It was the French writer and diplomat Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821) who penned the phrase “Every country has the government it deserves”. And although it lacks the gravitas, controversy and innovativeness of that original phrase, I offer a statement in parallel for the contact centre industry:
“Every contact centre has the resource management it deserves”.
Contact centre resource management is more than a group of skilled professionals, more than a sophisticated software application, more than a series of inter-linked processes, and more than a collection of interdependent relationships. It is the sum of these components working in collaboration that delivers the ability to efficiently match customers to skilled resources to effectively pursue your organisation’s objectives.
It’s an all too common scenario where contact centre managers vent their frustration over the lack of value their resource management teams represent. Yet every contact centre has the resource management it deserves when equal emphasis is not given to each of its dimensions. While extreme, here are four examples I have encountered that illustrate this point:
1. Skilled professionals
A green-field site invested heavily in acquiring an industry leading workforce management system. In conjunction with system deployment, detailed process documentation was created to ensure effective integration of the system with business operations. Finally, a Resource Manager was appointed from an established business unit within the organisation. They possessed exceptional general management experience, although it was their first time working within a contact centre. Other resource management roles were also recruited from existing staff in support of internal development policies.
Two years later, resource management return of investment remained a hot topic of contention, as little of the benefit promised had eventuated. But there had been no investment, beyond systems training, in the development of resource management skills. The team knew how to use the systems, what processes to follow, and which people to speak with, but lacked the context or confidence to use this information to support effective resource management decisions.
Without specific resource management education, the team relied on trial-and-error experience on which to build their knowledge, and the contact centre was growing impatient with the speed at which this expertise was accumulating into a practical service.
2. Sophisticated Software
A contact centre hired a seasoned contact centre resource management professional. After an initial assessment of the centre’s resource management needs and capability, the new manager proceeded to hire a skilled resource management team. Relationships and processes were quickly established, and the benefits of effective resource management quickly become apparent on the site. While the effectiveness of the new team to contribute to long-term planning was applauded, their ability to support day-to-day operations with timely analysis, and effective communication was a constant point of friction.
A basic ACD MIS in conjunction with MS Excel and MS Outlook simply didn’t provide the speed to support effective or efficient real-time resource management. The team was missing the automated real time collation of data, and the closely knitted communication framework that a workforce management system would have provided.
3. Inter-linked Processes
Effective resource management is under-pinned by a four phase work cycle: Forecast, Schedule, Track, and Report. With communication sitting at the hub of these quadrants to ensure each phase effectively guides the next, and that all stakeholders benefit from the insights and support each phase offers.
A highly skilled resource management team, utilising a sophisticated resource management system, was continually berated for the inability of their contact centre to achieve service targets. Their customer contact forecasts were accurate, and their reporting comprehensive. But the responsibility to fill and manage schedules fell to the operational Team Leaders, whose main interest lay with accommodating their agent’s schedule preferences. This break in the resource management work cycle effectively negated all benefit resource management could offer the efficiency and effectiveness of the contact centre in pursuit of its service level targets.
4. Interdependent Relationships
A frustrated resource management team complained that all of their resources were being swallowed by real-time management duties. Experienced, and supported by an effective workforce management system, their days were consumed in the re-schedule of activities, and reconfigurations of their routing platform.
The result of their efforts was often achievement of targeted service levels, but the constant disruption of change was taking its toll on the agents and operational management.
Despite their best efforts, the resource management simply could not accurately forecast customer demand. Analysis revealed that the challenge lay in predicting the impact of marketing campaigns. Further investigation revealed that while the resource management team had repeatedly requested the marketing team to provide activity updates, no formal link existed between the resource management team and the marketing team. Resource management and marketing simply didn’t work together.
Successful contact centre resource management demands simultaneous development of skills, technologies, processes, and relationships. Failure to address any one of these components introduces a weak link to your resource management service that cannot be compensated by over investment across the remaining solution aspects.
The contact centre presents many challenges, and it can be easy to assign some of those challenges to the too-hard-basket, but if you are determined to get value from your resource management you’ll need to find a way forward for each of these. And if a way forward is hard to spot from where you currently stand, you can always seek a different perspective from someone who has also been where you are today, but found a way forward!
Jason Metcalfe, QPC Solutions Manager