Have you ever thought about who is accountable for service levels in your organisation? If the answer is “we all are”, then I can guarantee no-one is!

In reality, there’s a network of individuals in your contact centre and beyond, who have quite specific roles and responsibilities when it comes to consistently achieving service levels. If you haven’t done so, map that network and define where those accountabilities lie.

The larger your organisation, the bigger and more complex your network will be and it’s interesting to understand the number of people that can impact on even the most effective workforce planning.

So, we all know that networking is essential along with maintaining and leveraging positive relationships. How well do we do that in the world of workforce planning? I would certainly argue that we could do better and, let’s be honest, many of us are inclined to our relationships with Excel, rather than a coffee with the marketing department to see how we can work together more effectively.

What steps can your organisation take to optimise networking in workforce planning?

  • Be clear on who your stakeholders are – it’s a seriously worthwhile exercise. Defining accountability makes it clear who owns what part of the process and what they’re responsible for.
  • Share – don’t keep this to yourself! Make it clear what you see stakeholder roles to be. People may challenge these and that’s ok, but having the conversation means everyone can fairly debate.
  • Build networks – begin to develop relationships. This is where effective working really starts and where you will begin to see benefits. Tell your stakeholders what you do and how you work. Show them the importance and value of the capacity planning process. Don’t assume they know this, just because it’s obvious to you.
  • Involve them in the process – especially when capacity planning, make sure your stakeholders are partners in this process. Your training and recruitment team in particular need to be closely aligned with your planning team to ensure that capacity is maintained.
  • Develop a positive culture – Sharing success and having transparency around performance is key to developing a positive culture. Relying on data as a source of truth removes the opportunity for subjective political perspective within the communication.

Networking to control events

Ultimately, the value of networking comes in a planning teams’ ability to utilise the wider organisation in preparation for or response to unexpected events. Countless stories exist where organisations have made unintended decisions that have had major impacts on the contact centre.

Effective networks can help avoid and minimise those impacts. In one organisation, customers were able to google search local store details and the phone number. In this case, the retailer had altered their strategy to include the central customer service number instead of the local number which resulted in massive call spikes overnight to one team.

This meant that there was an unprecedented impact on the customer experience as the contact centre were unable to handle the sudden influx of calls. Strong stakeholder engagement in this situation would have helped key decision makers understand the impact on the customer and the planning cycle.

Expect the unexpected

It’s difficult to be prepared for absolutely everything. Sometimes unexpected events happen that are impossible to foresee. In running a planning team that resourced for Japanese operations, forecasting for restaurant reservations, we experienced a sudden short-term spike in service levels due to the Japanese government putting a temporary ban on raw beef liver. Being a delicacy in high-end Japanese restaurants, it led to quite an increase in restaurant requests leading up to the ban.

Similarly, when running the planning team for an international travel company during the volcanic ash crisis we were constantly challenged with balancing capacity and managing huge call volumes for an uncontrolled amount of time. In such situations, having robust contingency plans around staffing and call-routing options and are absolutely key.

By building and maintaining positive relationships with key stakeholders, your organisation can minimise the risk of poor decisions that impact the customer.  By bringing your frontline operation and your support teams closer to the planning cycle, you can define clearer ownership and achieve agreed service levels to make sure customer experience is at the heart of your organisation.