The Secret to Right-sizing your Contact Center Staffing – Part III

“It’s one thing to know that the busiest interval by call volume is 10:30am on Monday, it’s another to know that the worst performing interval is going to be 5:00pm on Friday because the forecast predicts needing 30 agents and you have only 5 scheduled.”

Patient calls to Contact Centers aren’t neatly and evenly spaced apart, so how do you make intelligent, reasoned decisions about staffing, capacity, and efficiency, and deliver an excellent patient experience?

We continued our conversation with Xander Goldberg, our Workforce Management (WFM) expert, on how workforce management and optimization can improve patient experience while keeping costs of your Healthcare Contact Center in line.


Last time we spoke, you talked about proper WFM construction, and how the team could “pay for itself” over time. What specifically can a proper WFM team do to justify the investment?

WFM thoroughly examines and forecasts everything we’ve talked about in this series, from the hours of operation of the Contact Center, the arrival pattern of patient contact requests, the channels those requests come in, the average handle time for those requests, and what the realistic availability of an agent is from moment to moment. There are metrics for all of these variables that a seasoned WFM professional can identify, measure, and trend.

A supported and well-equipped WFM team can provide an organization with numerous tools and insights:

  • Recommendations for service level, or how many calls can be answered within how many seconds each day. This will dictate what the “average patient experience” looks like when encountering a health system’s Contact Center.
  • Predictions to how busy staff will be each day, and how much capacity exists to grow call volume with existing staff, whether additional resources would be required, when to time non-patient facing work each day, etc.
  • A staff plan that shows the ebb and flow of headcount, often measured over a year or longer period.
  • Efficiency analysis of all staff, with quartile observations so rock stars are as easy to identify as those who may be struggling to keep up.
  • Executive summaries of the state of the overall state of the business from a staffing and patient handling perspective.

What are the pitfalls?

Completing the shift from “just winging it” to measured, thoughtful WFM is bigger than the creation of a department; to be successful, there is often an accompanying cultural shift that needs to take place at multiple strata within the organization.

What culture-shift is necessary?

Let’s look at a few levels together.

Starting with senior leadership, an explanation for how future staffing decisions will be justified can be a daunting task.  But a well-designed staff plan will show how an organization can take staffing from present day to where it needs to be – by including a capacity analysis, shrink & attrition trends, and the lifecycle from new hire to productive agent – to where and when it will get there. This alone is often eye opening:

  • If an organization has 100 agents today, and the forecast shows the business needs 150 in order to meet patient demands, it’s as straight-forward as hiring 50 more people. But anyone that’s ever looked over a proper staff plan will immediately know that is highly unlikely to be the case.
  • But whether that “right number” of new hires is 65, 80, or even more can only be shown with a modeling tool that shows all the variables that explain why hiring 50 people won’t result in 50 more heads on roster when the time comes.

When senior leadership becomes familiar with staff modeling and the underlying assumptions, they become significantly more equipped to explain justifications for increasing, decreasing, or maintaining current headcounts. They can articulate everything from issues with retention of productive agents to fallout during new-hire training, to the challenges associated with filling requested classes.

Meanwhile, supervisors and managers should find new tools and reports at their fingertips to enable running the business in increasingly smarter ways. Having line adherence models shows more than just where the ebb and flow of patient call volume will exist: it also compares those demands against predicted staffing at those times. It’s one thing to know that the busiest interval by call volume is 10:30am on Monday, it’s another to know that the worst performing interval is going to be 5:00pm on Friday because the forecast predicts needing 30 agents and you have only 5 scheduled.

Imagine if you needed to shift 25 more agents to working past 5pm on a Fridays going forward. How much easier is that conversation if you can prove to each of them that there is a true business need and patients waiting for their assistance?

But wait – how do you pick which agents are going to move? Ask for volunteers? Employ a random lottery? Believe it or not, a well-trained WFM team can probably help make this decision relatively straight forward, and in a manner that most of your staff will find fair and equitable.



What is Workforce Management and how can it help you optimize your Call Center staffing?


WFM concerns itself with the forecasting, scheduling, real-time management, and reporting necessary for any Contact Center to make intelligent, reasoned decisions about staffing, capacity, and efficiency. WFM is component of a broader field known as Workforce Optimization (WFO), which allows Centers to further their understanding by including QA, training, voice and speech analytics, agent behavior reporting, and dashboards to data accessible to the appropriate leaders in the appropriate framework.


To find out how WFM/WFO can help you, contact the RelateCare team.  We can help organizations of all sizes and budgets.  Let us help you build the best patient experience possible with the data to support all your tough staffing decisions.