3 Steps to Effective Planning for Back-Office Work

Dover Forecasting
May 24, 2018 · 4 min read

Many contact centers have significant time requirements for their agents to complete administrative tasks and responsibilities. Often called ‘Back-Office’ tasks, these can also take the name of Tasks, Project work, Admin work, etc. Planning to the staff impacts from these time requirements can be tricky business, and many service organizations and WFM (Workforce Management) teams really struggle to effectively plan for all of their offline time requirements. This places them in a bad predicament — either meet their offline requirement and miss their service level, or meet their service level and don’t fulfill the administrative responsibilities necessary to support other business processes. It’s a lose-lose scenario and is obviously not ideal.

However, effective Back Office planning can be successfully executed by following a simple 3-step process high level framework.

Step 1; Know Your Monthly Requirement

All forecasts must start at the top with an understanding of what your requirement is. Consult with your different business units and figure out what the required time is on a monthly basis, in hours. Then, work with them to understand what business drivers influence that requirement — campaigns, service changes, product launches and/or changes, seasonality, etc. Find out when in the month these tasks need to occur (always on Mondays only, through the week regularly, only mornings, only at end-of-month, etc). The more you know about the business requirements for this time, the better your forecasts will be. Convert your knowledge into a total hourly requirement for the next month. Then look at months 2 and 3, and so on. Build out a short-term forecast for how many hours this task will require each month.

Next. take the total hourly Back Office requirement you now know and incorporate it into your monthly requirement plan (if you need help creating a complete monthly FTE agent requirement plan go here). Adding these requirements to your existing Shrinkage factors will ensure you have sufficient hours set aside and planned for this activity. Shrinkage factors are usually represented as a percentage of total hours, so you’ll probably need to add this category and measure the total hours that result as you increase the percentage to reach the total number you require for that month.

Note: Some teams mis-calculate shrinkage factors in their planning process, and as a result they either don’t plan enough hours for the business need, or they provide enough and don’t meet their service levels. For example, if you have 1000 required agent hours and you need to add 30% for Shrinkage, it is common for teams to add Shrinkage on an interval, daily, or monthly basis as (1000 * 1.30) or (1000 * (1–30%). Note that these are wrong: they both give you 1300 hours, for which 30% of that (what you need) is 390 hours. That means you now have 910 agent hours available, 90 less than you require.

To add shrinkage to your base and adjusted workloads, the correct calculation is (assuming shrinkage is 30%) :

[requirement / (1–30%)]

and not : [requirement* 1.30] or [requirement * 1–30%]

Step 2; Turn Monthlies into Dailies

Next you will need to take your total monthly hourly requirement and turn it into a daily forecast — a projection of hours required hours distributed across the number of business or working days in the month. Pay special attention to any details around the business requirements such as if there are requirements to load certain days in a month — this is where you plan for them. It is a good idea to share these daily projections with your business-side teams internally to get their input and consent, after all your planning is contributing to their success!

Send your daily forecast information to your schedulers so they know what the BackOffice hours required are for each day, plus any additional information on intra-day requirements as well (ie mornings only, from 9am to 12pm, etc). Your schedulers can accommodate this requirement in the schedules by utilizing available flex strategies such as extra shifts, overtime, adjusted shifts, and other flex tactics. They can also help inform you of any times where these requirements will not be fulfilled.

Step 3; Monitor the Your Progress and Adjust as Necessary

As with any process, it is critical that you take the time to monitor and review your plans and performance, turning key learnings and insights into optimized plans and more accurate forecasts. Check in with your business units and understand if their requirements are being met. Talk to your schedulers and see if there are issues scheduling in the times needed. Monitor your Shrinkage totals and understand if your Back Office time is being jeopardized by other activities and/or time off. Doing so regularly will ensure you are consistently recognizing areas for improvement and are optimizing your service delivery methods, producing better results and meeting your service delivery targets within budget more often.

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