Nearshore Americas
workforce management

Workforce Management in the Next-Generation Call Center: Realities, Tips and Challenges

Workforce Management (WFM) can be the make or break for BPO operations. Not having a functioning WFM team central to the company’s operations is going to mean one thing: revenue lost – after all, the ultimate goal of WFM is to generate more profit from agent productivity.

In a nutshell, WFM is the process or set of processes an organization utilizes to maximize performance levels. In the world of BPO, this is usually done by focusing on having the right amount of staff at the right time.

But how does a business go about this and what are the best methods of making WFM a success? Nearshore Americas spoke to big BPO players to find out how they manage their teams to get the best results possible.

1. Prepare and avoid understaffing by constantly having a buffer 

Markland Young
Markland Young, the Vice President of Revenue and Workforce Management

Having an excess of staff to prepare for shortages is one of the top ways to manage workforces so a company can reach its potential, according to experts Nearshore Americas spoke to. This is key in keeping clients happy and things running smoothly, Sebastian Tickle and Markland Young at itelbpo both say. Their operation in Jamaica has a WFM team that focuses solely on hiring.

“If the client needs 100 agents so we would always have 110, in case of shrinkage,” Young, the Vice President of Revenue and Workforce Management, says. “It’s about constant planning, and the WFM team looking at needs on a day-to-day basis so once we know what the requirement is, we can quickly fulfill it.”

The two revealed that buffer management is at the center of their operations so there are never any staff shortages.

2. Be flexible and pragmatic

Industry leaders agree that flexibility is key to WFM success. Being ready and able to adapt to new circumstances – such as staff numbers changing at the last minute – is vital for effectively managing a team. Such flexibility on a WFM team should also work to at times relieve burdens on the operations team, itelbpo says.  A vital part of WFM f means allowing for employees to have more personalized schedules which in turn creates dynamic performances that adhere to requirements. Though flexibility can have challenges, it has plenty of advantages.

Allowing staff to swap and manage their working schedule empowers them, leading to better overall performances.

3. Don’t be too flexible

But being too flexible can lead to problems, experts said. Despite empowering agents with changeable schedules, they still need to adhere to rules – especially if remote work is not on the agenda. Having quality interactions with agents is key, so to have a successful WFM model, employees should be on site with a brick and mortar operation. “We do value engagement of leaders with agents on the floor so that’s why being able to have them on-site at least 5 days a week is important,” says Sanchez.

4. Manage talent’s availabilities 

Along with flexibility comes availability – and any successful WFM model needs to manage and take into account different staff availabilities. This ultimately attracts the best talent, boosting revenue for the company. Edgar Contreras at Beliveo said that by managing varied availabilities of staff, they can tap into talent that competitors can’t tap into, such as students or single mothers. Schedules can be personalized for staff and in the long-run this allows the business to make attractive job offers.

5. A pleasant working atmosphere 

Described as one of the “smartest” methods of WFM, having happy employees happy is a fundamental aspect of WFM that many CEOs often overlook. The point is simple: dissatisfied employees are less likely to perform as well and more likely to leave.

But it’s easy to talk about having a pleasant working environment, but not easy to construct and execute, Neal Topf, the President of Callzilla says. “There is no contact center easy button that can be pushed and automatically achieve optimal levels of employee experience and customer experience.”

Neal Topf
Neal Topf, the President of Callzilla

Ways to construct a pleasant atmosphere include flexibility on hours as well as perks such as daycare for single mothers – which to keep morale high and in turn increase productivity.

Career pathing and monetary or non-monetary incentives are huge tools in creating employee satisfaction which should regularly be measured as part of best practices, adds Topf. Free time earned is an important currency in making agent experience with a company satisfactory. Employees that have good experiences in the workplace are likely to provide the same of better customer experiences to their customers.

6. Effective decision making with data analysis using the correct statistical tools

Making key decisions using statistical tools is another way to effectively manage staff, say experts. One common methodology is Erlang C, a calculator that estimates the number of staff a company needs to handle calls at a help desk or inbound call center. It takes data such as call volume, bag handle time, service level and shrinkage and spits out staffing numbers.

Used by many to project staffing, it is extremely useful, Topf told Nearshore Americas – but it’s never a perfect science as call arrival patterns are never linear.

7. Planning for the use of advanced technology and automation

The world of BPO is changing and despite the above points being valid, CEOs at BPOs in the Nearshoring nations need to be aware of the importance and value of automation – such as chat and voice bots or Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – as a WFM tool.

Topf says that advanced technology is the most pragmatic tool to combat the reality of government-mandated monthly salaries and strict rules around things such as vacations, sick leave, short term leave, absenteeism and utilization, which present operating and financial challenges not always easy for U.S. clients to understand.

“WFM software is but a way to administer the resources while management must set the vision to leverage automation with human capital to make customer-facing operations the most beneficial for customers as well as the suppliers that offer these services,” says Topf.

Mathew Di Salvo

Mathew Di Salvo is a contributing writer and editor at Nearshore Americas, based in Colombia.

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