A recent survey of 230 call center mangers conducted by DMG Consulting shows that the need to forecast for multiple skill sets is the top challenge they face when developing their call center schedules.
According to the firm's Benchmark Study of Contact Center Workforce Management, published in May 2010, 49.6 percent of call center managers view forecasting for multiple channels as a top challenge.
As we all know, most call centers today are multichannel contact centers - which means they handle email, Web chat, fax and possibly SMS in addition to phone calls. The challenge for call center managers is that each of these channels requires specific agent skill sets.
Call center managers therefore must account for this when developing their forecasting and scheduling: Just the same way they have to have the proper number of agents on hand to handle call volume, they also need to have the proper number of agents on hand to handle emails, Web chats and other forms of contact as well. This makes the "balancing act" of matching agent resources to contact volume that much more complex.
Although many organizations "cross-train" their agents to handle multiple channels - and this is a good practice - the truth remains that some agents are going to be better at certain channels than others. Some agents have good verbal skills and thus are best suited to the phones - while others possess good typing and computer skills and are best suited to "text-based" communications such as email and Web chat.
Call center managers, therefore, have to be able to schedule agents based on their strengths in order to deliver superior customer service, while at the same time keeping call center costs in line. However, this can be a very time-consuming process for managers still using spreadsheets.
Today's workforce management solutions, however, are helping call center managers meet this challenge. These powerful software solutions have a distinct advantage over spreadsheets because they can be integrated in with the ACD and other systems to automate the forecasting and scheduling process. Just the same way a WFM system uses historical call data captured from the ACD to arrive at an accurate forecast, it can also capture data from other systems - such as your email or Web chat service - to achieve the same result. This, in turn, enables call center managers to more quickly and accurately forecast volume for multiple channels and then schedule agents accordingly, based on their skill sets.
For example, a cataloger might learn through its forecasting that most of the customers contacting the call center during the day are using email and Web chat - while the majority of evening traffic is phone-based. Therefore it would make sense to schedule more agents with good email and Web chat skills for the day shift, and agents with good phone skills for the evening shift. A simple adjustment such as this in the schedule can make for improved customer service and will also lead to increased agent satisfaction.
Interestingly, the DMG report finds that more call center managers are challenged to accurately forecast for these alternate channels than they are to actually schedule the agents based on skills set. In other words, once the trends are uncovered and the forecast is created, the scheduling is the easier part: Only 27 percent said they were challenged to schedule based on skill set.
The mere complexity of this issue presents a strong value proposition in call center workforce management solutions. Monet Software
offers a cloud-based workforce management solution that can be integrated with multiple channels for the purpose of improving skills-based forecasting and scheduling. To learn more, click here
Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard