Real-Time Adaptive Scheduling—WFM’s Next Evolutionary Step
These real-time adaptive scheduling modules will be enabled by faster processing capabilities, which are likely to be delivered in the cloud. It’s certainly possible to place enough processing power on a customer site to be able to reforecast hundreds and possibly thousands of agents and skills in real time. But cloud-based solutions are designed for surges and are able to analyze a massive amount of metadata from the automatic call distributor (ACD) as part of the forecasting process. These environments are typically engineered to handle 100 percent more capacity than anticipated, enabling them to respond quickly enough to render the scheduling module’s recommendations useful.
REAL-TIME ADAPTIVE VERSUS OLD-SCHOOL INTRADAY
The figure below points out the differences between the ineffective intraday management capabilities of old and the new real-time adaptive scheduling modules for WFM solutions. The new adaptive solutions are designed to respond in real time and fully automate the process of determining which resources are needed. These modules are progressive and proactively address changing needs—agents might already have been asked to alter their schedules by the time the WFM administrator and contact center manager become aware of a problem. The system notifies management of how a staffing situation is being addressed instead of just alerting them to an issue. This improvement alone is enough to justify an investment in real-time adaptive scheduling, as it gives management the peace of mind that comes from knowing it can meet service-level commitments even in challenging conditions. This is a game changer for contact centers. (For outsourcers that are penalized for not meeting service levels, it can save thousands of dollars and improve relationships with their clients.)
Source: DMG Consulting LLC, February 2017
Real-time adaptive scheduling capabilities can be third-party offerings, but they must be fully integrated within any WFM solution. These new modules must be able to use information from third-party applications so that they have the intelligence to route interactions to the appropriate resources. Such information could come from the automatic call distributor, CRM, quality management, speech analytics, or performance management solution. The point is that real-time adaptive scheduling should be able to look outside of the WFM application and call upon resources that are not part of the contact center.
This next generation of intraday management tools will be free from the classic WFM limitations of fixed schedules and rigid compensation. Since the goal is to make sure that contact centers have the right resources at all times, especially when they’re hit by unexpected changes, real-time adaptive scheduling solutions must be free to adjust salaries to attract the necessary resources, which means that they must come with compensation modules that balance incremental employee expenses against the cost of not meeting service levels. Real-time adaptive scheduling must be designed with the new employee paradigms in mind and concentrate on variable resources instead of prioritizing full-timers and longevity. In the future, contact centers must address fairness at all levels to more fully engage their employees. This will position service departments to achieve their primary mission of delivering an outstanding customer experience.
Enterprise and WFM vendors have underestimated the impact and cost of mishandling their intraday staffing challenges, largely because they haven’t had a way to address the issues. But the new generation of intraday tools, real-time adaptive scheduling WFM capabilities, provide innovative ways to handle these challenges. These new solutions will enable companies to meet the essential goal of delivering a consistent service level at the same time as they address the needs of Millennials and their colleagues, who expect flexibility and fairness in the workforce.
Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary author and speaker, Fluss drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the service industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.