Saturday, 2 February 2013

Why real-time management is all important

First World War German field marshal Helmuth von Moltke famously said “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. Likewise, “the best -laid workforce plan rarely survives contact with the staff or customers is has to serve”.
Moltke's main theory was that military strategy had to be understood as a system of options, and he considered the main task for any military leader to consist of extensive preparation of all possible outcomes.
Putting this in the context of the contact centre - Forecasting, capacity planning, and scheduling are all components geared towards delivering as many of these potential options as possible. However, in order to deliver world class workforce planning a contact centre must have at its disposal a way to tactically manage the activation of effective remedial actions and tactical plan refinement. Together with being the eyes and ears of the planning cycle, through the provision of detailed analysis of delivery against plan, this is the main purpose of having a real-time management team (RTM Team).
Let’s look at in a little more detail what the key deliveries should be for the typical RTM Team:
  • Develop strategic framework’s and contingency plans to meet all potential Real-Time and “on the day” Service issues and respond to escalated identified service drop-outs by applying immediate remedial pre-mapped contingency plans.
  • Manage any intra-day shift changes (including intra-shift activity such as Training, Coaching, Meetings, 1-2-1s and breaks) that have positive business impacts. The key here is tactical change must have a positive or at the very least neutral business impact on either financial, customer value, process or people elements – in other reason the change must be for business reasons.
  • Tactical use of overtime facilitation (if available), and time banking (both adding and subtracting hours into the schedule) if annualised hour contracts are available.
  • Manage holiday quota’s to fit business requirements. Where possible holiday management is best automatically handled by a WFM system. However there will still be times where the tactical flexing of holiday quotas can have positive business impact. Additionally, from a people perspective there will be times when authorising an escalated holiday request (say for family reason) is the right thing to do despite a short-term hit on service.
  • Enforce and report on schedule/plan adherence. You can spend countless hours perfecting a forecast, creating a schedule that matches forecasted workload requirements, or capacity planning to ensure you have the correct staff forecasted to be required. However, if you can’t count on agents being where they’re planned to be much of this is a waste of time.
Real-time management teams are your field officers, they exist to either ensure the plan is delivered smoothly or react when reality deviates from the plan, which is the case more often than not. In addition and often forgotten, is that the real-time management team can also act as the planning cycle’s eyes and ears. Looking at numerical variance can only give you a one dimensional view. Whilst the RTM team can often fill in the gaps and most importantly aid understanding as to the “WHY” of the variance.
A RTM’s most common challenge
RTM teams can suffer from all the normal challenges faced by all workforce planning functions be it forecasting, scheduling, or capacity planning such as; no shared view of the future, trust issues, lack of consistency and poor communication.
However sadly, often the most common challenge is one that reflects poor upfront engagement and planning from the scheduling and capacity planning teams. This results in the RTM team managing conflicts such as how to strike a balance around employee engagement and coaching whilst also trying to deliver targets for service level and abandon rates.