The Gloves Are Off - Spreadsheets 'V' Workforce Management (WFM)

14th Jan, 2015
Read time: 2 minutes

Errors are implicit within spreadsheets. Numerous academic studies have highlighted the high number of errors contained in operational spreadsheets. Research at Dartmouth College found the weighted average of spreadsheets containing errors from seven surveys at 94%.

Many contact centres, especially those with relatively fixed agent shift patterns, attempt to manually forecast and schedule using spreadsheets. While the use of spreadsheets will provide structure and support smaller centres, there are numerous factors that mean a dedicated workforce management WFM solution will provide a better return on investment.

Contact centre managers know that they need to:

  • Forecast demand, typically developing a long range forecast (LRF)
  • Schedule to match the forecast by matching agent skills and availability
  • Tweak the schedule in real-time to match the immediate daily needs, often known as intraday management
  • Tell agents about the changes, and handle agent shift and leave requests
  • Monitor behaviour to ensure schedule adherence
  • Report on the activity to management

Integrating with near real-time data every fifteen minutes using a WFM solution provides accurate and useful information. Without this integration with the automatic contact distributor (ACD), schedules become worthless, as agent performance and demand are almost impossible to measure manually. In the adjacent table we discuss some of these tasks and the implications of using a spreadsheet rather than a WFM solution.

The challenges with spreasheets:

Errors are implicit: Studies clearly highlight the weighted average of spreadsheets containing errors from seven surveys at 94%

Bespoke Excel design: With managers checking and updating the spreadsheet daily, human error can often not be realised for months, meaning that reports can record the wrong information and contact centres can become over- or under-staffed as a result

Inability to react at short notice: The manual and time-consuming nature of using spreadsheets, make it difficult to react at short notice to unexpected fluctuations in demand and to optimise new agent requirements and revised service levels

Managing crisis by 'gut' feel: In a crisis, manually reworking an intra-day update is not practical, and any changes made while supervisors are under pressure often impact on forecasting accuracy. As a result in a time of peak demand, supervisors know that what they really need to do is support agents, pragmatically they will then make 'gut-based' decisions to manage the day instead of using objective, data-based alternatives

Talent migration: When the person who has built or maintained the spreadsheet leaves, colleagues may find using their macros and understanding hidden calculations difficult. Excel training does not equate to understanding someone else's spreadsheet. Typically when an unresolvable spreadsheet issue occurs, the organisation either starts again from scratch or makes a rushed WFM purchase

When contact centres use a WFM solution to support them; it has been demonstrated to provide accuracy in calculations, a reduction in the loss of any talent migration while providing ease of handover between staff, protection for labour legislation, training and service continuity from the vendor, and, most importantly, the certainty of more objective support when it is needed most.

Find out more about how a workforce management solution could help your contact centre.

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