Snooze Alert
Illustration by Calvin Goodman

People are surprised when I tell them I was a History major in college. They typically laugh nervously and say things like, “But… you’re the numbers guy?” And it is true, of course. I am the numbers guy. My favorite courses were on the subject of “statistical history,” and I think this is where I get my passion for numbers. These courses looked at the public records of a time period and evolved amazing insights into the past.

I remember two in particular, though I am unable to cite the sources anymore. The first revelation was that colonial Americans primarily ate pork. I had always assumed it was chicken or beef. The second was that the Massachusetts Bay Company colonists married much later in life than their southern counterparts. As my kids say, ”Poof! Mind… Blown… Dad…” These types of insights made me realize how powerful good data can be. And boy, has that carried over to my job!

When I start with a new client, the first thing I check is their data. I want to know how accurately they count their queued calls and their people across all of their systems. Of course, I also want to know if their other data is consistent across systems—things like handle time and service level. Those are just as important, but nothing gives me a quicker understanding of where we need to start than if a client cannot count calls or people accurately. Why? Because if you can’t count your people or you can’t count your calls, all the rest of this WFM stuff falls apart.

Here’s what I ask for to determine if a client can count calls and people:

1. A daily report of all call activity. Pretty much every center has one, but how it works is the key. It is surprising to me how many centers either use canned reports form their switch without ever really understanding the data, have easy formula errors, don’t include all their calls or even just cannot produce a simple call queue report before noon every day.

2. A list of all call queues/types handled in the center. I have a rule when comparing skills to agents: The closer to a 1-to-1 ratio you come on a skill-to-agent ratio (or if you go over 1-to-1), the more trouble you have counting calls.

3. A call queue to agent group diagram. I like to see if clients can easily explain how their calls are routed and who gets them. They get a big plus if they can explain complicated routing or if they can send this to me without having to “chase down telecom.”

4. Their agent headcount by week for the last 4 weeks—by agent group. This one seems to be a challenge for most centers. They tend to reconcile monthly. But if you are trying to staff every interval correctly, then you need to know more frequently than that. Alternatively, I ask for a high-level process of how headcount is validated. If it involves asking the supervisors in the first few steps, there is probably an issue.

5. A historical report of call activity from the client’s WFM system. If this doesn’t match the switch report, then I know we will have challenges planning.

These five data points get me on track to understand if there are data issues. No one thing is a sure indicator but generally I find that if there are issues with a client providing me this information, then my first recommendation will be to focus on getting accurate call volumes and headcounts.

Did you snooze through that, or are we good?