I have spent the past 22 years of my career building and leading Workforce Management teams in Contact Center environments for a variety of industries. Based on these experiences, I’d like to share my “10 Lessons from a Workforce Manager” which I previously presented at the Nor Cal Contact Center Association meeting:

    1. Debunking call center myths. Every call center has its own folklore – a collection of tales passed down through the generations, perhaps around campfires, that are frequently and fundamentally… wrong. When you encounter something that appears to be folklore, question from a respectful and curious perspective, search the source documents to uncover the truth, identify both the origin and accuracy of the information. Solve issues, close any gaps, and share the correct information.
    2. The importance of consistency to establish credibility. Set clear expectations by crafting clear mission statements, goals, and processes that are aligned and communicated. Having clarity in process and consistency in execution will contribute to establishing credibility and trust. Operate with “hands above the table” to gain agreement on roles and responsibilities, handling exceptions to the process, and hold everyone accountable to following the agreements.
    3. The role of Workforce Management in the organization. Each organization needs to determine how the Workforce Management team will integrate into the overall Contact Center structure. Understand the options and the potential consequences of using each approach:
      • Consultant to line management, providing them with options and risks; the line management makes the decisions and is accountable for the results.
      • The decision maker and enforcer controlling the way things are done and accountable for the outcome.
      • A collaborative partner to line management and other support teams with clear terms of engagement, roles, and responsibilities.

I will provide a hint – the right answer is the third option because it is the only option that keeps the fundamentals of healthy, constructive, inclusive relationships intact. Communicate the approach to everyone to avoid confusion.

  1. Data and creating the forecast – how deep do you need to dig. The simplest ingredients for a forecast include call volume, average handle time, occupancy, and shrinkage. What happened in the past, what is happening now, and what do we expect to happen in the future? Technology will support achieving a meaningful result – but it will only be as good as the business intelligence, analysis and assumptions entered. Dig until the truth becomes apparent, make a plan, and then make contingency plans to respond when surprises happen – they will happen.
  2. Providing the data and narrative to key decision makers and stakeholders. Numbers alone can lead to incorrect conclusions and drive decisions that are not in the best interest of the business. Every business I have worked with has layers of subtle nuance that are not readily apparent in reporting and forecasting. Providing context around the numbers will help stakeholders make better decisions for the business based on complete information.
  3. Partnering with stakeholders to establish process and rules of engagement. Regular meetings and open communication will contribute to building trusting relationships with business partners. Periodically revisit rules of engagement and process to make appropriate updates
  4. Defending the forecast. Staffing costs usually account for over 70% of a Contact Center’s budget so the forecast can and should be scrutinized for accuracy. Document, document, document the assumptions – where they came from, how they were determined, and who authorized the changes. Avoid “Fauxcasting” by starting with a staffing number and working backwards to get to the assumptions with no realistic plan or path to make those assumptions reality. Modifying assumptions must be done in lockstep with a clear plan and path to deliver on the new assumption so the forecast is honest.
  5. Educating the business. Everyone involved should have a solid working knowledge of Contact Center and Workforce Management terms and concepts and how they influence the results. Education can take many forms – books, home grown, vendor, formal classes. Determine your needs and budget and make it a priority.

    Your leadership team must understand the types of questions I have listed below:
    • How does average handle time and multiple segments scheduled during the day influence schedule adherence?
    • How do the tips and tails of the day impact occupancy?
    • What is the impact of processing non-call work during “idle” time?
  6. Focus on the mission and big picture – leave your personal agenda at the door. The scientific method taught us to have a hypothesis – and without bias, follow all of the steps to find the truth. It should always come back to what is best for the business, following the data, finding the truth, and doing the right things for the right reasons. Endeavor to understand the perspective of others and the information they bring forward to support the discovery process.
  7. Measuring success. Define what to measure, consistent formulas, and levels of performance insuring the goals are driving the right behaviors. Clearly delineate for each metric, goal, and role if success and coaching will be done based on behaviors or numbers.

Closing thoughts:

Workforce Management can deliver staffing efficiency, cost savings, and promote value-add information sharing to a contact center organization or is can be divisive, toxic, and create contentious relationships. Insure that the people charged with this responsibility have the right character and ethical compass to properly discharge the duties.

The lessons are as much about how we develop trusting relationships, demonstrate a high degree of ethics, and lead by doing the right things for the right reasons as they are simply running the business. Common courtesy, mutual respect, and the truth are foundational for creating effective relationships and facilitating good business. Each of us has the chance to make choices to determine how we show up. Remember – happiness and laughter contribute to success too.

Ronald Reagan wrote “Don’t be afraid to see what you see.” The truth is a powerful and absolute requirement that applies both to business and, in a grander context, life.

Thank you for reading my words.

Dr. Debra Bentson will be participating in Customer Contact West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, taking place October 24-27, in Huntington Beach, CA. She will lend her voice to two timely panels, Is WFH Really the Wave of the Future? How to Make It and On-Premise Work Again and How Might We Redefine Talent Strategy?

Dr. Bentson is a Workforce Management Humanitarian who engages in continuous learning and positive psychology to craft and implement Workforce Management strategies and tactics that actively prioritize the well-being of the people they affect. Learn more about and connect with her on: Twitter @theccdoctor and/or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-debra-bentson/