Say Hello To A New Way To Handle Your WFM With WorkForward
By Jonathan Jerry Shroyer, Co-Founder & CEO at Officium Labs
When I was in the fourth grade, Kevin and I sat on the seesaw at recess. While most students leverage this playground toy as a means to buck off their competitor, Kevin and I had a different plan. We were trying to create perfect balance on both sides. It was an incredibly difficult task, especially without the proper information and tools.
A few years later, Kevin and I were in science class and attempted the same task, but with a two-sided scale. The task was now much easier. We had data on both sides of the scale that helped us determine how to achieve balance.
As a student, I was always super interested in systems, balance inside those systems, and how to predict or create future balance in a system. In my estimation, balance reduced friction. And the less friction you had in a system, the more likely the system would succeed.
My obsession with balance followed me into my career in customer experience, leading me to develop a playbook and a set of tools for balancing a company’s supply of CX resources with its CX demands. The framework I’ve been perfecting for two decades is now called WorkForward, and it’s helping my clients bring customer satisfaction up while pushing costs down.
Balance in the WFM system
The concept of balance first came up in my professional life when I was in my 20s. I was working for a contact center company and had recently joined the WFM (Workforce Management) group. I didn’t yet have much experience in the craft. However, in the first week I noticed something: the importance of balance in the staffing and capacity system. Each week, service levels were not achieved on any intervals. There was a lot of tension between the WFM team and the Service Delivery teams. So, I started to research what creates balance in a staffing and capacity system and how that benefits the end customer.
I soon realized it starts with data, forecasting, then scheduling, adherence, and then the ability to respond to unexpected variables in the staffing and capacity system (volume, average handle time, absenteeism, etc.). I started to do some modeling during my off hours. I quickly realized that the company was losing millions of dollars due to imbalance in its staffing and capacity systems. This was driving a negative customer satisfaction (CSAT) number and, in turn, a poor brand experience for its end customers.
I spent a few weekends in Excel, IEX, and Blue Pumpkin and came up with a new way to forecast, schedule, and report on adherence, and a playbook to manage real-time variable changes in the staffing and capacity system. While this is fairly commonplace today, the idea of creating a unified WFM team system to enable balance in the staffing and capacity system was very new 20 years ago.
I proposed my new system to leadership and asked for the opportunity to test it on a smaller account. We tested my system for six months. The experiment results demonstrated a dramatic improvement in service-level achievement (SLA) and other performance metrics. It also improved forecast accuracy to +/- 10% at the interval level and enabled Service Delivery to hit >95% adherence targets. All in all, the account saved about 15% in total resource cost and hit expected staffing and capacity system performance targets. One big surprise was the 10% increase in CSAT and positive brand experience that followed. A new WFM way was born.
Shortly after the experiment, my staffing and capacity system approach was rolled out across the company. This new approach to looking at WFM at the systemic level and interlocking its interdependent parts allowed us to more effectively manage the system to achieve the expected result. What I was most happy about was our ability to find balance in a system and enable it to thrive and avoid unnecessary tension and friction. It delivered the perfect balance of supply and demand in the customer experience.
Taking WFM Balance to Scale
As my career progressed and I traveled to work for many great companies, I repeatedly encountered the same problem. None of these companies had figured out how to balance supply and demand effectively in the customer experience, and so I introduced them to my staffing and capacity system and playbook.
In all cases, after effective implementation, we experienced very similar results to my first company—an increase in SLA achievement, a decrease in resource cost, an increase in CSAT and brand equity, and the overall system generally operating with ease.
Rolling out my system in larger, more complex environments revealed a flaw: its inability to scale across multiple lines of business and to be integrated into a central operating process. Not all companies work with the same variables or measure success the same way, and I needed a way to factor in these differences. My solution was to create an overarching framework that governs the staffing and capacity system. This framework allows decision makers to choose key system variables of success, integrate multiple supply capabilities into one demand pool, and make decisions based on the returns they value most.
The most interesting application of the WFM Framework and staffing and capacity system came when I was working for a logistics company. They were growing exponentially each week. It was impossible for a linear staffing and capacity system to accommodate the growth and achieve expected SLA, CSAT, and other performance metrics. The old staffing and capacity system would have broken due to the volatility in the system.
However, the framework allowed for more dynamic resource types and a different ROI-based decision process. Today, we call this resourcing on demand, flexible gig, or pay as you go. The introduction of this resource type in the framework gave us the ability to map supply to demand with less than a 15-minute latency period, which further enabled SLA achievement on the interval level. As for the ROI flexibility, the key stakeholder was more concerned with responsiveness and completing the order than other measures; by factoring this priority and the new dynamic resourcing into the staffing and capacity system, we were able to return balance to the system and deliver expected outcomes for the end customer.
The creation of the framework to govern the staffing and capacity system enabled stakeholders to invest in the supply side of the system in ways that delivered the priority outcomes for them—and, in turn, for their end customers. Based on my experience with the logistics company, I further modularized the staffing and capacity system to be plug and play and adapted the framework to govern a module system or end-to-end approach, depending on stakeholder ROI choices and guidance.
How WFM Balance Became WorkForward
As time progressed, I eventually gave my framework and system a name: WorkForward. It’s a simple concept. How can we move the work forward for clients? We believe we can best do this by helping them balance supply of their resources with demand of their customer engagements. If we can implement a best-in-class WFM framework and system that creates harmony in their day-to-day customer experience, they will succeed, create amazing brand equity, and drive re-buy or stickiness with their customers and superfans.
When speaking as an expert in WFM, I’m often asked the following questions:
Who is the largest competitor to WorkForward? Microsoft Excel is usually cheap for companies. So, they download a free scheduler and give the WFM responsibilities to a junior employee. They don’t realize that decision will cost them millions of dollars, especially as their volume grows and resource demand skyrockets. Once they recognize this, they switch to IEX or other large-scale and very expensive solutions.
What are the different modules that make up the framework and system? We have an end-to-end system that includes a forecaster, capacity planner, scheduler, RTA playbook, RTA reporting/dashboards, notifications/alerts system, and a sandbox for interactive or adhoc analysis. The framework that governs the system considers language, product, incident rate, cost structures, CSAT, SLA, and other pertinent business parameters. Together, they are fully customizable to meet the needs of our clients to meet their goals.
Why use WorkForward vs. your competitors? WorkForward is a plug-and-play, fully customizable system that maps to the client’s WFM needs. We deliver ~10% resource savings that self-funds in the first six months to a year. Additionally, we believe all clients should have access to high quality WFM and their own data, and that no one should not have to pay expensive license fees to big software companies.
I’m proud of the results WorkForward has achieved for our clients. Many times over, we have achieved SLA targets, forecast accuracy +/-10%, increase in CSAT, and usually around 10% cost savings across the enterprise. WFM is not always the most exciting topic to discuss, but, in my experience, building a framework that governs your resources—where they work, how they work, and their quality of work—will pay you dividends 10x over.
As I think back to Kevin and me trying to find balance in the simple things of early life, I'm reminded of the difficulty and importance of achieving balance. It is balance that enables us to support and help each other and to move forward to the future of work in all we do for ourselves and our customers.