i-Fundi hosted Community of Expert events in September 2013 addressing the issue of Workforce Management in the Contact Centre Industry.

These workshops were attended by participants eager  to learn more about Graham Mcleod’s insights into Workforce Management. It is common to think of Workforce Management solely as a tool to cut costs by ensuring that the Contact Centre has the correct number of agents on the floor at all times – too many agents and cost overruns occur, too few agents and service levels drop. However, Graham was there to broaden this narrow understanding of Workforce Management.

Graham has been in the customer service sector for over 22 years. Over the years, he has been instrumental in setting up almost 130 Contact Centres in a variety of industries. With a strong technical background, Graham’s focus is always to find the edge in business by intelligently implementing the latest technologies and processes.
Stefan Lauber opened the event and highlighted that Contact Centre’s in South Africa have come a long way over the last two decades. In the past, the Contact Centre workforce was ridiculed as a ‘Girl Friday Industry’. Today we realise that the Contact Centre workforce can, and should be, pro-actively developed with the advantage of enjoying a stimulating career in a complex environment.
Graham highlighted, by way of an introduction, that Workforce Managment has very little to do with technology or staff scheduling. Workforce Management is so much more, it is about handling the complexity of utilising the right staff at the right time in a way that boosts productivity and income, and not just cut costs. In other words, in order to remain competitive in today’s economic climate Contact Centres must move their primary focus away from saving costs to becoming revenue contributors. Traditionally, Workforce Management is only seen as a tool to reduce cost and staff, as 60 to 70 percent of contact centre costs is related to staff. However, in order to change the focus of Workforce Management requires the contact centre manager to report to the CEO. It was interesting to note that none of the attendees reported to their CEO’s and the majority were at least five layers down in the reporting line.
The time is now for Contact Centre managers to change mind-set and reassess goals because staff efficiency is just not good enough anymore. They must concentrate on contact centre agent profitability. In other words, don’t match volumes to people; rather match skills to needs.  Therefore ask the question whether current activities in Contact Centre’s support business goals.
“Traditional Workforce Management,” Graham said, “focused on keeping agents at their desks. However, what is now suggested is to introduce a 10-minute break every hour. In other words work for 50 minutes then break for 10 minutes.” This will, according to Graham, result in more productivity throughout the day and ultimately more revenue for the business. Simply put, mature contact centres allow for Flexible Schedules. The modern contact centre should deal with staff churn effectively by providing a career path and not just a job. People need a future and an informed contact centre manager will focus on that rather than schedules. On the question of KPI formulation, Graham was very clear “KPI’s should be individualised and not generic as per the job function.”
Most managers view Workforce Management as a technology tool only but Graham pointed out that Workforce Management has various aspects to consider. A workforce management tool would only be effective once the contact centre was prepared to consider the points discussed. Graham offered the following useful guidelines on what to look for when selecting Workforce Management Software:
  • Can you create workflows?
  • Can mundane tasks be automated?
  • Can people at various levels access the software i.e. agents choosing their own shifts etc.?
  • Is it possible to gain a holistic view of the business and then work down to the detail?
  • Can the software integrate with other critical business systems?
  • Can the functionality be extended into the rest of the business?
“Workforce management, and not Excel or an application” Graham concluded, “plays a role in every aspect of the contact centre. Ultimately that is what will make a difference in your business.”
iFundi’s Community of Experts Series has been welcomed by the public as an innovative tool for both educating and networking, while addressing topics of common interests to the practitioners of various professional communities. These events expose the participants to new ideas as presented by a guest speaker and allow a forum for the participants to share their experiences. Interested parties can contact Stefan Lauber or his team, regarding the October event, which will focus on Coaching and Training. Phone: +27 11 290 5900.