Intraday Automation is the Future of the Agile Workforce

About two weeks ago, I was in a contact center with 250 agents. This center is one of six large centers on a team and is experiencing some significant operational challenges.

First, customer demand in this center is extremely unpredictable. Some weeks, volume spikes in the mornings, other times in the afternoon or evenings. Forecasting is haphazard and scheduling is very basic because they don’t know when the next spike will occur.

Second, attrition at this center is around 20% a month or 200% a year. A lot of this has to do with low agent morale. Sometimes, agents can work 40 hours in a week and other times, they can only work 30 hours, depending on the call volume.

Intraday management at this center is basically non-existent. Do you remember the “Whack-a-Mole” carnival game, where moles pop out of holes and you “whack” them with a hammer? This is their approach to intraday management. There is no planning for extra training or development, and as issues come up, they just try to “whack” their way through the day.

The direct expense in this center, which is usually somewhere between 50-60% of total revenue, is exceeding revenue. A lot of time and money is spent training new hires because of agents lost through attrition, so they really aren’t making any money.

With all of these things – low employee morale, haphazard intraday management, unreliable forecasts, standard schedules that aren’t working – the customer experience obviously suffers. Currently, it is below 80%.

(This center also has another red flag: voluntary overtime and voluntary time off offered in the same day – a common issue in centers that aren’t working the way they should.)

When I looked at this struggling center, I had a revelation.

I have been in the contact center industry for over 40 years and have been in over 1,000 centers spanning five continents. In all of those years, an incredible amount of time and money has been spent on technology that gets the call from the customer to the agent. But very little is spent on intraday management.

In this center, for example, three people spend all day entering schedule exceptions for 250 agents. This doesn’t leave a lot of time to analyze data – and there’s plenty of data coming in.

Today’s contact centers have become very complicated. With multi-channel, multi-skill, multi-site and multi-queue, the forecasting and scheduling required to run modern centers efficiently is very sophisticated and complex.

Dashboards monitor all kinds of metrics like service level, speed of answer, average handle time and revenue per call. At the same time, scheduling and forecasting is done in silos and coaches and quality teams have to compete for agents’ time.

There are lots of tools, but they don’t work together well. Data is coming in from workforce management, the ACD and the IVR and people have to make decisions quickly. More often than not, agent development plans are pushed to the back-burner.

At the same time, there is always an emphasis on cost and customer service.

What we need in the industry – and what we have been needing for some time now – is something in the middle that takes the data from all of these siloed technologies and automatically makes fast decisions based on business rules about where time can be garnered to develop agents without being stuck in all of these manual processes. That’s not just intraday management – that’s intraday automation.

This is the future of workforce management, as far as I am concerned.

Automating intraday management and real-time processes creates value for contact centers of all sizes and solves the challenges of complex manual processes and the need to improve the customer experience – all while holding costs constant.

Intraday Automation enables centers to create a real-time workforce that can respond to changing events and circumstances throughout the day. And an agile workforce can deliver a dramatically better customer experience and at a lower cost.

About the author

Bob Fletcher

Bob leads the sales and solution delivery initiatives for Intradiem’s global business process outsourcing (BPO) clients, helping to transform their business models and drive profitability via Intraday Automation. He brings a wealth of operations, management and consulting acumen to the BPO practice, having delivered guidance to more than 1,000 call centers and trained over 5,000 managers and supervisors worldwide. Bob's experience includes executive management of Arvato's customer service operations and as executive vice president for Deutsche Telekom. Bob has also served in critical management roles in engagements with leading companies such as T-Mobile, Verizon, Pitney Bowes, TeleDenmark, Gateway of Dublin, DecisionOne, Delta Dental, Wells Fargo and Cox Communications.

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