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Real-Time Adaptive Scheduling—WFM’s Next Evolutionary Step
With ever-increasing demands for personalized service, contact centers need workforce management that can adjust to life's uncertainties
For the rest of the April 2017 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Most contact center managers agree that there is ample opportunity to improve their workforce management (WFM) solution, their WFM best practices, and most likely both. Workforce management software remains the most important productivity tool in larger contact centers, but these solutions and related practices haven’t received enough attention over the years. Part of this is due to their complexity, but more often it comes down to people not wanting to wake up a sleeping tiger.

But the time for action on WFM has come. Good enough isn’t acceptable in today’s demanding economy. WFM is an essential tool for front-office (i.e., contact center) and back-office operating areas; it’s also a necessary one for companies that want to deliver an outstanding customer experience: It is designed to ensure departments have the proper number of resources with the right skills at the appropriate time. For large contact centers, with complex operating environments employing hundreds of people with a wide variety of skills, a sophisticated tool is required to determine which staff members must be on hand at every interval to ensure that personalized service can be delivered, or at least that the necessary resources are available, with the right skills to get the job done.

INTRADAY MANAGEMENT MUST IMPROVE

Companies need flexible, easy-to-use, and precise WFM solutions that accurately forecast their capacity requirements (also known as volumes) and schedule resources with the right skills to meet the anticipated demand. The market challenge is that even the most accurate WFM solution (if there is such a tool) cannot anticipate and plan for unexpected events, which create varying levels of chaos because they render forecasts mostly useless. Examples of these types of events are “acts of God” (snowstorms, hurricanes, and tornados), operating errors (billing or system mistakes), or highly contagious viruses or food poisoning. All of these kinds of events have an unanticipated impact on the volumes of incoming interactions, the resources available to handle them, and sometimes both. Therefore, it’s essential for a WFM solution to have an intraday management module that “flexes” with the unpredictable nature of daily business and identifies organizational needs and how best to address them in real time.

Intraday management is an area of weakness in most contact center WFM solutions. Most of the intraday management modules that are standard components of WFM solutions notify administrators after they’ve identified an issue. But these modules are designed to simply alert managers, not to provide guidance on how to respond to staffing or volume anomalies. Consequently, they are ineffective at helping managers adhere to service levels, forcing them to have to reforecast and schedule manually, which is complex and time-consuming. (And often by the time the updated forecast and schedule is created, the situation has changed again and the recommendations are useless.)

INTRODUCING REAL-TIME ADAPTIVE SCHEDULING

The market needs WFM solutions whose intraday management capabilities automate the process of identifying and fixing unanticipated changes in demand and resources. DMG refers to these new intraday capabilities as real-time adaptive scheduling for WFM. While the name emphasizes scheduling, to perform this task the WFM module has to be able to identify an out-of-adherence situation, reforecast, determine the skills and resources required to address the new projections, and then “acquire” the needed employees.

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