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Workforce Management (WFM)

Insiders Guide to Planning: Introduction to WFM Real Time Management

12 min read

Last Updated March 2020

What is WFM Real-Time management in a call centre?

Workforce Management real-time management is proactively managing the contacts and queues “on the day” to ensure service levels and business targets are met. This means taking the resource plan and forecasts and monitoring volumes throughout the day, acting if thresholds are transgressed and enabling service recovery plans if required.

You can spend countless hours perfecting a forecast, creating a schedule that matches forecasted workload requirements, or capacity planning to ensure you have the correct staff forecasted, however, if you can’t count on agents to be where you’ve schedules for them to be, much of this is a waste of time.

You can look at your real-time management teams as your field officers; they exist to either ensure your scheduled workforce planning is delivered smoothly or react when reality deviates from it, which unfortunately is the case more often than not.

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What’s the difference between Real-Time Management and Intraday Management in the Contact Centre?

WFM Real-Time Management and Intraday Management roles are essentially the same. Both focus on reducing the impact of performance threats to contact centres. They re-balance each day’s workload/workforce planning with the available human resources to achieve customer service expectations and safely mop-up agent idle time to ensure more productive work is done whilst protecting service levels.

Having the right reports that measure compliance and clear processes for when variations occur are an integral part of achieving adherence.

What are the benefits of WFM Real-Time Management?

Workforce Management Schedule Adherence

Adherence levels and expectations differ between organisations and industries and there is often no one set target for what good adherence is.

However, the impact of non-adherence, even in smaller contact centres, can be significant from a customer experience and efficiency perspective. For example, a simplified way of looking at this is: for an organisation with 100 agents who are paid £7 per hour, a 10% non-adherence would equal to £70 wasted budget per hour, which, when multiplied for the year, can represent a significant cost challenge.

Most good Workforce Management (WFM) tools will allow you to manage real-time adherence by giving you the ability to quickly see what your agents should be doing based on the workforce planning schedule put in place, and compare it to what they are actually doing in real-time, as well as how long they have been out of adherence.

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By setting up dynamic alerts based on user defined thresholds, your WFM tool can notify you with automated alerts when an agent may need additional support. These proactive alerts dramatically improve the likelihood of schedule adherence as well as help drive a supportive, fair and efficient work culture.

Having the right insight at the right time, allows you to address any issues immediately and manage staff effectively in real time. Additionally, having access to historical agent adherence reports empowers you to have informed conversations with your agents on their adherence trends as well as discuss how non-adherence impacts their own performance and your customers.

The largest return on the investment of a Workforce Management tool, regardless of the industry, comes from making sure that the schedules created are followed. As such, an effective real-time element within your WFM tool is paramount in making this happen.

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Remote Working Real-Time Schedule Adherence

With organisations giving more flexibility to their workers, we are starting to remote working becoming more and more popular even in the contact centre.

Though remote working can deliver numerous benefits for a company – such as reduced office costs, more agent flexibility, recruiting without borders and across time zones –  it certainly also has its challenges.

Remote working real-time management challenges:

  • Communicating with staff: When re-optimising and/or making changes to schedules you need an effective way to notify staff of changes in real-time
  • Schedule adherence: Ensuring agents are performing even when working remotely

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Fortunately, workforce management is able to tackle many of those needs.

  • If your agents can connect to their telephony system, some workforce management tools will allow you to see real-time adherence of your agents and help monitor their performance remotely.
  • Workforce management allows you to react quickly to unexpected leave.
  • If a significant amount of workers do contract the virus, being able to react quickly and efficiently is key to maintaining your organisation operational during this time.
  • Through self-service apps, employees can access schedules remotely and advise if they are able to work additional hours
  • Other functionalities such as automated shift trading and holiday booking support you well with homeworkers.

Real-time queue management

A small amount of queuing calls is not necessarily an issue and indicates staffing levels are in the right zone. If there is no queue and calls are answered immediately you either have extremely high service levels or are overstaffed. As such, calls queuing are not a bad thing provided they are answered within the required limits.

The problems start when the levels of customer contact vary significantly from the plan and service levels are compromised. This is where real-time management becomes integral to the contact centre.

What are the best practices for Real-Time monitoring within the Contact Centre?

  • Look beyond common metrics: Lots of managers become too focused on metrics like average handling time or wrap uptime. While these are valuable metrics, they are somewhat limited and do not offer a clear picture of agent performance. Real-time monitoring lets you get beyond the metrics and gives you insight into things like the type of language top-performing agents are using which is far more valuable than a metric like average handling time.
  • Share what is working: To help share best practices and winning behaviours around the call centre give top performing agents the opportunity to share the tactics and types of language they use to resolve calls.

Why Contact Centres should implement WFM Real-Time management

An effective real-time management process and governance is critical for workforce optimisation and it provides the opportunity for the planning team to really show their worth by reacting to changes as they unfold in a positive way and without compromising on service.

For smaller organisations, the service delivery role may be part of the scheduler’s activities. For larger multi-site organisations it can become a distinct function providing the “mission control” view of activities where real-time analysts are employed to monitor, amend and drive performance.

For more information on which WFM solution is best suited for your organisation, check out our article: What are the most popular Workforce Management solutions?