110 3.7 Creating value through workforce optimization
are clearly understood and communicated to management, this approach
can be very useful when combined with other approaches.
Customer survey
A fourth method for choosing service level is to conduct a customer survey.
This involves analyzing caller tolerance.
It is always a good idea to know what callers expect, but random call
arrival means that different callers have different experiences with a call
center. Even for a modest service level such as 80 percent answered in 60
seconds, over half the callers will get an immediate answer. Some may still
be in the queue for three to five minutes (assuming no overflow or other
contingency). This significant range of response times means that many
callers in a set would claim that the service level was great, while others
would describe it as totally unsatisfactory!
There are variations in customer survey methodology. Some managers
take samples of individual callers and then compare the responses to the
actual wait times for their calls. Others conduct general customer surveys.
These samples indicate that waits of up to 60 to 90 seconds are acceptable
to a fair percentage of the callers surveyed.
3.7 Creating value through workforce optimization
Call center managers need to understand that successful management
means understanding the complex trade-offs inherent in the sophisticated
call center operating environment, where the proper allocation, dispersal,
and treatment of the human resource are fundamental requirements.
Quantifying and increasing the value of workforce optimization solutions is
important and needs to be addressed. Typically, analysis focuses on soft-
ware and infrastructure investments that will yield greater efficiencies
resulting from automation. Some call center product vendors, however,
take a different approach that assesses the return on investment in the
human resource, the employees in the call center.
Assessing value creation
Personnel costs usually account for 70 to 80% of overall operational
expenses in contact centers. Leveraging these personnel resources efficiently
through workforce optimization solutions can potentially provide signifi-
cant returns. However, most models for assessing value creation only con-
sider the benefits derived from streamlining the processes of forecasting and
3.7 Creating value through workforce optimization 111
Chapter 3
scheduling call center staff to meet service goals. These models may result
in significant gains through the automation of various functions, but they
fail to address the real complexity of workforce optimization and are far too
simple to portray accurately the real meaning of workforce optimization.
The major factors involved in managing and maximizing CSR produc-
tivity and the quality of customer interactions while maximizing the num-
ber of contacts handled per agent hinge on the ability to match the volume
and type of customer contacts precisely. These factors include availability of
agents by skill type and contact media type (e.g., e-mail, phone, or fax).
Done effectively, the returns for each call can be maximized and result in a
maximization of returns for the entire call center. (see Figure 3.7)
Staffing and customer service
To paraphrase a well-known authority on workforce optimization, Dr.
Richard Coleman, founder of Coleman Consulting Group, it takes an
organization as sophisticated as a contact (call) center to show how develop-
ing strategic staffing plans relies on understanding the complex trade-offs
inherent in each staffing scenario. The effects of seemingly insignificant
staffing changes are far-reaching. Staffing plans dictate the kind of service
Figure 3.7
Ascending levels of
CSR skills
mixed voice &
Entry-level agents: voice only
Experienced agents: voice only
Communication surfers:
multimedia shifts

Get Call Center Operation now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.