, the principle focus is making an attempt to get your general accuracy higher fairly than worrying about how granular you go, however typically half-hour is a minimal.
Simply bear in mind, although, that you could solely use 15-minute intervals in case your AHT is lower than seven and a half minutes, in any other case overhang generally is a downside.
4. Be Conscious of the Affect That Different Departments Have
Within the contact centre, we ought to be proudly owning as a lot of the workforce planning as doable, and that is very true with regards to forecasting.
We need to do that as a result of it makes root trigger evaluation simpler, so we are able to enhance forecast accuracy. Nevertheless, different departments ought to have a task inside the forecasting course of.
We need to do that as a result of it makes root trigger evaluation simpler, so we are able to enhance forecast accuracy.
As Ralph, certainly one of our readers, says: “Getting higher inputs from advertising round campaigns and dealing carefully along with finance to have the very best distribution of payments and reminders is essential.”
So, our purpose is to create our forecasts with these invaluable inputs and to personal that course of. We are able to then go it on to different departments for additional refinement, if wants be.
5. Bear in mind, 100% Forecast Accuracy Is an Unrealistic Purpose
Constantly reaching 100% forecast accuracy will not be a practical purpose. It’s subsequently higher to purpose for a gradual degree that’s near 100%. In spite of everything, we don’t need to change into so fixated on this purpose that we lose sight of buyer and worker implications.
Additionally, we don’t need to be consistently testing new methods of reaching 100% forecast accuracy in a “stay surroundings”. The dangers are too massive.
“The most effective take a look at of forecast accuracy goes again in historical past and making an attempt to reforecast the long run, as that would be the final take a look at of whether or not your mannequin is healthier,” says Dougie Cameron.
This can permit us to experiment with the newest forecasting fashions in a secure surroundings, as we take a look at improved methods to succeed in a constantly good forecast accuracy.
For extra on how one can take a look at and enhance your contact centre forecasts, take heed to the next episode of The Contact Centre Podcast, with Doug Casterton, a senior WFM supervisor.
For extra info on this podcast go to Podcast – Useful resource Planning Recommendation to Enhance Effectivity and Engagement
As soon as we have now forecast contact volumes, we have to plan and schedule the fitting variety of advisors to fulfill our predicted demand.
We additionally have to map our staffing calculations in opposition to shift patterns which are each environment friendly and fascinating. This all occurs on the scheduling section of our workforce planning cycle.
6. An Erlang Calculator Is Your Go-to Staffing Device
Along with your forecast contact volumes, it’s now time to calculate what number of employees you want throughout the day. Many contact centres use an Erlang Calculator and spreadsheets for this.
Whereas some bigger contact centres will use complicated workforce planning programs, the Erlang Calculator stays a trusted device – significantly for these contact centres with fewer than 30 advisors.
To make use of an Erlang Calculator, you merely insert the next info:
- Forecast variety of calls
- Size of forecasting interval (minutes)
- Common Dealing with Time (seconds)
- Goal Service Stage (%)
- Goal Reply Time (seconds)
- Goal Occupancy Price (85%)
- Shrinkage (%)
- Common Endurance (seconds)
By following this course of throughout the course of the day, you possibly can calculate your staffing necessities and match them into your most well-liked shift patterns.
For extra on selecting the best shift patterns, learn our article: The Greatest Shift Patterns for the Contact Centre
7. Calls Will Flood in Simply Earlier than and After the Hour Mark
“In life, folks have lunch breaks, conferences and end watching tv proper on the hour mark – so, within the contact centres that I’ve labored in, we have now seen a raise in calls simply earlier than and after the hour,” says Dave Appleby, a workforce planning professional at Appleby Technical.
We are able to see this generic sample offered under:
If you happen to see this sample in your contact centre, the important thing studying is to ensure that your shift begins are nicely prematurely of the hour, to verify persons are current, sitting down and logged in for when that hourly peak arrives.
Different patterns that you could be need to look out for in each your scheduling and forecasting are that Monday tends to be the busiest day of the week and 10am–12pm will probably be your busiest time of day.
8. Shift Patterns Are Usually Greatest Constructed Round Widespread Life
Our schedules solely work nicely if advisors persist with them, however absence and attrition are such massive points in most contact centres that our workforce planning is negatively impacted.
Whereas we are able to forecast each of those metrics to some extent too – and apply that to our schedules – a greater method is to design shifts that individuals need to work, so it provides them a very good work/life steadiness.
We are able to then goal sure life in recruitment or no less than use basic WFM methods like providing advisors the possibility to decide on one time within the week the place they don’t need to work, to higher accommodate their way of life.
Nevertheless don’t solely depend on way of life scheduling to cut back attrition and absenteeism.
Doug Casterton warns us: “It’s laborious to take care of, and for those who ever get right into a state of affairs the place you’re not backfilling your attrition, you would doubtlessly create gaps in your schedule cowl. So, have a look at it holistically and have methods to fill completely different wants.”
For extra on decreasing attrition and absence, learn our article: 29 Methods to Sort out Agent Absence and Attrition
9. Preserve Measuring Your Schedule Effectivity and Inflexibility
As with something, if we don’t have a measure, how will we all know how good a job we’re doing? Scheduling isn’t any exception.
But, as John Casey tells us: “Nearly have of contact centres don’t measure schedule effectivity, which isn’t good as a result of we all the time should have a tracker on our schedules. We have to know what we’re delivering in opposition to what we truly wanted.”
Simply have a look at the desk under. If we have a look at the day as an entire, we have now precisely the fitting variety of employees, however – at every particular person hour – our calculations had been flawed.
|% Distinction (MAPE)
This is the reason we have to measure scheduling effectivity to achieve this clear image.
One other good metric to calculate is schedule inflexibility. Schedule inflexibility tells us how a lot inflexibility is inherent after we create a schedule that isn’t in a position to completely cowl demand as a forecast.
10. Perceive the Human Behaviours Behind Schedule Adherence
For a lot of contact centre professionals, schedule adherence is the important thing ingredient in advisor productiveness calculations. Nevertheless it’s a difficult matter.
Whereas adherence is essential, we have to implement flexibility levers that transcend the numbers. We have to perceive the human behaviours that sit behind the information.
If we are able to perceive why issues are taking place, we will deal with schedule adherence issues and reduce the unfavorable influence it has on our schedules.
If we are able to match this into of defining our adherence measure, figuring out root trigger and making use of behavioural options to deal with the difficulty, we are able to create drastically enhance the success of our schedules.
A key a part of workforce planning is to proactively handle queues throughout all channels, to make sure that service ranges, occupancy charges and different enterprise targets are being met.
When monitoring these items in actual time, a workforce planner could need to motion restoration plans – if contact volumes are unexpectedly excessive or low – to decrease the influence of efficiency threats to contact centres.
11. Create Commonplace Working Procedures
Commonplace Working Procedures (SOPs) are a set of guides that inform you what to do if contact volumes are unexpectedly excessive or low. They assist to make sure everybody’s on they similar web page.
We don’t need to be considering on the spot when service ranges plummet, we need to plan and interact forward of time. That is what SOPs permit us to do and they are often up to date each time they’re used. This can make sure that, over time, we excellent our emergency response.
Just be sure you articulate in your SOPs the roles that every individual performs in addressing the issue. Which means you don’t want to hunt permissions to implement emergency actions…
The opposite factor to just remember to articulate in your SOPs is the position that every individual performs in addressing the issue. Which means you don’t want to hunt permissions to implement emergency actions – everybody is aware of what they’re doing, it has been pre-agreed!
“By doing this, we construct confidence and take away surprises – so everyone seems to be conscious of the duties of the real-time staff. Eradicating this ambiguity is essential,” concludes Doug Casterton.
12. Talk Common Updates of Your Workforce Planning
When working in actual time, the contact centre ought to have processes in place to assist workforce planning to enter real-time absences and different variations into their WFM plans.
We all know that clear reporting processes, coupled with clear roles and tasks, are on the coronary heart of monitoring and appearing in actual time.
When it comes to roles and tasks, we need to make sure that the workforce planner has the authority to make the required adjustments to guard service, in the best way that solely they’ll.
13. Quick-Time period Techniques Could Trigger Lengthy-Time period Issues
An skilled workforce planner will likely be cautious over utilizing short-term techniques to maximise service degree, as there could also be longer-term points that influence buyer expertise.
For instance, you would select to realign your contact routing to push sure contact varieties to advisors who will deal with that contact faster.
Nevertheless, Doug Casterton warns: “The long-term hurt of doing that’s that whereas they change into and proceed to be proficient, no one else learns – so that you isolate your studying to sure segments of your contact centre.”
There may be the difficulty that simply because advisors deal with sure contacts faster, it doesn’t imply that they do it higher, so you will have First Contact Decision (FCR) points down the road too.
14. Keep away from Knee-Jerk Selections
Arguably, the best talent of a real-time workforce planner is being able to carry their nerve. Instinct might be simply as invaluable as an algorithm in workforce planning.
For instance, a very good real-time planner will keep away from knee-jerk choices like shifting the issue.
As John Casey explains: “We see the queue, so we push again lunch and breaks, however these lunch and breaks don’t go away – so later we’ll be understaffed when folks do go for his or her breaks, even when contact volumes aren’t any increased than anticipated.”
Even in different conditions the place it might be mathematically right, your staff want stability and human empathy. This is the reason it’s essential to recollect your buyer, worker and enterprise wants everytime you make an essential workforce planning determination.
For extra on the hazard of not with the ability to maintain your nerve within the contact centre, learn our article: Create Room to Breathe As a substitute of Making Knee-Jerk Reactions
15. Occupancy Shouldn’t Go Above 85%
There are a lot of key metrics to control in actual time, together with service degree, queue time and real-time abandon price, to call just some.
However occupancy is without doubt one of the extra essential metrics – too usually forgotten about – that ought to be added to your record, as this provides an “within the second” view of the advisor expertise.
We shouldn’t be exchanging excessive occupancy for low service degree, as this can badly injury morale…
We shouldn’t be exchanging excessive occupancy for low service degree, as this can badly injury morale, so we have to construct it into our staffing calculations – however it must also be monitored in actual time.
After all, it’s going to peak above 85% every so often, but when that is one thing that’s consistently taking place, take the hit on queue time and bear it in thoughts whenever you transfer on to the workforce planning evaluate section…
The day is now over, giving the workforce planning staff time to become familiar with whether or not or not their forecasting, scheduling and monitoring methods have labored.
With these classes realized, they’ll begin to establish recurring issues that they’re seeing inside their WFM plans and deal with them, to be able to regularly enhance.
16. Overview Your Forecasts Towards Your Tolerance
One level that we made earlier is that it’s inconceivable to constantly obtain 100% forecast accuracy. However we must always set a tolerance so we solely permit ourselves to be 5–10% off that mark, on the very most.
So, return to reviewing day by day, weekly and month-to-month volumes and verify that you simply met your goal of solely being 10% off – or perhaps even set a tolerance decrease than that, you probably have confidence in your mannequin.
As Vatsana Gordon, a useful resource planning professional, as soon as instructed us: “You must know in your price range fashions that you’ve a 5–10% buffer obtainable from an additional time perspective, which implies that try to be coated for these peaks and troughs.”
17. Re-optimize Your Schedules
In lots of contact centres, schedule plans are put collectively nicely prematurely however they aren’t thought of holistically once more. Solely small adjustments are made.
We have to evaluate schedules to see whether or not we are able to restructure advisor breaks and training periods.
But, simply as we evaluate our forecasts, we have to evaluate schedules to see whether or not we are able to restructure advisor breaks and training periods.
In spite of everything, we need to make the very best use of our staff, from each an effectivity and engagement perspective, and reduce additional time value.
That is the place the talent of curiosity actually reveals its worth, in keeping with Doug Casterton: “Steady studying is pushed by any individual’s curiosity. You may construct a improvement plan or ship any individual on a course, but when they aren’t curious, they received’t take up a lot of it and so they received’t apply it. So, pure curiosity is invaluable at this evaluate stage.”
18. Consider Your Demand Drivers
To excellent our workforce planning, we have to look past what is occurring and ask ourselves why. This entails analysing our demand drivers on this evaluate interval.
When doing this we need to assess the influence of every demand driver (if doable) and the way far forward we are able to predict that it’ll influence our forecasts.
By contemplating this, we are able to enhance our workforce planning technique by assessing how we are able to add flexibility to fulfill our predicted volatility.
19. Rethink How Far in Advance You Publish Your Shifts
That is too usually a forgotten a part of workforce planning, however the additional prematurely you possibly can publish advisor schedules, the happier they are going to be – as they’ll higher plan their lives.
Nevertheless, there are various concerns to consider earlier than you resolve on when to publish. These are guided by the success of your earlier useful resource planning.
For instance, a few of these concerns will embody:
- Do we have now sufficient confidence in our future forecasts?
- Does everybody want the identical discover?
- Can we predict absenteeism and lateness prematurely?
Simply take into consideration whether or not giving the staff extra discover of their shifts is possible or for those who may as an alternative give them different ensures, reminiscent of annual go away inside a pair months’ discover.
For extra on this matter, learn our article: How Far in Advance Ought to You Publish Your Contact Centre Shifts?
20. Revaluate Your Understanding of Time to Competency
A lot of your time within the evaluate section of the workforce planning cycle will likely be spent analysing important WFM metrics, however one that you could be not contemplate is “time to competency”. That is, nonetheless, essential.
Time to competency is a mean measure of how lengthy it takes a brand new advisor to carry out on the degree that the contact centre expects. Bettering this metric has nice productiveness advantages.
Time to competency is a mean measure of how lengthy it takes a brand new advisor to carry out on the degree that the contact centre expects.
If you happen to can trial completely different strategies to optimize contact centre coaching, reminiscent of splitting teaching time into smaller chunks and intersperse day out on the ground studying from senior advisors, you possibly can enhance this metric.
By doing so and reviewing your progress, you possibly can higher guarantee all advisors are performing on the degree required, so that you don’t need to make particular allowances inside your planning cycle.
Whereas there are different areas of workforce planning to contemplate, forecasting, scheduling, monitoring and reviewing are the bread and butter of the sector.
Inside these 4 key areas of workforce planning there are various guidelines to stay by, and this text consists of 20 actually essential examples.
Hopefully, you’ll be sticking to lots of them already, however for those who’re not, attempt a few of them out and you must see a giant, optimistic distinction.
For extra useful recommendation on bettering your contact centre’s workforce planning, learn our articles: