The Top 3 Issues Affecting Contact Center Expenses
Are you a Contact Center director/executive banging your head against the wall struggling to crack the code on why your center is missing KPIs and goals and operating over budget month after month?
As you know, Contact Centers are on the front lines of customer service. While no company ever sets out to operate over budget or deliver unsatisfactory service, Workforce Management (WFM) issues can, unfortunately, leave many Contact Centers doing precisely that. Challenges such as Poor Forecasting, Scheduling Inefficiencies, and Intraday / Real-time Management issues are just a few things that can cause significant problems for Call Centers.
Below we discuss three common WFM-related missteps that can wreak havoc on your Contact Center’s budget and performance. We also shed some light on what smart Contact Center directors & executives like you can do to mitigate these common missteps and get your Contact Center’s KPIs, budget, and goals back on track – leaving you to finally stop banging your head against the wall month after month.
Issue #1 – Poor Forecasting
Poor Forecasting is a significant cause of over budget and underperforming Call Centers. To address this issue, we recommend examining two different Forecasts – your Contact Forecast and your Staff Forecast.
Your Contact Forecast is essentially your Volume Forecast and it predicts how much volume you can expect per hour, day, week and so on. Your Staff Forecast tells you how many people you will need to handle the expected volume of anticipated calls.
Oftentimes, when a Contact Forecast is accurate, the Staff Forecast gets overlooked and this can be where your over budgeting and underperforming issues reside.
Solution – Take a Closer Look at Your WFM Data
For discussion purposes, let’s say you forecast a need for 10 staff members. However, even with the forecasted staffing, your Call Center is still underperforming. This scenario demonstrates why it’s so critical to study forecasts and use the data from your WFM system to ensure your forecasting team is accounting for occupancy[i], which is another way to say the time each agent is spending on a phone call.
Why is accounting for “occupancy” so vital? Because when Contact Centers do not account for or underestimate occupancy, it leaves directors and executives with understated staffing needs. Now, while this might look “good” as a line item on the budget (because you’re essentially saying you need fewer people), it’s terrible from a performance perspective as it will undoubtedly lead to long wait times and abandoned calls.
Issue #2 – Scheduling Inefficiencies
After taking a closer look at your Forecasting, you’ll want to check your Schedule Efficiencies. Why? Because as flexible and diverse as our workforce has become, many Contact Centers are still offering inflexible static shifts[ii]. And this can cause your Call Center to operate over budget.
Solution – Take a Closer Look at Call Arrival Patterns and Shift Availability
For example, let’s say your Call Center opens at 8AM every day, and at 8AM, you need three people answering calls based on the Staff Forecast. However, from 12PM – 3PM, you’re much busier, and you end up needing a total of five people. What do you do?
In this case, many Contact Centers will still opt to have five full-time employees (FTEs) working every day from 8AM – 5PM but in doing so, they’re overstaffing themselves for six (6) of those hours, which can cause their center to operate over budget. Imagine the significant impact this one decision could have if a director or an executive chose to overstaff a Contact Center of 50 or even a few thousand employees. Unfortunately, we’ve seen it happen, and it’s not a happy situation.
That’s why, at Solid Rock Consulting, we encourage you to take these two essential steps to address scheduling inefficiencies:
Seek to understand your call arrival patterns: Once you understand this, you’ll be able to determine, productively and practically, the days with the highest call volumes and the times of day when your peak staff is needed.
Take a more in-depth look at your shift availability: Continue to do an analysis of the shifts you offer and don’t be afraid to break from the static shift and offer flexible, part time options or even split shifts.
Issue #3: Overlooked Intraday / Real-time Management
Intraday (also known as Real-Time) Management is frequently overlooked as a possible issue because it’s considered last in the WFM cycle and is often strictly an afterthought. It is, however, extremely important when it comes to staying on budget and performing well.
If you were to think of Forecasting and Scheduling as the implementation component of WFM, then Intraday Management would be the execution aspect of WFM. What this means is that even though it’s great to have a plan you can implement, it’s even better when the plan is properly executed. That is why Intraday Management is crucial to look at when considering budget and underperformance difficulties.
Solution – Take a Closer Look at Setting or Enforcing an Adherence Goal
If your forecasting is “right on the money” and you’re offering the right types of staffing shifts, then it’s likely your problem lies with either setting an adherence[iii] goal or enforcing one. Adherence, just to clarify, is the amount of time an agent spends adhering to their scheduled activities.
Are any of these problems hitting close to home? Do you need help implementing these changes? Do you have other issues that you feel are holding your Contact Center or agents back from hitting KPIs and meeting budget? CLICK HERE to schedule your complementary, no-cost, Executive Review for more insight on how to get your Contact Center’s performance up, expenses down and on track.
[i] Occupancy: refers to the percentage of time that an agent or team of agents spends handling incoming calls against their idle/available time. This is determined by dividing workload hours by staff hours. [ii] Static Shifts: shifts that are pre-set, pre-determined, and not adjusted for forecasting needs. These shifts are often used more out of convenience or ease of scheduling than actual need. [iii] Adherence: statistic reflecting the amount of time an agent or team of agents spends adhering to their scheduled shifts and activities.