We're all familiar with that annoying "Please hold..." phrase after trying to call into a customer service center to place an order, to inquire about an unfamiliar charge on a credit card account, or maybe even to get technical support for a software program. Gateway Computer (Gateway) (San Diego) is aware that customers don't like to wait and that customers who do get through want fast, accurate answers to their questions.
Manual Scheduling Wastes Time
Previously, Gateway relied on a manual method of scheduling employees for its customer support centers. Katherine Fritz, system administrator, recalls those days. "On a regular basis we found ourselves overstaffed during slow periods and understaffed during busy periods. Not only were we wasting money to have employees sit idly by the phones, but we were also frustrating our customers by not putting them immediately in touch with the right technicians." Gateway's customers are broken down into four major categories: business accounts, international and non-English speaking accounts, educational system accounts, and home users. "There are more than 30 skill sets that we must have covered at all times," says Fritz. "If all the bi-lingual employees go on break at the same time and a non-English speaking customer calls in, it could quickly turn into a fiasco trying to have someone else figure out what the customer is saying." Gateway hired Fritz in November 1998 with the specific purpose of getting Gateway set up with a WFM (workforce management) solution.
By October of 1999 Fritz and the IT team at Gateway rolled out a WFM solution from IEX (Richardson, TX). Within two months of deploying the solution, it had completely paid for itself. Within a year of deployment the solution had saved Gateway millions of dollars by streamlining its scheduling. "With the IEX TotalView Skill Planning and Scheduling solution we were able to accurately predict peaks and valleys in our call center and adjust our staffing accordingly," recalls Fritz. "The WFM enabled us to be alerted to any new trends in as short as a half-hour time period." Using the Intraday Management module, Gateway managers are alerted in advance if there are going to be significant lulls or spikes in the work day, which they can capitalize on by scheduling employee training during those periods or calling more workers in. "The only real challenge with the whole implementation was getting employees to trust in the new system," recalls Fritz. "Once we got through the training, though, everyone was on the same page and saw the value of the WFM."
WFM Goes Beyond The Telephone
In the near future Fritz plans to add a Web module from IEX to its WFM solution. With this addition, Web chats and e-mails will be tracked along with call volumes to give the company a more accurate picture of the workload. "By Web-enabling the WFM, agents will be able to view their schedules from the Internet and schedule their own vacations," says Fritz. "This is just another example how technology can be used to not only positively impact the bottom line but make other work-related activities more convenient as well."