Banks are at a crossroads. They need to invest in new ways to generate revenues and improve customer satisfaction through better, more consistent service across emerging channels while also under intense pressure to improve operating costs and meet the growing range of compliance requirements such as Dodd-Frank, the Consumer Protection Act and more. With labor being one of their highest costs, and person-to-person channels still serving as the most popular, banks need to be more innovative in how they deploy and train employees to meet the expanding needs of their customers.
Many banks have realized that various channels, including branches, back-office operations and contact centers, are acting autonomously even though their common aim is to deliver valuable customer service. They’ve also discovered employees can use web-based business applications to deliver high-quality customer service more efficiently and cost effectively regardless of location. These banks are using this technology to adapt a common branch workforce management practice and apply the concept across the entire bank.
The concept of float staff has enabled a new vision of workforce management-- an “agile workforce” -- that can swiftly adapt to changing conditions by allowing employees to “cross” departmental boundaries to get the job done.
While employees in an agile workforce use web-enabled tools to serve customers, employees’ schedules are managed via forecasting and scheduling technology that places the right workers in the right location at the right time. This technology is designed specifically to accommodate the fundamentally different scheduling processes within branches, the back office and contact centers.
Within the Branch
Bank branches schedule employees to handle customer walk-in traffic that requests service transactions and occasional complex sales. Branches must staff to a minimum operational level, but accommodate short periods of peak traffic, such as lunch hours, late nights, and Saturday hours. Staffing to meet peak times, though, often requires periods of excess capacity. In addition, each branch can have unique attributes that impact workforce requirements and the time it takes to execute tasks. For example, a branch located in a shopping mall may require additional staff to manage coin or small business accounts, while a branch near a retirement community will have higher transaction times since customers demand more leisurely, relationship-based encounters.
Contact center scheduling is unique because customer service success or failure depends on staff’s ability to respond in minutes -- or seconds. Workload in contact centers must be forecast in 15 or 30-minute increments, enabling the contact center to organize employee schedules to meet stringent service level goals. Start times and the placement of breaks, lunches, meetings and training are critical to minimize the impact on service delivery.
In the back office, the scheduling problem doesn’t center on when to work, but instead on how to prioritize work. Back-office workflows are much more complex than contact center workflows, and have varying service goals. Some may need to be processed within a certain number of hours or by a specific time of day; others may take days, weeks or even months to process (e.g., a jumbo mortgage). Unlike the branch or contact center, the back office is not only managing new demand, but also a backlog of work. Knowing when to complete work to meet service goals and deadlines is the core scheduling problem in back-office workforce management.
Managing the Workforce Across the Enterprise
Float pools allow organizations to effectively manage a workforce across the enterprise. Cross-trained employees from the branch, contact center and the back office can be deployed to handle work from multiple functional areas with the support of web-based applications. Examples include:
- Back-office employees can work for the contact center handling qualified calls or email messages.
- Contact center agents can handle paperwork for the back office
- Branch employees can take advantage of idle time to handle contact center calls, email traffic and back-office work with the right IP Telephony infrastructure.
Ensuring that float pools operate effectively requires sophisticated technology to forecast demand, schedule resources, and track work items as they move across functional areas through various work process queues. Technology that gives management clear visibility into ALL employees and work enables managers to identify opportunities to leverage resources across functions to improve efficiencies and customer service while meeting service goals and avoiding unnecessary overtime.
The Pay Off
An agile workforce management strategy gives management a holistic view of employees in customer-related touch points across the enterprise. While this helps the bank by reducing costs, having the right employees in the right place at the right time also helps them address one of their key issues—improving the customer experience. According to research conducted by Cap Gemini, “customer churn is driven by customer experience more than pricing,” with three of the top five reasons for customer turnover at banks related to the customer experience, quality of service and advice. An agile workforce that is available when customers need them helps bank remain competitive and efficient.
Bill Durr is a Principal Global Solutions Consultant withVerint.