The Secret to Right-Sizing your Contact Center Staffing: Part 1

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?

In this series of blogs, our Workforce Management (WFM) expert, Xander Goldberg, shares how workforce management and optimization can improve patient experience while keeping costs of your Healthcare Contact Center in line.

Part 1

A Contact Center without proper WFM guidance is like driving across the country without so much as a road atlas.”

What is a common mistake you see with the approach to WFM?

One mistake that I encounter often when I’m brought into a new engagement involves approaching staffing with a too simple approach. It usually starts with measuring how many calls an average agent answers each day or week, and then dividing that number by the total number of calls within a similar time frame. This translates to something like if an agent can answer 200 calls a week, and the center receives 20,000 calls during a typical week, then 100 agents are what’s required to get the job done.

So what is wrong with the simple ‘Napkin Math’?

Let’s go back to our 20k-calls-per-week center, where the agents’ average capacity is about 200 calls/week each. With a little examination, we can see why this method of calculating falls apart.

Starting with the obvious, the ‘Napkin Math’ assumption assumes that agents will enjoy the luxury of their 200 calls being neatly and evenly spaced apart. In this version of reality, patients call in the exact same volume at 9am on Monday as they do at 3pm on Friday. Because if patients didn’t call in perfectly spaced intervals, we’re going to end up with missed calls when the arrival pattern is higher than our neatly averaged interval expectations.

In reality, calls have a tendency to “bunch up”. The interval at 9am on Monday in all likelihood is going to be 3x to 10x busier than the 3pm interval on Friday. In fact, Mondays typically receive a disproportionate amount of call volume vs. every other day of the week, with anywhere from 25% – 35% of call weekly volume arriving in that one day. So if a Contact Center simply staffs the same number of people on Monday as they do on Friday, we’re going to see a great many calls abandoned on Monday while agents idle on Friday. And all the while, patients will be frustrated with the inconsistent accessibility of the Contact Center.

Speaking of days of the week, the next problem is that many Centers are open 6 or even 7 days a week. And chances are, agents working weekends will receive a fraction of the volume that agents working weekdays receive. Don’t forget that agents working early shifts and daylight will themselves be exposed to disproportionately greater volume than agents working mid, late, or overnight shifts.

How can organizations start their own WFM team?

Proper WFM construction is often overlooked in situations where leaders don’t know what they don’t know. The good news is that WFM has been around long enough that the field is enjoying a renaissance in the form of new technologies, a growing population of trained and informed professionals, and the flexibility to call upon talent from anywhere around the globe.

Some organizations choose to embark upon the journey of adding WFM themselves, building a team from scratch, these organizations miss out on the power and speed that a seasoned veteran can bring to the table. It’s one thing to know, “hey, we’re missing too many calls” – it’s quite another to know that the reason calls are being missed is because of a cascading effect of mistimed lunches starting at 11:30am each day is resulting in a backlog of work being created throughout the afternoon that results in pile-up of calls around 4pm when the bulk of schedulers sign off for the day.

It takes time to get a proper WFM group off the ground.  Based on the partnering with clients to develop bespoke WFM solutions over many years, you could expect to build a path to success in a matter of weeks. How long it takes to execute that plan will depend on a wide range of factors.

To anyone on the fence, I pose a simple question: The next time you take a drive to somewhere unfamiliar, are you going to wing it or bring your GPS? Because every Contact Center without proper WFM guidance might as well be like driving across the country without so much as a road atlas. You may get there eventually, but we can help plan and execute the best route for you.