Getting on Schedule: How One CU Has Optimized Its Call Center

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An affordable workforce management solution sheds light on the call center schedule-but, like competing software, it falls short on branch scheduling, according to a credit union here.

"We found a solution for call center management that is much more cost effective than some of the well-known solutions, which can cost close to $100,000," said Randy Stolp, assistant vice president of telephone services at Orange County's CU (OCCU).

The $788-million Orange County's CU paid $17,000 for the Monet Workforce Management System, offered by Left Bank Solutions, a Los Angeles-based provider of workforce optimization solutions to small- and medium-sized contact centers.

"The price makes it a really good fit for smaller credit union call centers, and I haven't found any features lacking as compared to more expensive call center solutions," Stolp added.

Stolp dropped the proportion of full-time employees (FTE) to about 50% from 90% after working with results from the Monet solution. The call center has 20 employees, he said.

"Monet showed us what schedules we needed to have, and it was glaringly evident that we didn't have enough part-timers," he said.

Furthermore, Stolp now avoids putting newcomers on peak evening shifts, because the inexperienced representatives were taking much longer to handle calls.

Monet's graphical roster report uses five weeks of call volume data to illustrate OCCU's scheduled agents against the forecasted surplus or shortage of agents.

"The reports instantly jump out at you," Stolp said. "We still have to make some manual adjustments, but Monet has helped supervisors make better decisions in less time."

By changing the staffing mix and tweaking the variety of work shifts for the past year, the call center has saved the equivalent of one FTE, Stolp said. "Monet has eliminated the guesswork from our profitability analyses and scheduling. And while we're still struggling to meet our service levels, it's no longer because of scheduling."

Although Monet can forecast OCCU's scheduling needs based on the monthly average of 30,000 inbound calls, Stolp found that, like competing software, it can't simultaneously speak to branch scheduling.

"In terms of scheduling and forecasting, a branch transaction and a call are very similar," explained Stolp. "The theory is the same. You have some sort of activity you can measure, such as the number of calls or the number of transactions. It would be a huge plus to schedule associates in our branches based upon transaction volume."

OCCU originally partnered with Monet with the idea of building branch scheduling onto the Workforce Management System, Stolp said. "But the idea didn't really work out the way we thought it would, and we didn't have the time to keep working on it with them."

Stolp said he was hard-pressed to find any solution that addressed both call center and branch scheduling. "Perhaps the market is so rich for doing one or the other that vendors don't have to focus on doing both."

Prior to using the Monet solution, call center schedules were analyzed in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets using sporadic data that showed call volume only for the previous day or couple weeks. Supervisors ended up spending hours scheduling the call center based on a manual analysis and gut feeling.

As a result, the call center was often inappropriately staffed. The supervisors themselves spent a lot of time on the phone helping members, Stolp continued, which was a waste of supervisor time. "We can't pay supervisors to be call center representatives," Stolp said.

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