National Seminar report: Critical factors to achieve success in planning

This discussion led session looked at what makes a planning team successful. Discussion went beyond the usual need for good technical skills and looked at how planning could be an integral part of organisations.   The consensus was that some of the softer skills such as presenting, communicating to all levels and self-confidence were absolutely essential to supplement the core planning knowledge.  The Planning Forum also introduced more detail about the upcoming University programme specifically designed for those in the Contact Centre arena.  Some of the discussion items from the session are summarised below:

Questions about BSc programme.

  • What level can we enter the programme?  There are multiple entry points to match previous experience and training.
  • What qualifications are needed? As per above, prior qualifications may lead to exemptions from the early modules of the course.
  • How can we influence company to show this is worthwhile investment?  As well as a focussed marketing pack, the University and the Planning Forum are looking at publications and research agendas to show the importance of the contact centre in industry and the impact students could have.
Round table discussions
1. Influence employee engagement Use of forums, communication on a regular basis. Having meetings, explaining role of planners, employees most interested in the release of shifts for month. Forums may take place over phone which can lead to challenges. Same issues come up every month. If team managers deal with everyday questions do planning know what answers are given? Are planners seen as "computer say no".

Do we actually need team manager forums as well as agent forums. do we have time to implement new ideas or are we stuck in a rut? Beware that forums are not just used when a change is coming.

Most contact for agents is with the real time team. Resourcing awareness programme - what do planning do? Three stages of planning. Show examples of an issue and ask how they would resolve. Use Power of one presentations or juggling balls for instance.  this will provide a level of resource which can  stand in for the real time team.

2. How can you be sure you have knowledge and skills? Understand what business needs from planning team. Create a process review to ensure that we are able to meet this demand. Sharing within the team, keep up best practice. Mixing with people from diverse businesses, may have same issues but anew idea for dealing with them. Lots of information on sites like LinkedIn and other websites.

3. What would you spend £100k on? Invest in technology rather than resource. Eg to manage social media contact. More accessible MI.  Need to be careful as this can disappear into technology very quickly. Beware of sales pitch - can you see it working in another company? Will cloud technology reduce the capital investment?

4. How often do you listen to your customers? Not as often as we should. Communication is always a big outcome from every meeting or visit. Do we need presentation skills as well as technical skills? If you allow management team to discuss and compromise Christmas holidays would you allow the agents to do the same. Ask managers how Christmas should be scheduled. They did not agree with what the agents came up with. Just because you would / wouldn't want something does not mean the all agents think same way. Planning need to liaise with a lot of different functions in the business - eg marketing, senior management, agents.

5. How do you break down silos - eg between planning and marketing / finance? Need to have look at these to see how all business can improve. Internal silos between forecasting, scheduling and real time. Meeting face to face can be much better than email. Share knowledge of upcoming events and also results. Some companies have planning teams for different areas of the business using different WFM and seem to completely different company. After call realised that they face same problems and could share best practice.

6. What can you improve?
Identify the silos so we can break them down.

7. What is one skill you would improve in planning team? Confidence. If this comes through we can influence more. We were hired for our skills so we should be confident in them. Creativity, think outside the box.Determination, we can get a lot of blame when things go wrong but we need to push on and continue to improve. Don't give up!

View the presentation.

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