By: Steve Martin of Call Center Recording Center
I read an article in the July/August issue of this periodical regarding Call Center Workforce Optimization (“Workforce Optimization for Small Call Centers”). This article outlined options for small call centers, mainly 50+ agents and above with the least expensive option requiring an investment of $17,000. Very reasonable, however if your center is 20 to 75 agents this is still a huge investment for your company.
What keeps this investment for Workforce Optimization (we used to call these workforce management systems) so high? Typically the integration and associated professional services. This integration enables the systems to automatically upload historical call data and real-time agent/call data used to create call forecasts. From these forecasts, the software predicts staffing and creates your schedules.
If your switch can provide real-time data (switches typically provide this data in 15 or 30 minute intervals) real-time adherence can be provided. And if you do skills based call routing this scheduling, by skills, is also an additional module that can be added. The Real-Time Adherence and Skills modules are expensive add-ons (tack these onto your already $17,000+ initial investment).
So What’s the REAL Cost?
Expensive? A relative term. If you have 20 to 75 agents, yep. So are you stuck with spreadsheets and manual scheduling? No, not really. There are much more cost-effective options available for you. You can obtain a Workforce Optimization and call center scheduling software tool that will provide as accurate a schedule as the expensive systems. The only difference is you either manually import a file with the historical call data, “cut and paste” it in and some low-cost system even automatically upload it. Wait, it’s not that tough if you have to import it yourself. Even if you manually enter your average call volume per quarter, half or full hour. Then add your average handle time and after call work time, both can be easily copied to each field and your schedule can then be computed. These systems range in price from $3,000 to $14,500 for 20 – 100 agents, depending on the number of agents to be scheduled. No special hardware or excessive professional services needed.
These systems can provide full schedules that can be shared with your agents via printout and/or Web interface. These systems use the same Erlang-C algorithm that the pricey systems use. You have the ability to do intra-day management, “what if” scenarios and even create holiday schedules to proactively prepare for the season. Some even provide the ability to run your forecasted schedule against a simulated switch to see how it performs. Make adjustments to address any issues that are presented and test it again, using these tuned stats to create your working schedule.
Accurate scheduling is actually more important to the centers with less than 50 agents than the 150 seats centers. Why? Well if an agent calls in sick at 8:45am to the 150 seat they can easily cover the eXTRa calls. That agent is less than 1% of their workforce. What happens if an agent calls in sick at 8:30am to a center that only staffs 25 agents? Ouch, now you’re scrambling and your service levels are blown for at least the morning. Or, you have seriously over staffed to proactively head off this type of situation. Expensive. Either way you lose.
Workforce Management : Well Worth the Investment
Workforce management is still “best guess technology” but these systems greatly reduce the margin of error. Reducing unneeded staff by a single agent or providing the ability to correctly staff for billing cycles, holidays and any other special staffing situations makes a huge impact on your ability to field calls. This impact on your service levels and payroll more than compensate for the investment. There is hope. Give these systems a look.
For a free, no obligation consultation with Steve Martin or any of our call center technology experts, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.