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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.

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.

Confidence In Planning Transforms The Operation At Yorkshire Ambulance Service

Virtual Site Visit, held on 7th July 2020

See how core planning principles have transformed the ambulance emergency service across Yorkshire, with great collaboration and leadership the key to gaining trust and making change possible. 

Summary 

The Ambulance Response Programme (ARP) has transformed patient response times through changes in resource utilisation for the 999 service. With the transformation team, Resource Planning stepped up to provide confidence in decisions, through implementing a planning cycle with patient care at the heart. 130 FTE efficiency was created by developing demand-led, end-to-end planning. The overtime strategy saved in excess of £2 million and all seven performance targets are now being met. Career development, important to colleagues, retains skills in a sector with key shortages. Furthermore, hearts and minds have been changed through accuracy of forecasts and engagement. Doors have opened up to further change. Planning is fully integrated within the Leadership Team and called on by other ambulance services for their own transformation programmes.

Strategy & Budget Planning Join Up The Business At RSA

Virtual Site Visit, held on 1st July 2020

See how strategic resource models are evolving and driving continuous improvement, consolidated onto a shared platform with Finance, fast & flexible, with a single trusted source of data.

Summary 

Learn how the Planning Team at RSA has developed as a trusted partner, with a place at the top table. It’s been a strong period for planning, with 15% efficiencies, rising engagement and hundreds of hours saved in the annual budget planning process. The new, standardised planning models evolved in agile sprints, with stakeholder scrum teams. It’s quicker and seamless, with a continuous improvement ethos. This creates flexibility, agility and confidence in the plan – serving 27 business areas, from Sales to Claims, Front to Back Office. Models have been simplified, automated and rebuilt in Anaplan. Savings in analyst time alone yield a compelling ROI, with further flow-through benefits later in the planning cycle and for the operation. Analysis can be turned around instantly or in hours, not weeks. It’s so good because the key data is always there, with a single model framework and robust governance.

Onboard Training From London To Inverness At LNER

Virtual Site Visit, 30th June 09:15

See how planning helped tackle complex challenges in introducing the first new train type in 30 years, itself the first step in a journey of digital transformation.

Summary 
Successful implementation of the new Azuma trains has depended as much on the planning and delivery of training, as the technical introduction of the trains themselves. This required complex planning on such a crowded rail network, including suspending two daily services and gaining flexibility on schedules from colleagues. Yet over 1,600 crew were successfully trained, at the same time that trains were being tested and drivers trained, losing only one service in 18 months. Customer experience is transformed – moving LNER to 3rd out of 28 operators. And technology now provides new facilities and data, paving the way to expand the services further, in a competitive marketplace. Adapting key planning approaches, to face new challenges with limited technology, this is all about engaging with people at the right time to bring them on board on this strategic journey of change. 

Transforming Back Office For Clients & Colleagues At L&G

Virtual Site Visit, held on 25th June 2020

See how planning and transformation teams worked with operations on an operating model that raised productivity 32%, employee satisfaction 13% and halved turn-round times for customers

Summary 
See the value that can be gained by visibility, control and engagement in back office operations. Remarkable transformation in Group Protection at L&G has driven growth and profitability on the back of outstanding service, with new corporate clients signing up for this. Brought about by a new model of collaboration, the Transformation, Planning & Operations teams (the ‘customer service triangle’) have engaged people, using powerful frameworks for change, planning, workflow and communication. Re-launching EG Workforce Manager has been key to establishing control and creating an emotional connection for colleagues. Results are impressive: 21% FTE savings, renewals 75% faster, outstanding premiums cut by 50% and double the consistency of service. The new ways of working are now driving sustained, incremental improvement far beyond the initial recovery. 

Planning Transformation And Systems Thinking At LV= General Insurance (LV= GI)

Virtual Site Visit, held on 24th June 2020

See how Planning gained a seat at the top Customer & Ops table and built confidence in the plan, while at the same time genuinely supporting those accountable for ‘doing the right thing’ in their own area.

Summary 
Systems Thinking is often seen as incompatible with planning, yet the Planning Team at LV= embraced the opportunity to redefine their purpose, gaining a mandate to pioneer new activity and support people using data to make decisions. They are empowering advisors and providing bespoke support to business leaders. Planning models have been stripped back and simplified, data reports automated and made visible. Self-serve for lifestyle planning has cut escalations to Planning by 80% and helped people feel ‘set free’. A sector-first tool for surges in demand in home claims is planning what’s ‘waiting to happen’, before it happens, in stormy times! The shift in thinking has helped raise colleague engagement 12% across the business – and support the key goal of exceptional customer experiences, with NPS up seven points to +72. 

Planning As A Strategic Capability For The Business At Sky

Virtual Site Visit, held on 18th June 2020

See how ‘inspired experts’ in the Sky Planning Team drive innovation in planning, to bring strategic value to the business and make life better for customers and colleagues.

Summary 
Sky considers 2019 to have been a vintage year for the organisation. Customer numbers, sales and profitability have all shown material increases and the Planning Team are at the heart of these impressive results. A strong commercial intellect coupled with a thirst for innovation, which puts people and customers at the forefront of their thinking, makes the team pivotal to the success. No longer just about operational efficiencies, this team is helping to shape the future strategy of the business. They run many concurrent projects, such as automation with robotics and apps, reducing customer effort and improving colleague work-life integration. Freedom to innovate, test, fail fast and learn is central to the team’s culture, whilst their career pathways programme provides inspiration and development for their own people. 

Planning: Keeping Ahead Of The Change Curve In Travel At Jet2

Virtual Site Visit, held on 16th June 2020

See how the customer contact operation at Jet2 has been transformed, to sustain growth and be increasingly agile in a challenging market, with homeworking, real time automation and digital channels.

Summary 

Transformation over the past 18 months has been rapid, powered by planning, resource strategy and technology. This is made possible by a culture that embeds change, to drive benefits and become increasingly agile. Homeworking is highly developed and fast-growing, with UK-wide recruitment and a robust virtual support network. Real Time automation (ARTI) from QStory is freeing up time for analysis and supporting homeworkers. Digital development plans include chatbots, asynchronous and in-app messaging. There’s been a hugely positive impact on colleagues and customers, with annualised attrition down to just 18% and adherence up to 82%, both in sales. What’s more, Jet2.com and Jet2holidays were the only travel sector businesses to feature in the Top 25 of the UK Customer Satisfaction Index.

Planning & Insight: The Heart Of An Improvement Culture At Three Ireland

Virtual Site Visit, held on 3rd June 2020

Empowerment and ownership has given analysts confidence to work in a new way with stakeholders across the business, build new solutions and improve forecast accuracy.

Summary
An empowering innovation culture is driving significant and sustainable change at Three Ireland, based on a core value ‘one team’. It’s a great place to work, where anything seems possible and a simple development can have huge impact when passionate people pull together. A collaboration by Planning & Capability Transformation teams, 3 Cal is establishing a culture of planning ahead — seamlessly building on their award-winning real-time model to focus earlier in the planning cycle. It is now used across the business to plan activity with customer or colleague impact and has helped reduce forecast variance (from 20% to 2.5%) because activity is visible and built into the plan. Engaging with the operation, including Tech Mahindra in Mumbai, built ownership and embedded changes in the culture, so that everyone now better understands the impact of their activities on customers.

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.
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.

Conferences

Customer Strategy & Planning 2021
Catch up on the highlights
Learn first-hand from practitioners and business leaders who are delivering successful change.

National Conferences 2020
Catch up on the highlights
Annual conferences dedicated to the needs of their communities.

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