Variants of the performance management cycle are used by managers throughout the contact centre industry. Typically, they’re used as a tool for structuring agent training and up-skilling, and reviewing the efficacy of the training process. Though there are myriad versions of the performance management cycle (or PMC), they typically follow the same cyclical process:
- Agree performance goals.
- Provide any necessary training, and execute on the goals.
- Monitor performance.
- Analyse performance, and provide feedback.
- Refine performance goals, and repeat.
However, there’s no need to limit the PMC to man-managers and agent training. By applying the principles to the call centre as a whole, it’s possible to significantly improve your understanding of call centre operation, and take steps to ensure performance is improved.
Today, I’m looking at applying the performance management cycle to one of the most crucial areas of call centre planning: workforce management.
The Workforce Management Performance Management Cycle
The WFM performance management cycle follows a similar structure to most traditional cycles; but instead of focusing on goals, execution, review and so on, the key areas are forecasting, scheduling, execution and analysis. Planning is no longer a part of the management cycle; it’s now the subject, in the form of workforce management.
The first stage of the WFM performance management cycle is asking ‘How well are we forecasting?’ With hiring decisions and agent schedules reliant on accurate forecasting, it’s essential to start the process by casting a critical eye over your forecasting abilities.
Any improvements we can make at this stage will have huge implications for performance; saving money by reducing unnecessary hires, or improving service by recruiting much-needed agents to cope with increased demand.
There are two essential aspects to forecasting:
- Can we predict what customer behaviour will be like?
- Can we use this information to accurately forecast workloads?
The next question to ask is ‘How well are we scheduling?’ There are a multitude of ways (and metrics) to analyse schedule efficacy, the most important of which are:
- How much does the schedule cost?
- How effectively does the schedule satisfy the need for agents?
- How well does the schedule fit the forecast?
- Does each shift translate into a decent level of customer service time?
If you’ve forecasted a need for 1000 manhours tomorrow, it’s important to explicitly check that your schedule can accommodate that need. In many instances, there’ll be a shortfall of staff – and this provides an opportunity to pro-actively improve the next day’s performance.
After the forecast, and the creation of a schedule, we need to pass our schedule on to the operations team. Up until this execution stage, nobody knows for sure exactly what customers will demand on the day. To ensure the schedule is executed properly, it’s essential to effectively manage intraday decision making:
- Are agents working the shifts they’ve been scheduled to work, when they’ve been scheduled to work them?
- What changes are taking place throughout the day?
- Is the schedule working better than predicted, or less effectively?
It’s important to use a balanced scorecard of metrics to look at any changes made during execution; and to identify how the day’s decisions impacted performance, and whether any opportunities to improve performance were missed.
Thus far, the entire WFM performance management cycle has been an analysis of planning. We’ve already analysed the forecast, the schedule, the execution, and the intraday performance of both agents and customers. So, at this stage, we need to get slightly meta-analytical, and look at the efficacy of our overall analysis.
The most crucial question to ask is a simple one: ‘Is the analysis happening?’ Some call centres pay lip-service to the importance of analysing their workforce management, without every diving into crucial metrics and KPIs. It’s important to consider:
- How long does it take to get the analysis?
- Are the lessons learned from analysis acted upon?
- Are all the people who need the analytics (the call centre’s crucial stakeholders) getting them?
- Are they getting it in a form they can understand?
Using this framework, the performance management cycle gets a new lease of life – acting as a crucial health check for your entire workforce management activity. With the lessons learned from your analysis, you can return back to the forecasting stage, armed with an abundance of lessons and insights into your WFM planning.
To learn more about analysing and improving call centre performance, download our executive summary below.