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Study Finds Over Half of Contact Centers Schedule Non-phone Channels Manually

February 11, 2014

Contact centers have been employing at least some sort of methodology to predict and meet call volume since the earliest days of the call center in the 1950s. While it was probability algorithms worked out on graph paper in the earliest days, today, modern workforce management, scheduling and forecasting software is used to examine historical trends and other data to make predictions about future call volume.

But it’s important to remember that, today, the call center is about much more than calls. Agents often handle email, Web chat and even social media posts. So how do you forecast these non-call contact center activities? It’s something that nearly all contact center managers are being tasked with today, whether they are ready or not.

A recent survey conducted by the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (News - Alert) (SWPP) set out to measure how companies are handling planning for other channels. The survey garnered responses from more than 200 workforce management professionals, most of which reported they worked in the financial and insurance industries. Even in these industries, where contact center budgets tend to be higher, the news was dismal for scheduling and forecasting non-phone channels. More than half (53 percent) said that non- phone channels are scheduled manually. Less than one-third of respondents (32 percent) said that forecasting for non-phone work is done with an automated workforce management system.

This shouldn’t be acceptable, according to Vicki Herrell, executive director of the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals, since companies are missing out on opportunities.

“Extending your workforce management tools throughout the organization represents an opportunity to save money and time, allowing you to provide the best customer experience possible,” said Herrell in a recent blog post about the survey. “Since your customers are using non-phone channels, so must your organization! When you keep in mind your customer’s expectation of a seamless experience, it’s clear that multi-channel customer communications is a major challenge to companies today,” she concluded.

Herrell recommends that companies look for workforce management solutions that can handle multichannel operations, scheduling inbound and outbound phone work along with email, Web chat, social media and other channels, as well as back-office work. And before you begin using a WFM solution for these channels, managers will need some training so they can understand how to set and measure service goals for these channels.

As customers rely increasingly on other channels to contact companies (or use these channels in addition to voice, which is increasingly the case) leaving the forecasting and management of these non-phone media to chance is truly an exercise in futility. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee
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