This month, I tackle a use of the CRM-ready data warehouse that doesn't get as much attention as it deserves – workforce management. It is arguably an EPM play instead of CRM. However, whether it is call centers, e-mail support agents, claims analysts, complaint and inquiry handlers, telephone operators or reservation agents (regardless of medium), many workforces that are scheduled have customer interaction. These agents of customer interaction are on the front line of your CRM efforts. Much of the rest of CRM is about providing the right data to this workforce.

To effectively manage the workforce, one must derive anticipated or desired activity volume, anticipated skill needs, the needs of the workforce itself regarding breaks, work durations, etc., budget, anticipated customer needs – and the relative importance of all these factors.

In order to get this information, we turn to historical workforce scheduling and its perceived success along the lines of wait times and throughput, workforce satisfaction and customer satisfaction of these previously executed comparable schedules. Upcoming business, product and customer activity that differs from the comparable schedules must be considered in the analysis. Seasonal and monthly variations, by channel, also need to be reflected in the planning. This historical workforce management data comes from the workforce management system.

Workforce management has a circular relationship with the contact center (see Figure 1) whereby, for those workforces scheduled into a contact center, once programmed, the workforce management system will manage the agent scheduling and adherence to the plan while the contact center management system will manage the customer-facing contact-routing activity. Both provide input to future workforce scheduling.

Figure 1: Workforce Management

Workforce management systems are often robust in their ability to suggest workforces. However, without the mix of the historical workforce data with contact center analytical data (as in the CRM-ready data warehouse), workforce management – and consequently workforce costs and customer satisfaction – will be suboptimal. Workforce optimization involves sourcing workforce data to and analyzing data in the data warehouse.

In these optimized approaches to workforce management, the customer receives prime consideration. In the data warehouse, we find customer information such as customer lifetime value. We find customer demographics, econometrics, geographics, purchasing patterns, etc., which indicate customer potential. Workforce management needs to consider and promote the advancement of these metrics in its scheduling. Focusing only on the cost of a workforce inhibits the ability to consider these metrics.

For example, if high volume from high-value customers is anticipated, workforce staffing requirements should be greater in terms of volume and quality. Clearly, the skills of the individuals that make up the workforce are paramount in both workforce scheduling and call routing. These resources attain a higher level of importance in organizations focused on CRM.

The direct interaction between the workforce and the customer is a prime mover of CRM, far more so than impersonal Web or e-mail interaction mechanisms. These personal interactions allow for the capture of customer comfort based on voice tone and conversation content. They may provide up- and cross-sell opportunities in addition to conveying the assurance that the customer is speaking with an animate entity.

Despite the movement toward cheaper customer service systems such as e-mail and Web chat, no single contact channel will fully satisfy customer needs for a large organization. Therefore, negotiating the correct balance between service cost and customer satisfaction through service delivery is an item of utmost importance to a workforce manager.

Workforce management has materialized as a vital component of effective CRM strategies. With multiple channels of customer contact necessary, the task of scheduling the workforce is more complex and must take into account agent skills and customer metrics. Use the CRM-ready data warehouse in your workforce scheduling to meet the demands of CRM.

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