Put your hand up if you grew up wanting to be a call center agent. No? Nobody? We get it… Our industry has gotten a bad rap from some true horror stories and the stigma sticks to all of us in some way or another. We’ve seen and cringed at the stereotypical windowless dungeons filled with acres of dull cubicles and agent-zombies just trying to get through the day. That’s why we’re so dead-set on defying that stereotype and creating an excellent call center employee experience. But as we’ve discussed before, this can inadvertently spark discord between the workforce management team and HR. Understanding these differences on both sides of the equation is key to success. This time around, we look at what HR wishes WFM knew.
It’s human nature to gravitate towards routine. We generally like to know what our schedules will look like from one week to the next, especially our work schedule, so we can coordinate our lives, weekends, family obligations, and hobbies around our workplace hours. That’s why standard shifts are an advantageous tool in hiring; it makes it easier to attract and recruit great candidates when you can guarantee some semblance of work-life balance.
It’s understandable that standard shifts make the workforce team want to bang their heads on their desks. They need to meet forecasted call volumes in the most efficient manner possible. Contact arrival patterns are driven by many factors including all kinds of unpredictable triggers like weather or supply chain problems. On top of that, contact arrival volumes vary by time of day, day of the week, and by season. And there’s nothing “standard” about any of it so WFM wants to schedule for maximum efficiency around those complex arrival patterns, which means staggered shifts, split shifts and part-time shifts are advantageous. This, of course, is harder to recruit and staff for, so it’s clear there may need to be some compromise on both sides.
Workforce Management needs to live up to contracted levels of service, meeting efficiency and productivity goals and carefully analyzing their team’s ability to meet critical KPIs while contributing to the contact center’s business goals as well. That’s a big task and nowhere in their mandate is the requirement to make it a good experience for the agent. “Quality” is not part of the WFM picture. But big picture success for both client and contact center relies on employee engagement and retention of successful, striving agents who are committed to their client brand. This means HR is truly a business partner, measured on call center employee experience outcomes like retention, referrals, and engagement.
So this is where WFM and HR need to strike a balance. How you treat people has a lot to do with the quality of their work and their commitment to come to work. HR wants to ensure that agents feel heard, that they have a say in their schedules, that they are happy in their work environments. HR is focused on developing strategies that result in agents feeling empowered to make a difference every time they get on the phone, compose an email, engage in a chat session, or respond in social media on behalf of a client. On the flip side, as a workforce team member who shall remain nameless once said, “Service Level doesn’t care who answers the phone…” The cliché of all business clichés is so true: what gets measured gets done. Can HR and WFM appreciate each other’s measurements and find some common ground?
Process is important. It’s what helps things keep moving and what drives consistency in the customer experience. But there is a sweet spot between the micro-management that inevitably becomes a part of process and the self-management that occurs when you empower your agents. HR believes in empowerment.
Process will successfully deliver 80% of customer experience. But the other 20% comes when the agent is able to make autonomous decisions about the best way to steward a client’s resources. Ultimately, doing right by the agents is the best path to taking care of the client.
As we’ve mentioned before: When HR and WFM have a collaborative relationship, productivity should come naturally. HR believes productivity is a natural outcome of engagement, of hiring the right people, and of treating them decently. When people know they mean something, they want to be work-ready. And being work-ready is the priority of WFM.
If an agent is under-productive, maybe their employment experience is contributing to disengagement; or it could be they aren’t a good match for the position in the first place. That’s why HR is so focused on determining the best contact center agent profile to recruit for, and then creating a positive call center employee experience. These things work towards the same goal that WFM has when they focus on forecasting, scheduling, and real time analysis: having the right people, in the right place, doing the right things, at the right time. Finding common ground in this shared goal is vital to call center success.
While employee engagement may not be the first concern to the Workforce Management team, with good communication and collaboration, understanding why HR considers it a critical factor in achieving overall success becomes clear. At Blue Ocean, we’re focused on balancing the priorities of HR that produce quality and commitment while supporting the efficiency and productivity goals of our WFM team in order to do what’s best for our clients. It’s how we deliver a differentiated experience for all parties involved; our clients, our client’s customers, and our own employees. If that sounds like what you’re looking for in an outsourced call center partner, reach out today.