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Have planning roles changed in the last 5 years? Yes, and by a huge amount

This morning, I was flicking through LinkedIn articles looking for an external view on what a successful Contact Centre Resource Planning team should look like. I found an article from November 2015, and to describe this as an ‘eye-opening’ read would be a shining example of understatement. Here’s what it said in a nutshell.

How correct data can give wrong answers

We can learn a huge amount about the interpretation of data when looking reading articles about Covid19. 

Five Years On....and what have we done?

As we are looking to prepare our 2021 Best Practice Guide, I’ve spent some time recently flicking through older versions of the guide to see what content we featured ‘back in the day’. One article in particular caught my nostalgic eye.

365 Days Later....

Well, here we are in March 2021 and for those of us in the UK, this brings us to a significant milestone. We have been in lockdown (at various levels) for a whole 12 months, now. What an alarming and sobering thought that is. And I can assure you that no-one thought that this would be the case, no matter what the ‘I-told-you-so’ merchants say to the contrary.

Budget Planning

Budgets don’t typically create excitement, more of a necessary evil, “we need to do it”, it is often a long drawn out, boring process which often feels like a making the numbers fit, which few people follow anyway. Tedius detail, wild estimates, ambitious sales targets and even more ambitious handle times and shrinkage percentages.

In the fact the only thing potentially more tedious, unnecessary and, drawn out would be a keynote on the very topic.

Planning for Outbound

Outbound dialling – viewed by some as a nuisance, and by others as a vital tool in the battle to serve customers in the most effective and efficient way possible. Whether done manually via a list or automatically using the latest in Dialler systems, hundreds of companies employ tens of thousands to make outbound calls for making sales, managing inbound queues, imparting information, or collecting outstanding monies. It is a very important consideration for modern companies.

Which possibly makes it more surprising that so little consideration is actually given to the best way to build capacity plans or plan FTE requirements.

Planning for Wellbeing: Considering the Employee Lifecycle

As a result of Covid-19, each aspect of the employee lifecycle has been challenged. This has provided an opportunity to design and rebuild a new and joined up approach, supporting both the long- and short-term strategies. The uncertainty of planning during a pandemic has led to decisions being made with a short-term view in mind; some of these responses may turn out to be poor enduring solutions.

Just when we thought it was safe to go back to the office…

There’s an old expression I’ve heard – ‘It’s the hope that kills you’. I think it’s most often used to describe the lives of fans of certain football clubs, if I’m honest, but I’m certain it applies in all walks of life. Its premise is simple – if you have no sense that things may improve, you can easily suffer deprivations. However, once you are shown hope that things may one day improve, you will suffer the pangs of disappointment when improvement fails to materialise. The beggar is only truly down at heel when he is aware of the millionaire, I suppose.

Benchmarking: The benefits and the total lack of drawbacks

Have you thought about the awesome power of benchmarking? If not, maybe you should.

2021 Best Practice Programme

We have now launched our programme of activity for 2021, combining the very best of virtual and face-to-face to offer you a variety of ways of maximising your membership.

The forced virtual environment of 2020 has given us a huge learning opportunity to understand how we can grow our community, make more events easier to access whilst still ensuring value. 

These can be accessed through your membership, or pay-as-you-go.

Redefining the role and responsibility of Planning; Creating the right team to deliver value

Regenerating, rejuvenating or just reviewing your role and responsibilities is a great way to continuously improve. 2020 has been a year to rethink and reflect on how we used to do things, how we need to respond now and to consider what the future could bring. There may have always been problems which have never been addressed, and the response to handling COVID-19 has exacerbated the problems; you may be under difficult cost challenges and need to adapt; or, you want to stay ahead of the game and look for new opportunities. It doesn’t matter why, what does matter is that you are willing to challenge your current state and think about positive change. Redefining the Planning team is a healthy way of re-engaging with stakeholders and the wider business, so everyone is clear on their role and responsibility.

Partner Article: Look forward not back: 4 ways to future-proof your contact centre

Heightened customer expectations are here to stay and are having a huge impact on technology in contact centres. Ed Creasey at Calabrio shares a forward-looking plan for the “new normal”. 

Planning for field operations: optimising routing & regions

Field planning is changing, with huge benefit by softening regional borders or increasing flexibility, from both an efficiency and engagement perspective, and some organisations more supply-led in the way they set appointments

Virtually Everything!

Bringing people together is at the heart of The Forum’s vision and values. It was not that many years ago that virtually everything we did was face-to-face, onsite in venues and hotels, now virtually everything we do is virtual. This has been a huge learning opportunity for us, and as we look to create our best practice programme for 2021 and plan our next face-to-face events, I thought it would be good to share our journey during 2020.

Partner News: How to Calculate Contact Centre Spin

Read how Call Centre Helper investigate the mysterious metric of contact centre spin and explain why it can be such a headache for contact centre planners.

Planning for COVID-19 Series Takeaways

Just as lockdown was announced we launched our Planning for COVID-19 series of learning module webinars. Starting back on 24th March the first module covered forecasting, followed by sessions on homeworking, scheduling, real-time, mental health and creating future business continuity. These free webinars were designed to provide supporting knowledge to help Planners during this unprecedented time. The additional Networking session brought together the group to discuss and share their experiences. The last in the series looked at capturing learning and using COVID-19 as a catalyst to shape the strategy and build for the future.

The Learning Academy: invest in yourself and your people

With a major expansion of our learning materials in the last 12 months, see how members are creating personal development pathways for their own needs, as individuals or organisations. Learning is accessible virtually or face-to-face and can lead to professional accreditation

How can we release the value of partners in transforming our business?

Great partnerships have this in common, both teams become increasingly in demand. With technology transformation a key challenge for business leaders, see how these brilliant award finalists brought learning from the outside that deliver on key organisational objectives.

Target Typology: how are your measures & targets understood?

Are your key metrics understood? What behaviours are your targets driving? Learn about different types of targets and the misconceptions that surround them. Why not look afresh at what happens today in your organisation and how you might move forward?

Creating great online journeys and the role of face-to-face service

Is face-to-face part of a wider omni-channel strategy? What is a great online journey? Paul Smedley highlights ways to update yourself with new developments and create a workforce strategy and operating model that can be sustained, for both organisational ethos and costs.

COVID-19: learning how to plan for the unexpected

If ever there was a time for good planning, this is it. This pandemic has been without doubt ‘disruptive’. Not only do we need to respond ‘in the moment’, but it can also be a positive catalyst for rethinking our operating model and strategic objectives.

Digital challenge: why do data-driven organisations perform better?

Data matters, because it’s helping us grow new opportunities, offer new services and drive huge efficiency. So, what does this mean for analysts and business leaders? How do we seize this opportunity for our organisation? Read about the emerging trends and learn from great case studies.

2020 Vision: planning teams as the beating heart of a business

The 2020 Team Awards demonstrate how Planning has become central, supporting transformation, influencing change and shaping the business strategy. Look for new ideas and continuous improvement, by learning from the best and seeing approaches used elsewhere.

Calling planning pioneers: it’s time to plan end-to-end for customers

See how pioneering analysts are learning to optimise capacity and resource across customer journeys (end-to-end) and business siloes (side-to-side or front-to-back). Everything needs to be planned in a joined-up way, driving your workforce strategy. How do you want to become part of this?

Wellbeing: build a workforce strategy and grow a culture to support this

Workplace wellbeing and wellness may be high profile, but how do we ensure we are not paying lip- service or ticking boxes? Do you have a fully costed and embedded long-term workforce strategy? Is it embedded in your culture, ‘how we do things here’?

The Planning Cycle: implementing strategy & budget planning

A clear target operating model and budget flows into benefits downstream in the planning cycle. Learn what the best-in-class looks like and find out who has been pioneering strategic planning in our recent Standards Benchmarking Accreditations and the 2020 Innovation Awards.

Releasing Potential: collaboration, empowerment and shared purpose

We share success stories and uncover what releases untapped potential in our organisations and the people who work in them. What sets us free to give of our very best? What makes professionals stand out, in striving for excellence and improvement?

The pyramid principle for strategic planning and removing siloes

The strategy pyramid can give direction and drive co-operation. Looking through four different lenses, you can align strategies to common goals, and connect metrics. See how this helps us map out what drives performance and predict the impact of changes and unforeseen events.

2020 Vision: clarity and focus, crystallising your knowledge

Twenty years of raising standards has been made possible by the growth of a vibrant professional community, where we continue to share and learn. From the original vision to now, we look at how this shared knowledge has shaped best practice and look ahead to what the future may bring.

Necessity is the mother of invention

In 1970 Edwin Starr said “War, huh. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing; listen to me”. However, there is one exception. History does show us that at times of war we do see a significant acceleration in technological advancement. 

There are things we know we know

In some ways it’s great to be in the middle of an unknown unknown situation. To see the world react in the way it has, to see how experts are predicting and explaining their judgement, to read the views of ‘non-experts’ (shall we say) and work our way through myths and misinformation. For many years The Forum has adapted the famous (once infamous) Known Knowns and Unknown Unknowns model, looking at our knowledge of impact and certainty of time. This exercise always resulted in us knowing more than we thought. Even now when there is a lot of uncertainty, it’s surprising what we do know.

Planning for wellness: The importance of Shrinkage

It is vital that you are looking at your shrinkage levels at all stages of the WFM planning cycle. Often, we talk about getting shrinkage lower, but we need to remember that it is more that sickness and holidays.

TARGET TAXONOMY

Targets – we all have them.  In the world of Contact Centres, there are lots of them.  A lot of time is spent collating information for reports about certain ‘key’ performance indicators and even more time is spent looking to change or enhance performance in one area, often to the detriment of performance against another.

Standards benchmarking: how the best get better every year!

Peer review is a unique feature of our standards benchmarking and accreditation at The Forum. In effect, we now have a bespoke benchmarking group of planning pioneers that helps ‘the best get better every year’, as one member put it. I’ve been lucky enough last month to lead two superb Standards Benchmarking Days. This is what people were talking about – take a look.

Using rule-based thinking and automation to transform performance real-time

What is the best method for managing the real-time operations in your centre? We asked our members to discuss different methods and think about pros and cons of each. Is rules-based thinking the way to go?

Taking the Focus off Lateness

A lot of time and effort in Contact Centre Real Time Management is spent focussing on schedule adherence.  A resource-heavy occupation, the focus is on making sure that people are doing what they should be doing, when they should be doing it.  Real Time Adherence Monitoring is a key function for Contact Centres all over the country.
 

Starts Monday!

How many times have you been doing the Friday big-shop and thrown in a multipack of Jammy Wagon Wheels, because its on offer, and thought diet starts Monday? On one hand its very easy to put “things” off to the following week, on the other hand Monday’s provide a great “line-the-sand” for us to start again.

Planning for Christmas Leave 2020

How well did you plan for Christmas? Did you accurately forecast your workload? Did you “fairly” allocate annual leave? Were your customers happy; were your colleagues happy? Or, was is just a case of survival and now you are only thinking about January, February, March and the next budget cycle?

Sociometrics & The Modern Customer Operations World

My esteemed colleague, Ian Robertson, recently shared an article with me – The New Science of Building Great Teams – from the Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2012/04/the-new-science-of-building-great-teams. It’s a great read and features something at its core that I’ve never encountered before – Sociometrics.

What can I learn from chefs & photographers

I recently read an article that stated “The simple act of rotating your plate can make the food on it taste better.” Like many of you my first reaction was scepticism, surely this was yet another of those statistically unsound studies that newspapers seem to love. However, as I read on I found that this was a valid study conducted by the Science Museum scientists at Oxford University. 

6 Top Tips to ensure your dashboards and reports are read and used

For many analysts a constant frustration is that we spend a lot of time creating reports and dashboards that can make a real difference to our organisations, only to find that nobody is reading them. This is not only a waste of our time but a wasted opportunity. An objective of many insight teams is to reduce waste in our organisations, so this is a great place to start.

5 Top Tips to communicate with confidence

To turn insight into action we need to effectively communicate and get people bought into our ideas. Analysts with both the technical skills to interpret data and the communication skills to get people engaged are few and far between. Why is that?

The Future Is Coming. Are You Ready?

The world of contact centre planning is very quietly going through something of a revolution at the moment. Teams are more and more being asked to divert their attention from the confines of the telephony floor and to focus more on Customer Operations; to look at back office activities, branch networks and, increasingly, Field planning. More and more Forum members are bringing us challenges that are far removed from Erlang or Talk Times.

Lifestyle patterns the cornerstone of your Workplace Wellness Strategy

Over 50% of organisations now have a Wellness Strategy. Typically, top of this list is: Meaningful work, respectful culture and flexible hours and working. Wellness Strategies may be relatively new, however, wellness is not new, as quoted by Sigmund Freud 100 years ago "Love and work are the cornerstones to our humanness".  If you want to take this seriously this needs to be built into your organisation’s strategy, budgeted for and built into your operating model. There is a cost, but how will you pay?

Are we focusing on what are customers really want or what we think they want?

I recently saw on the News that Boris Johnson had pledged to invest in the HS3 rail link reducing the travel time between Leeds and Manchester from 50 to 30 minutes at a cost of £39 billion. This a journey I do regularly so my initial reaction was ”brilliant”. However, after that announcement I continued to use the trains and this made me rethink how highly journey time really rates in my list of priorities as a customer. Here is what really matters to me.

Any holidays booked?

The classic hair dresser question “have you got any holidays booked?”, probably as most people have a holiday and most people like to talk about their next planned adventure. Not only that, it is a legal entitlement. However, too often the annual leave process can be “clunky”, an all-round problem, administrative heavy and unfair.

The Skills Matrix, by Phil Anderson

Multi-skilling provides a great opportunity for efficiency savings, customer service improvements and adding variety and ownership for advisors.  Multi-skilling also adds layers of complexity which can be very difficult to understand and accurate plan for.  As we go searching for cost and efficiency savings we will often turn to multi-skilling and blending channels, but does anyone really understand the complexity of multi-skilling and the skills matrix?
 

Lifestyle Pattern Jigsaw

Lifestyle Pattern Jigsaw, the puzzle of almost infinite outcomes restricted by a lack of understanding and bad practice, only limited by business knowledge and our imagination.

Connect and Communicate with Andy Bounds

To make connections that work, it’s not what you say that counts. What matters is what people do differently after you’ve said it. Andy Bounds is famous for his training, his books, his Tuesday Tips, his ability to help people do what needs doing. Take a moment to learn something you can use.

Targets drive behaviours

We know that targets drive behaviours. The problem is that it isn't always the right behaviour. When we are targeted it is human nature to find the easiest way to achieve that target.
About us

As an independent association established since 2000, we offer a trusted space for professionals in contact centre, field service, back office or retail operation. Benchmark against the best in class and learn from innovators and pioneers.

Learning Academy

On-demand modules

We have a wide range of virtual modules that you can view at your own pace.

Covid-19 Webinar Series 2

You have a community of support at The Forum. See the series of free webinars to help you through this unusual situation.

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Customer Strategy & Planning 2021
26th - 30th April, Virtually
Learn first-hand from practitioners and business leaders who are delivering successful change.

National Conferences 2020
Catch up on the highlights
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