Kick Start Your Career with Enterprise Workforce Management
By Craig Seebach, Vice President of Back-Office Workforce Optimization at Verint Systems
Workforce management (WFM) solutions have been used in the contact center for more than 20 years and have become a critical component to ensuring you can help deliver fast, effective service at the lowest possible cost. But as more digital channels are added to the mix, your job as the workforce manager is becoming increasingly difficult with juggling different systems, Service Level Agreements (SLAs), and skill sets. Now, compound this with the growing trend to blend contact centers with back-office operations. This further complicates the process of forecasting, scheduling, and balancing workloads tenfold. Why do this? Because it can create tremendous value for your organization and increase your exposure as a valued contributor.
Benefits to the Company
Expanding WFM beyond the contact center provides an enterprise-wide view into the work, people, and processes across an organization. This can reveal productivity and profitability improvement opportunities, and help:
- Increase Operational Visibility – by providing insight for all parts of the organization, to understand who’s doing what, when, and for how long
- Improve Employee Productivity – by translating desktop and processing system data into actionable metrics that show employees and managers where they can be more productive
- Maximize Staff Capacity – by pooling resources across departments and aligning incoming work, backlog, and activity types with employee skills and schedules
- Boost Service-Level Achievement – by providing end-to-end process visibility and optimization
For example, a leading lender of higher education financing employs 1,300 permanent customer service operations workforce with several hundred additional staff supporting seasonal spikes in loan volume. The lender’s workforce spans five contact centers and back-office operations functions that include loan origination, the disbursement of loan products, loan servicing, and risk and collections services. The organization had leveraged quality and workforce management programs and tools in its contact centers for a number of years. Over time, however, it began to experience increasing limitations resulting from business growth, mergers and acquisitions activity, and an influx of disparate systems.
By extending workforce management into its back-office operations, the lender replaced time-consuming, manual scheduling with an automated process that generates optimal schedules. With the intraday workload dashboard, back-office personnel gained real-time visibility into actual volumes, inventory backlog, resource availability, and service level targets to more proactively improve quality, productivity, and process consistency. The company also benefits from the ability to track error rates, refine business processes and training, and take a pointed approach to aligning resources with work arrivals—both in managing inventories and in performing real-time processing.
By more effectively monitoring and dynamically managing workload, the lender has reduced shrinkage by 10 percent, translating to nearly one million dollars in annual savings. An additional annual savings of more than $750,000 also has been realized through the elimination of the lender’s manual logging of work volumes.
Benefits to the Workforce Manager
The back-office can have two to five times as many employees as the contact center. Extending WFM from the contact center to the back-office and enterprise can help your personal career in a number of ways:
- Help create your personal brand as an innovator and “take charge” individual
- Expand your job scope and understanding of inter-related processes, allowing an opportunity for growth as you oversee WFM for more and more functional areas
- Increase your personal visibility and exposure across the organization by utilizing enterprise WFM to help:
- Impact the customer experience by planning for and managing it holistically across all touch points
- Pool resources across functions to maximize capacity and productivity, generating greater cost savings, and demonstrating a quantifiable impact on your company’s bottom line
One contact center WFM manager could not have imagined what extending WFM into the back-end processing shop would have on his career. He admits that in no way did he see being a WFM manager as his go-forward career. But today he has been able to create a niche for himself in his organization, with a talented team supporting him that he would not give up. As his exposure within the company and the results he’s achieved have brought him recognition, they’ve also opened the door to new positions and opportunities.
When reflecting on his current role, the WFM manager said, “Managing the planning, forecasting, and scheduling of the workforce from front- to back-office presents me with new challenges every day. The role keeps me motivated as I try to break new ground and unify the end users, managers, and executives across the organization – creating one end-to-end view and process for order fulfillment.”
Breaking ground and creating a unique value proposition within his company has had other unforeseen benefits. He is now a sought after industry speaker, recently presenting his company’s program and success at an international contact center conference and other venues.
Expanding a solution that has proven effective in the contact center and implementing it across back-office operations can be a challenge—albeit with rewards! Take in these considerations to help ensure a smooth and successful transition.
- Cultures. Individuals outside of the contact center are not used to being managed down to the minute. They have more autonomy, often performing “knowledge work” and will likely view WFM as a micro-management tool. You’ll need to craft a communication plan that addresses each of the organizational levels, explaining the why behind the solution and the benefits to them.
- Individual end user: WFM provides a “self-service” capability, enabling employees to more easily manage their hours, submit for PTO, switch shifts, etc.
- Manager: With WFM, managers can understand their true operational capacity – helping them increase throughput without increasing headcount
- Executives: By increasing utilization and helping reduce costs, WFM can help executives achieve their operational efficiency goals
- Customers: By aligning resources with work volumes, organizations can turn around product and service requests faster, helping you meet your customer service delivery goals
- Vernacular. Do your homework and understand the “language” and processes of your back office. For instance, in the back office, you typically have employees or representatives – not agents. Key performance metrics are typically time-to-resolution and production quotas, not average handle time or first call resolution. The doors to expansion will close quickly if you don’t show you understand their business, which starts with using the right vocabulary.
- Systems. Back-offices typically have multiple, disparate legacy systems and lack real-time data. You’ll need to create a holistic capacity model that captures volumes and activities from each system, as well as non-system related activities such as research, training, special projects, etc. Essential will be the ability to track work items, regardless of processing system, against SLAs and have the real-time, actionable intelligence to make proactive changes to help ensure deadlines are met.
- Timing. It will take longer than you think. In the back-office, WFM is not simply a plug-and-play software installation. A model needs to be built that incorporates all work activities and types, their processing times, the various SLAs, and the skills and proficiencies of the employees. Managers need to learn how to adapt their management processes to include the insights provided by the tool. This takes time and ongoing feedback and adjustments to the WFM model. Take a phased approach, starting small, proving the solution works, and then expanding to larger work groups.
Be a Company Hero
By extending workforce management solutions and disciplines beyond the contact center into the back-office and other operational areas, companies can improve efficiencies and productivity by upwards of 10 to 20 percent. As the champion of this cause, you can position yourself as the hero – the driver of innovation and change. You may not leap buildings in a single bound, but you’ll be building the foundation for a more streamlined, agile organization that is better positioned to serve its customers faster and at a lower cost, creating a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace for your company.
Craig Seebach is vice president of back-office workforce optimization at Verint Systems. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 409-454-9635. For more information about enterprise workforce management, please visit us at http://www.verint.com/digital-disruption/solutions/enterprise-workforce-management.html.