The West Brom has revolutionised the working practices of its Customer Contact Centre through introducing a new approach to employee contracts and working times. The introduction of new working practices, based on annualised hours, has not only delivered substantial cost savings for the Society, it has created a more flexible, responsive and agile business. Furthermore, the workforce itself, which has seen a dramatic change in its working patterns, is also benefiting from a better work/life balance and employee engagement.
For the West Brom the challenge was to find a back office workforce management solution that could enable this transformation. It turned to back office software specialists, eg solutions, who have played a significant role in forecasting its future resource requirements since 1999.
The West Brom is the UK’s sixth largest building society with around 510,000 members. It prides itself on making sure that members receive the best possible service and works to exceed customer expectations. Integral to its customer communications is a 120 seat Contact Centre.
Following an internal review, the West Brom recognised that the delivery of back office work was not being equally distributed throughout the year and needed to be managed more effectively. Peaks and troughs were identified; primarily around known events such as ISA and tax year-end processing and product maturities.
Historically, paying overtime to staff, or even employing temporary staff, managed these peaks, however, this incurred additional costs for the business and made it more difficult to deliver a consistently high quality of servic.
After a careful review process, it was decided that the use of annualised hours for staff would assist with the matching of resource to requirements. Annualised hours would be introduced to back office staff, where the number of hours worked per week could fluctuate, and also to the contact centre call-handling staff where the same number of hours worked per week would now be spread over six days rather than five, to include Saturday mornings which historically were paid as overtime.
The West Brom has been a user of eg work manager®, the back office optimisation solution since 1999, which has been a key driver in forecasting future resource requirements for the Society.
eg work manager® is a work management and performance reporting tool. It is designed to provide the information Managers and Team Leaders need to help them:
· schedule their work and plan how to use their resources to meet customer requirements
· allocate work according to available skills and ensure staff are trained according to business need
· track each piece of work from receipt to successful completion
· manage the quality of work
· report on work throughput, backlogs, service standard achievement and quality. And at the same time analyse productivity, staff skills and unit costs
· plan and forecast future skills and staffing requirements.
It combines a wide range of measures and management information requirements into one system, to provide a clear indication of the impact of a change in one measure (e.g. staff skills) upon another (e.g. customer service). Use of the system as part of a proactive management system can result in immediate and measurable performance improvement.
The Contact Centre uses detailed information provided in eg work manager® in conjunction with the Society’s telephony solution to forecast the staffing requirements for both front and back office staff to maximise customer service and budget adherence. This is based upon historic information and the Society’s marketing plans. For marketing campaigns and business events, the impact for both back and front office is modelled dependant upon response rates recorded in previous campaigns and product mailings.
Forecasts are produced at both task level and frequency, as set up within eg work manager® , for all teams to allow planning of hours that staff are required to work based upon forecast workloads. This information forms the basis for future planning.
Through regular consultation with the Contact Centre the management team are able to provide staff with advance notice of what working hours will be required. The West Brom aim to give staff four-week notice of changes to their normal working patterns. Staff can work up to an extra 10 hours per week and will even have days off during quieter times.
Through ease of access to accurate forecasting information, all of this forecasting and planning for 120 Contact Centre staff is managed by c.1 FTE within the Contact Centre Operations Team.
The annualising of hours has led to the West Brom having a more agile workforce that is able to achieve the service standards required for an excellent level of service to customers, as well as ensuring that a strict level of regulatory requirements are adhered to.
Through eg work manager®, the West Brom is able to report staff attendances, and as staff measures are linked to productivity, the system can report on SLA and effectiveness regardless of the number of hours worked per day.
This change to working patterns is accepted by staff who understand the requirements of the business, and the need to have a workforce that matches the work, ensuring that the right people are in the right place at the right time. Staff now have the flexibility to have time off which suits them, for example by working shorter hours or taking an afternoon off.
The accuracy of the forecasting is measured and targeted monthly. The accuracy last year for all forecasting was within 4%, well below the target of 10%. Fluctuations are monitored so that improvements can be made to future plans.
It is estimated that by deploying annualised hours an annual saving of £50k has been achieved.
Nigel Owens, the West Brom’s Head of Contact Centre, commented: “Utilising the wealth of historic information held within eg work manager®, in conjunction with the Society’s plans, enables us to produce accurate staff forecasts for future workloads. This is essential for ensuring we continually provide the best level of service to our customers.
“The use of annualised hours within the Contact Centre has allowed staff time off from work during quieter times of the year safe in the knowledge that they can be called upon when work volumes increase.
“This not only delivers a cost saving to the business by cutting down on overtime and temporary staffing costs, it can also help colleagues achieve a better overall work-life balance.”