(The following is taken from Patrick Barnard's call center blog, Making Contact:)
My wife works in the restaurant business and the other day she brought up a scheduling scenario that made me further realize the value of workforce management software -- and in particular agent-supervisor portals -- not only for the restaurant business but also for the call center.
What happened was this:
Waitress A needed a Monday night off from work so she asked Waitress B to take her shift for her. Waitress B volunteered. It was a verbal agreement done with verbal supervisor approval on premises and the scheduling change was reflected in the (printed) schedule posted on the kitchen wall.But on the Tuesday night after Waitress B worked the shift, she announced to Waitress A: "Now you're going to work my Friday night shift in return!" Waitress A was stunned: She had already made plans to see her young daughter's school recital that evening.
When Waitress A said she could not work the Friday shift, Waitress B replied: "Too bad - you said you'd swap shifts with me. You're working it."
Unfortunately management didn't fully understand the situation and sided with Waitress B - but the point is this: Had there been a piece of software acting as the "mediator" for this "transaction" there would have been in infallible audit trail that would have protected Waitress A from an unfair management decision.It's important to note that Waitress A did not AGREE to take waitress B's Friday shift in exchange, when the verbal agreement took place. The date and time of the shift that was to be swapped was left open ended.
Had the two waitresses been required to use a Web-based online supervisor portal, integrated with workforce management software, to swap, bid on, or cancel shifts, Waitress A would have been required to indicate which shift she would work in exchange for Waitress B and there would be no dispute in terms of which two shifts had been swapped.
The important thing with these agent-supervisor (or employee-supervisor) portals is that they have to be extremely user friendly. After all, restaurants (and even call centers) have employees with all different levels of computer skills and it's important to use a portal that everyone can use easily.
There are numerous workforce management software providers out there offering Web-based agent supervisor portals. One that stands out with an exceptionally easy-to-use yet fully-functional agent supervisor portal is WFM software provider Monet Software. Monet revamped its Monet WFM Live software last year to make it fully Web-based and the company also offers a slick agent supervisor portal, called MonetAnywhere, that allows agents to swap, bid on and bid out of shifts with ease, often without requiring supervisor approval. Agents can communicate with their supervisors through this portal - but perhaps more importantly they communicate with the entire team, thus allowing for faster resolution of scheduling conflicts. Best of all it provides an accurate audit trail of all swaps, bid-outs and cancellations to provide data that can be used in evaluating employee behavior.
TMCnet doesn't really cover any of the WFM vendors operating in the restaurant space but boy can I see a lot of parallels in terms of how the two industries can benefit from WFM.