Workforce managers don’t have it easy.

Not only are they responsible for accurately forecasting call requirements per half hour by both queue and skill, they are also tasked with scheduling the right number of agents needed to handle calls at a prescribed service level and average handle time.

This is a very specialized job that requires someone with an extreme skill set in modern forecasting techniques and an appreciation for scheduling and the impact it has on employees.

This can be a frustrating endeavor because of the countless variables that adversely impact forecasting and call volume such as bad weather, headlines, and new products and marketing campaigns that were not communicated to the contact center in time to be part of the forecast.

The forecast is only as good as the history that predicts it and the knowledge of these variables that can impact its accuracy.

Scheduling can also be frustrating because though you can produce schedules that are ideal and adequately meet requirements on paper, these schedules may not be able to be worked by agents in reality due to various family concerns, school commitments, and training and skill requirements.

The truth is, once schedules are produced, agents sometimes don’t show up. As we all know, in the contact center, even the best-laid plans are frequently interrupted.

To be successful, there are three things workforce managers must have:

#1: Communication and support from above

Workforce managers need support from higher management and must play an integral role in all planning and strategy for every aspect of the business from sales and marketing to HR.

The greatest marketing plan and greatest product in the world can get customers to call into the contact center, but if you don’t have the right people in the right place at the right time, that marketing campaign will ultimately be unsuccessful.

It has to be a closed-loop process. When it fails – when workforce management is not an integral part of the team and gets secondhand or late information – marketing campaigns are not as successful as they could be.

#2: Modern tools to get the job done

Workforce management teams also need modern tools that are capable of modeling forecasting and scheduling and that can support complex, multi-skilled, multi-queue environments. These tools must also be able to monitor on a half-hour intraday basis to ensure the forecast is still accurate based on actual call volume and AHT and that the agents who are scheduled to work those times are in fact available and working.

If an agent is scheduled to break at 10:15, but instead breaks at 10:45, this can have a huge impact on the schedule. The critical measurement is not compliance to the schedule, but adherence. It isn’t as important that an agent worked the same number of hours as they were scheduled, but that they worked the right hours.

For example, if an agent’s schedule is 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, but they instead work 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, though it is still an eight-hour workday, this agent is not adhering to the schedule that was assigned.

#3: Resources and knowledgeable staff

A successful workforce management team has the resources needed for short-term and long-term forecasting on a daily, weekly and even quarterly basis.

You also need very good forecasters and people who understand the scheduling system and how to produce schedules agents are actually able to work by incorporating things like block schedules and split schedules, and monitoring on an intraday basis what has been forecasted and scheduled.

When it comes to workforce management, one person simply can’t do it all (though sometimes they are asked to). The result may be a good schedule, but a lousy forecast, or the other way around.