Call centres regularly turn to multi-skill and multi-channel routing strategies in their quests to improve agent efficiency and utilisation.
“Essentially these strategies create larger pools of contacts and agents, which leads to the greater likelihood of an agent completing a contact just as another comes in,” says Pommie Lutchmann, CEO at specialist contact centre solutions and services provider, Ocular Technologies.
“This is a desirable position as it creates economies of scale and leads to increases in occupancy, which is the amount of time individual agents are working. The greater productivity lowers the overall number of agents required.”
Lutchmann adds that cross-training the entire complement of agents is often unrealistic. However, the multi-skill configuration enables contact centres to experience the benefits of cross-training some agents without having to train everyone.
There are differences between an ACD dialler/ media server and workforce planning tools. The goal of the ACD is to route contacts to agents on the day, while workforce management tools are there not only to understand current routing, but also how contacts might be routed to agents in the future and to model both current and future environments.
How to model the optimal multi-skill staff plan remains an area of debate. However, Lutchman says the ideal workforce management tool must allow companies to carry out long term planning, implement the plan and make rapid daily staffing adjustments. To achieve this goal, the workforce management tool must be able to pinpoint current daily staffing needs but also identify the numbers and types of agents required to meet the organisation’s future goals.
“Significant agent turnover is common and aligned to improving agent proficiency in existing work types and developing additional skills,” says Lutchmann. “The key is not to model individual agents, but rather types of agents and contacts. In time, levels of experience and aptitude in a particular type of agent will remain consistent even as agents are added or removed from the group. Modelling the type of agents rather than the individuals enables a workforce management tool to identify the types of agent required to meet future workloads.”
In modelling the workforce as it changes over time, it is vital to incorporate an abstraction between actual and types of agents as this is useful in making quick daily staffing decisions and enables planning ahead for the particular skills or combination of skills required to meet next month’s overall service level objectives across all types of contacts.
“The multi-skilled staffing problem can be solved by dividing types of contacts into forecast groups and types of agents into staff groups,” says Lutchmann. “The multi-skill routing logic relating forecast groups to staff groups should be captured within a third layer known as a routing set. With staff groups, analysts can track the contribution of agents with specific skills sets so that the economies of scale achievable through partial cross-training and utilisation of skills-based routing can be accurately calculated.
“Less analytical approaches merely simulate the routing of contacts to individual agents without applying group abstraction,” says Lutchmann. “The service level anticipated for the contacts is sufficient, but the staffing information falls way short of helping analysts determine what needs to be done in terms of planning. Modelling based on individual agents can only tell the analyst that there is an anticipated service level problem with customer services. It cannot think outside the box, which is what is required for an optimal solution.”