What is Contact Center Workforce Management?

Intraday Management

Intraday Management - What is Contact Center Workforce Management?

What is intraday management?

Contact center intraday management, often called ‘real-time management’, is the process of monitoring how actual performance compares on the day with planned performance, then taking swift corrective action.

Why does intraday management matter?

Even if you’ve invested enormous effort in building accurate forecasts and efficient schedules, one thing is for sure: It won’t go 100% according to plan when the day arrives. “No plan survives contact with the enemy” is a military axiom that could have been coined for contact center planning.

How does intraday management work?

Intraday managers are responsible for monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) on the day. They then take appropriate action when one or more KPIs deviate from the target by more than a threshold value. They are also typically responsible for managing ‘shrinkage events’ such as time off and meetings in order to minimize the impact of these events on KPI achievement.

The following KPIs are typically monitored:

  1. Forecast accuracy (i.e. by what amount actual volume and AHT deviate from the forecast)
  2. Customer experience metrics (e.g. service level, average speed of answer, abandonment rate or response time)
  3. Waiting time metrics (e.g. the number of calls in queue and measures of whether this is increasing or decreasing over time)
  4. Coverage (i.e. by what amount the operation is under or over staffed compared to plan. Understaffing is typically the result of agent absence due to sickness or other shrinkage events)
  5. Agent schedule adherence (i.e. the extent to which agents are complying with their schedules)

If KPIs are above target and more agents are present than are required to handle the workload, possible intraday corrective actions include:

  • Offer to temporarily allocate under-utilized agents to other departments of the company and reschedule them as necessary
  • Schedule training and development. On-demand e-learning is perfect for this
  • Offer time off on short notice

If KPIs are below target and the service goals are not being met, possible intraday corrective actions include:

  • Request backup staff from other departments of the company.
  • Temporarily suspend cross-selling or up-selling to reduce AHT
  • Reschedule training and other controllable shrinkage
  • Ask team leaders and managers to log in as agents
  • Extend existing shifts by offering overtime. Overtime has a bad reputation but is not necessarily a bad thing

Agent schedule adherence

Managing agent schedule adherence is a vital component of intraday management. If agents show up late, spend too long on breaks, perform the wrong activities at the wrong times, or go home early, all the other KPIs will suffer.

Adherence is just as important during periods of over-performance as it is during periods of under-performance. Agents who at first glance appear to be over-delivering can damage performance, too. Consider an agent who delayed their break to finish an important call. They went on break 15 minutes late and returned 15 minutes late. During that 15 minute period, as forecast, volume was high and because one agent was missing, the service level goal was missed. This effect is called the power of one. Of course, it’s a bad idea for agents to cut short customer contacts to take a break at exactly the correct time, but it is important that agents have a clear understanding of the consequences of their absence, even for a short period of time.

The good news is that, unlike the other challenges faced by the intraday management team, adherence can be controlled. It requires suitable tools, fed with data in real-time, but improving adherence is one of the most powerful tools in the intraday manager’s toolkit.

Proactive versus reactive intraday management

Intraday management should not be confused with firefighting. It should not be characterized by panic or chaos. Well-managed contact centers have a planning culture, not a reactive culture, and this applies to intraday management as much as it applies to the other parts of the WFM cycle.

An effective intraday manager has a well-defined plan covering:

  • The thresholds for KPIs, beyond which action is triggered
  • A pre-agreed escalation plan
  • The list of corrective actions that will be taken, in priority order
  • How changes will be communicated to agents and managers
  • Action that will be taken afterward, e.g. finding the root cause of the incident and implementing changes to prevent it from happening again

What impact does intraday management have?

In the real world, plan and reality rarely coincide. That doesn’t mean that you have to panic every time an unexpected spike of calls arrives or every time multiple agents call in sick. Intraday management enables the contact center to react swiftly and effectively in the face of challenges like these so that KPI goals are reached even when the unexpected happens. Without intraday management, all the effort spent on forecasting, staffing calculation, and scheduling may be wasted.