News and Notes from the 2018 SWPP Conference

Insights from the SWPP Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award Nominees

This year’s SWPP conference was so fun—three days of binging on workforce management sessions makes us WFMers return home feeling motivated, retrained and happy. I hit as many sessions and vendors as I could, and heard some interesting things going on:

1. During the session titled, “My Button Says Less than 200 Agents: Challenges and Benefits of Small Contact Centers,” I heard from:

  • Jason Hilliard who said that they give everyone who has to work on a Saturday a 30-minute paid lunch.
  • Tyler McGary said that they have a Supervisor WFM Boot Camp (2 hours to 3 days depending on experience level) where their call center supervisors sit with their schedulers to watch how they generate schedules, plan meetings and approve time off. He had a full list of items that the schedulers go through with those supervisors (which I will be hitting him up for later!).
  • Chad Murray shared his Real-Time Management Reaction Strategy matrix, taking us through (in detail) each service tier qualification, definition and action needed as service level falls.

Remember, these helpful tools are still available for download on the SWPP website in the conference materials.

2. Todd “Mustang Sally” Gladden explained that Slant Shifts (10 hours on Monday, 9 hrs on Tuesday, 8 on Wednesday, 7 on Thursday, 6 on Friday = 40 hours/week) are beneficial because they are popular, they meet a specific need for more help during Monday’s busiest times, and there’s a third benefit, too: They answer the problem of productivity loss that a 4×10 schedule brings with it. That means if you start introducing slant shifts in place of 4x10s, you might also see a positive change in AHT, schedule adherence and utilization.

3. Bob Dobson shared a tip with us that is so simple, but still so helpful: When you have data listed in a weekly table, and that needs to be interpolated up to the monthly and quarterly level, they use a 4-4-5 system, which takes 4 weeks from month 1, 4 weeks from month 2, and 5 weeks from month 3 (for a 13-week quarterly total).

4. Instead of using Service Level, Average Speed of Answer or Abandons as a goal, one company uses Occupancy as their defining KPI. Normally an output, establishing required staff by occupancy allows them to then calculate the projected service level and base that on what makes sense for each specific forecast group.

5. Speaking of abandons as a goal, if you’re using abandonment rate as your KPI, be sure to include average time to abandon in there, also.

6. Helpful functions from Excel for WFMers:

  • INDEX combined with MATCH puts VLOOKUP on steroids. Use this when you need to find more than one criteria.
  • MROUND is good for time entries, and FLOOR is useful for intervals. Jeremy Black gave everyone a quick tutorial on the spot, and we were all so grateful and taking notes like crazy!
  • SUMIFS will produce a more elegant (and certainly shorter) solution to nested IF statements.
  • Watch out for typed times versus dragged times—they won’t be identical until you convert them with the TIME function.

7. WFM in Non-Traditional Contact Markets (like back-office or high-paid exempt agents): “Schedule” is a dirty word, use “Planning” instead. And unless it’s necessary for phone service levels, consider using block-scheduling rules, with open lunch, breaks and start times. Limit schedule adherence to the weekly conformance metric (if scheduled for 40 hours, did they work 40 hours?) instead of using the interval pace.

8. Some lessons learned from Jeff Bretana’s experience with non-phone contacts:

  • Only offer emails if the inquiry is not urgent; otherwise, that email may be coupled with an impatient phone call, too.
  • There are challenges with tracking the handle times of non-phone work; if the work is interrupted, or put down and picked up later in the afternoon, the span may be artificially inflated. Sometimes you need a time trial study with a stopwatch to get those AHTs (and beware of people behaving differently when they’re being watched).
  • When a chat isn’t going smoothly, turn that into a phone call instead. True ownership allows the agent to initiate that call, which keeps the customer from having to go through the IVR and start over from scratch.
  • Don’t expect cannibalization to justify the cost of chat, email or social media, because it doesn’t always eliminate calls to the extent of there being a cost-savings benefit.

9. New Shrinkage Category: the amount of time agents are spending on the phone with IT, or an internal support desk.

10. Deborah Mauk shared a great way to tell the difference in WFMers: Forecasters are great at math, and Schedulers are Mad Scientists because they have to be willing to just blow everything up!

11. I forgot to mention that, in my own session, “Developing Your Own WFM Staffing Model,” there is a run-rate calculator for Service Level and ASA at the bottom of the second worksheet, and that template is still available for download on the SWPP website (not the app).

12. Finally, a big congratulations to John Campbell for winning the Workforce Planning Professional of the Year Award, and to Maggie Klenke for the Lifetime Achievement Award!

Be sure to check out Penny Reynold’s published notes from both “60 Ideas in 60 Minutes” sessions. Also, take a look at my Q&A with the 2018 WFM of the Year nominees where they revealed their best WFM tips and worst nightmares. Next up from me: The Vendor Comparison Analysis.

Heads up! Next year’s SWPP conference starts on a Tuesday, April 23rd, and runs through Thursday, April 25th, 2019.