If you’ve been a reader of Blue Ocean’s blog for any length of time, you probably know we love sports and particularly baseball. The common thread between what workforce management experts and what the manager of a pro sports team might do when the game is on the line is pretty obvious once you think about: we both depend on both statistics and relentless practice to make informed decisions and react to changing dynamics.
When Billy Beane used a highly specialized system of metrics to help his scrappy low-budget Oakland A’s teams compete with juggernauts in the league, the lessons weren’t lost on us. Companies of all sizes can benefit from workforce planning that puts exactly the right resources in place at the right time, doing the right things to deliver on an excellent customer experience.
In the past two years, the dynamics affecting our business have changed and changed again and changed yet again – each new wave bringing unexpected complexities. Let’s look at what sports can teach us about consistency in achieving contact center service levels—and how to adapt to even the most unexpected outcomes
If you’re a football fan, you might remember Malcolm Butler’s incredible interception in the final seconds of Super Bowl 49. Butler read a shotgun play from Seattle’s QB Russell Wilson and reacted with lightning reflexes, robbing the Seahawks of what looked like certain victory.
In the post -game press conference, the rookie Butler made it clear he didn’t just get lucky. He said that the Patriots ran that exact play so many times in the week leading up to the big game, Butler knew (even though to many football fans the Seattle coach calling that particular play was almost inconceivable at that moment in the game) exactly what he was looking at and exactly what he needed to do even before the ball left Wilson’s hands. In other words, experience is the best teacher. That’s what we’re talking about here – the role of repetitions and preparing for the possibilities in contact center management.
Whether you’re an athlete, a team manager, or a contact center workforce management expert, preparing for things to not go perfectly is a good strategy. When we talk about “running the numbers” in the context of customer care, it’s a little bit like going to practice every day.
In baseball, outfielders are constantly running scenarios in their head, trying to predict what-ifs constantly. It’s impossible to know exactly where the ball will bounce in real-time, but by practicing every day, you start to instinctually know how to position yourself. Suddenly, the bounce of the ball becomes less of a guessing game and more of an intuitive interaction.
It’s the same concept for workforce managers who consider and strategize for alternate scenarios, understanding what impacts extraordinary absenteeism for example might have and running theoretical plays to defend against those possibilities.
A good workforce plan takes the variables into account in multiple different ways and looks at the various outcome. Preparation for what-if matters if you want to elevate your game in the CX field. Reliable workforce management requires covering the bases in practice so you can do it in the real world without thinking.
If your WFM team has run multiple scenarios for potential issues that could impact your ability to meet service level in, say, a pandemic for instance – they are going to be able to run established plays they have in the playbook, rather than start from scratch while the clock is ticking. Great workforce managers and real-time analysts have seen things unfold in theory so that when they see them unfolding in real life, they can instinctively make the right call to leverage available resources quickly. Just like that catcher triggering the successful double play because they’ve seen that bounce in practice, your real-time analyst who has done their reps over and over, can jump quickly and redeploy resources effectively to ensure monthly grade of service gets met even when things get weird.
As a client, your input is critical. Your job here is to collaborate with your operational partners, including workforce. You want to give your partners as much detail as possible about the inputs that could affect your business across the board, not just the expected volumes. Let your partners in on what the next quarter or next two quarters might bring in terms of supply chain problems, fulfillment issues, a pivot in your marketing approach – all of those things are critically important for your contact center partners. The more information you can provide to allow them to run mathematical role-playing, running any and all scenarios, the faster they can react to changing dynamics that impact contact center performance.
In the end, the ball won’t bounce the way you think every time. But in contact center management, as in sports, it’s about being prepared and having plays in your pocket so that the season ends up successful even in an inning or two goes sideways.