The 2018 SWPP Annual Conference in Nashville kicked off on Sunday, June 3rd. I love the all-WFM-all-the-time format of this conference. Every break, every lunch, and every session is devoted to forecasting, scheduling, real-time adherence, staffing models, power-of-one, net staff, Erlang… and this goes on for three days. I can’t wait to get out on that vendor showcase floor and find out what is new in the world of workforce management software.
While waiting, I asked this year’s Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award nominees two questions…
Question #1: What is your best WFM tip?
Robert Wright, Manulife: My best WFM tip would be—if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.
Mark Hernandez, Compassion International: Adaptation to culture and focusing on positives to create a way everyone can succeed, and work toward the overall department goals, such as shaving 15 seconds off ACW.
Lisa Hoelscher, LanguageLine Solutions: When doing an upgrade on your WFM software, if you don’t have an option to run parallel or even install on new servers leaving the old alone, plan to run your tactical forecasts and schedules at least an additional month out. If upgrades haven’t gone well in the past, consider a couple of months.
Lydia Lefter, Emerald Contact Centre: Continuously review call volume arrival and performance by interval. Do not stop at reviewing Staffing requirements at just Daily, Hourly intervals. Instead, review the data you have available at 30- and 15-minute intervals. Identify your strong and poor intervals, and from there, make adjustments to optimize existing schedules and plan staffing requirements. For example, we recently identified a particular time interval and day of week that required more staff due to volume offered. Based on these factors, we were able to target new-hires willing to work the hours required. This strategy helps us optimize Workforce Management by having the correct amount of staff at the required intervals while also meeting our Customer Service Representatives’ work shift preferences.
John Campbell, CNA Insurance: Always look at the work through the lens of partnership: Express best practices and workflows in terms of how they help the business succeed as opposed to WFM edicts that have to be followed. Be flexible where you can be; be open to new ideas and be willing to try them out. Meet one-on-one with leaders to discuss concerns. When you do have to say no, explain the “why” and offer alternatives. I’ve also recently asked my team to walk the floor, ask reps how they’re doing, answer questions, etc.—all in the spirit of “we’re all on the same team.” A reputation of being a true partner and trusted advisor is the key to a successful relationship with the businesses you support.
Question #2: What was the worst WFM nightmare you have dealt with?
Robert Wright, Manulife: Completing a shift bid for a call center with 1,000+ CSRs and realizing, after the results were published, that the Excel file used for bidding results wasn’t sorted by rank but by last name. Everyone who got an 8 a.m. start couldn’t change their shift that they just learned about 10 minutes ago because of you-name-the-reasons. Joy
Mark Hernandez, Compassion International: An earthquake in Haiti created huge inbound volume spikes, so I had no choice but to pull newly hired reps out of training to help answer calls. It was a minimal QA day, to say the least.
Lisa Hoelscher, LanguageLine Solutions: One of the worst WFM nightmares I can think of is from a few years back when we upgraded our WFM software. We have a custom feed where our schedules are sent to a home-grown database that is used for payroll, and at the time, even call routing. It just so happens that this upgrade had a change to the database schema which totally broke our custom feed and we couldn’t go back to the old system. Which meant that we only had schedules available to our interpreters for a few weeks; after that, we would be manually entering each schedule into our internal database. The custom tables we used to queue up the schedules for the feed weren’t getting the information from the new database structure and had to be rewritten so that our feed could pick it up. We worked with our internal IT department and our vendor for several weeks to get things flowing again between the systems. Thankfully, we had forecasted and scheduled a few extra weeks out before the upgrade.
Lydia Lefter, Emerald Contact Centre: I would not call the following a nightmare, however, it certainly was difficult. Recently, one of our clients experienced a dramatic spike in call volume, which was very unexpected. Since the increase in volume was not anticipated nor incorporated into the forecast, the WFM team, together with other departments of the business, had to plan in a very short space of time how to manage the call volume. Firstly, we had to identify the factors which impacted call volume and then adjust our short- and long-term plans accordingly. Luckily, our forecasting team is very efficient and was able to provide a reforecast promptly. The reforecast was then used by the WFM team to determine staffing needs. In this situation where call volume increased dramatically, it was particularly difficult as we had to plan for a new-hire class and take other measurements until the new-hires were ready to provide coverage. In the end, we managed the situation really well and successfully provided our client the support they needed.
John Campbell, CNA Insurance: As far as nightmare territory, I have one that’s commonplace: Exception Nation (the continuous onslaught of adherence exceptions). I found that the best way to deal with this is to bluntly explain that, if we constantly make all these exceptions, we’re lying to ourselves when we look at our adherence results and devaluing the effort behind of all our scheduling and optimization. The best solution for this is to get a baseline reading of adherence when no exceptions are made; once you have that natural adherence performance, set a reasonable goal where exceptions will truly be the exception and not the rule (e.g., if your organization’s unadulterated adherence is 90%, challenge your organization with a goal of 92%). All these should be done in partnership with the business, with plenty of education and messaging behind the benefits. Ultimately, limiting adherence exceptions will both save a ton of data entry work for the WFM team and help the business see realistic adherence results. A win-win partnership solution!
Next up: Read my notes from the SWPP sessions in my post, News and Notes from the 2018 SWPP Conference.