Workforce Optimization: The Tip of the Iceberg

Businesses have long focused on optimizing utilization in the contact center to improve operating margins. They started with spreadsheets and quickly adopted software that forecasts, schedules and tracks resources to make the most of every minute. This is easy to do in the contact center; people repeatedly perform a limited and measurable set of tasks. But can companies use similar workload management practices throughout the enterprise?

Businesses have become adept at using these methods for agents who earn $12 an hour; however, it takes a great deal of improvement to realize small financial gains. For example, healthcare companies use this approach for agents in the appointment call center who are paid disproportionately low wages compared to the practitioners they support. What if we expanded the optimization disciplines we’ve developed in the contact center to more highly compensated staff? That would dramatically change the game; very small gains would deliver very large results. For the agent who makes $12 an hour, every minute of improvement saves 20 cents. But for the typical practitioner who makes $125 an hour, every minute of improvement returns over $2, or a 10:1 ratio.

To do this, companies must connect everyone involved in the service delivery chain and then apply workforce optimization across the spectrum. The process works like this:

  1. Consider service delivery from the customer’s point of view. Even though it’s tempting to isolate work groups into functional business silos, customers don’t see service delivery in that way. They aren’t looking to make appointments, visit practitioners, fill prescriptions at the pharmacy, or see a physical therapist. They simply want that pain in their back to go away. So, if we look at the entire customer journey that customer (or in this example, patient) is on to reduce back pain, it’s easier to consider every single person involved on the journey to recovery.
  2. Map functional work groups and customer engagement channels need to be mapped to understand where one role ends and another takes over. This helps identify the discrete work involved at each step in the journey and can be used to inform process improvement. It also provides input to the workforce optimization tool to consider the entire effort and cost required to help that patient get well. Apart from task costs, are there other opportunities to improve the process and eliminate unnecessary work?
  3. After identifying the complete set of tasks and work groups, a “center of excellence” can apply workforce optimization tools holistically across the enterprise to forecast, schedule and track productivity. This looks at the methods customers use to interact with each person in the delivery process and leverages the context of omnichannel engagement throughout the life of the event.

Along the way, consider how to identify success. This should include baseline costs and operating results before any work is done, during the go-live point and periodically (monthly, at a minimum) after implementation. Along the way, feed information back into the process to improve the customer experience and overall financial results. Learn more about workforce planning and optimization.