Thursday, September 13, 2018

Workforce Management's Impact on Customer Service



Workforce Management drives CX

A biker friend of mine recommended a book to me called “Freedom” written by Sonny Barger – yes “that” Sonny Barger – a founding member and former Oakland Chapter President of the Hell’s Angels.  It took me about six miles, in one session, on the treadmill to read the book filled with Sonny’s rules for life.  Some of the bits resonated with me – others did not.  This bit speaks to me in the context of customer experience:

“Treat me good, I’ll treat you better, treat me bad and I’ll treat you worse”

Customers don’t really want to be amazed or have their hair blown back – just helped. They want the product they want/need, their problem solved, or their question answered.  They want those things done with common courtesy and respect.  Treat them good – they will do business with you, treat them bad – they will do business with someone else.

The Workforce Management function has many customers – the external customers, agents, business managers, finance, marketing…  Success is in finding the balance of forecasting and scheduling “Human Resources” to assist the external customers when they want assistance.

Have them at “Hello!” 
When callers negotiate the IVR and determine that human intervention is what they need, the distance between the IVR and the agent is significantly influenced by the efficacy of the Workforce Management team. When callers wait “too long” they become frustrated and they don’t feel valued.  Those feelings set the tone for the human interaction and inform the customer experience. 

Create consistency! 
Service level measures the % of calls answered in a # of seconds.  Some businesses require a speedy answer – think 911 and OnStar – where an immediate response is critical. Aside from that, speed is linked to cost and not to customer satisfaction. I tend to favor that sweet spot in the range of 80-90% answered in 45-60 seconds.  Most callers will not be bothered by waits of less than a minute – provided the quality of service is good. This range of service level goal improves queue throughput, significantly lowers staffing costs, and improves the ability to provide a consistent level of speed of answer.
 
Communication is key! 
Business people and marketing teams can craft amazing campaigns that result in strong responses and take rates. If the communication link between them and the Workforce team is not in place – the efforts will result in burying the call center in call traffic with no one to answer the phone.  You must answer the phone to provide the service or close the sale.

Hire the right Workforce Team!
There are certain skills in most job descriptions for Workforce jobs – a conglomeration of technical and analytical requirements. The intent is to produce a purveyor of data and algorithms to yield a highly efficient forecast and scheduling plan. Follow that simple formula and you will likely fail.  The right candidate must understand the people perspective – from external customer to agent; that an efficient Workforce plan must consider the customer experience and employee engagement as critical success factors, that embracing abundance means that everyone in the process wins.

Support your frontline agents!
Forecast to allow for vacation time off approvals – it will reduce unplanned absenteeism, calm stress, and improve employee engagement.  Allow agents the opportunity to plan for time off well in advance of the dates they are requesting.  Schedule to support work/life balance – offer flex shifts and lunch lengths, where possible.  Allow shift trades to give more flexibility.  Automate your processes – so they don’t have to find a supervisor or manager, tell their story of why they want time off, and await judgement. Forecast and plan such that they can use the time off they have earned to play, rest, and recharge – after all, they earned it. Treat them good – they’ll treat the customers better!


Debra Bentson has spent most of her career in Contact Centers with an emphasis on building and leading Workforce Management teams. Her leadership style balances structure, empowerment, accountability, results, and fun. She is a member of the NCCCA (Nor-Cal Contact Center Association) Steering Committee and an ASUGA (Aspect Software Users Group Association) board member. Dr. Bentson is a member of the DNF (Did Not Finish) crew at the Antioch CA Speedway – push starting sprint cars, clearing wrecks, and supporting track safety.

Dr. Bentson follows this simple prescription for life: "Work and play, laugh loud and often, be safe and strong, and live on your own terms". Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter

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