Overcoming WFM Professional Defeat & Disengagement
Updated: Feb 7, 2022
Let me set the scene; The truth is on your side, yet no one will trust you. Your data is all there. You have spent a great deal of time preparing the right charts. You have even calculated standard deviations and correlations to back your findings... every angle has been considered. Yet, still, there is that one stakeholder who just says, "Nope, I don't think that's correct."
So, you stomp back to your desk in righteous indignation with the knowledge that yet again, you will be proven correct, and then maybe next time they will listen. But, instead, the question you should be asking yourself is, "what did I do wrong?"
It is the responsibility of a WFM professional to ensure that plans reflect data-driven realities at all times, to be aware of the operation, and to deliver exceptional results for customers, employees, and organizations alike, even if that means calling out things that aren't going well.
However, many workforce management teams assume they are in a battle with internal partners over adopting offered suggestions. However, this defeatism stems from their inability to understand why anyone would want to work in a reactive environment. Any WFM professional knows this leads to high employee turnover, low employee satisfaction, low customer satisfaction, lack of first contact resolution, and higher than necessary business costs.
So, how do you become an essential part of the solution while resisting the need to withdraw because you believe your efforts to run a proactive operation are being disregarded by those in charge?
The bottom line is that if you fail to get others to believe in your workforce management output, then you must do a better job at selling. Yes, it is true; when you first started in workforce management, you likely had no idea how much a creative, clearly defined sales skill set you would need. Still, the ability to tell stories with your findings and to "sell" a plan and its collection of recommendations are what distinguishes the best Workforce Manage experts from the rest.
So here are some tips to selling your plan & recommendations that I have picked up over the years.
No Surprise Culture - Let folks know in advance what you have found. It may feel good to use statistics to strike fear into the hearts of others, but it rarely results in the desired effect of obtaining buy-in. Rather, pre-distribute your findings to the group, beginning with those you feel likely will be the most resistant to the results. Then, providing them with the opportunity to come up with solutions can very much help with buy-in.
Leave the inner geek at home - Using the most fundamental visuals and terminology will go you much further than using a statistically significant scatter plot with correlations and R-squares. Use the 4eye principle on your work before presenting it; if that person can't follow and understand what your selected visualizations are telling you, it's pretty likely that your stakeholders won't either.
Tone and delivery - Another area where workforce management teams frequently make mistakes is tone and delivery. Starting a conversation with "and here's what I discovered about after call work!" is likely to be received less well versus "After I was asked to look at handle time trends, I dug a little deeper and discovered some interesting trends with after call work."
Engage rather than accuse - After you've provided the facts, be cautious about drawing conclusions about the root cause (unless you have unequivocal evidence) or giving off-the-cuff ideas about how they should conduct their work unless you have substantial knowledge in this area. Nothing annoys a contact center manager more than when their WFM team informs them that they don't coach correctly and then tells them how to solve it. Simply describe the facts and then engage them in a discussion about what they believe is the core reason and what actions they think will bring the results back into line.
Make it less risky When someone decides to buy into what you're selling, their mind immediately starts seeking reasons not to. So don't sit back and wait for the inevitable defenses: Instead, anticipate challenges and objections ahead of time and be prepared to respond convincingly. For example, if the stakeholder's criticism is "we tried this before, and it didn't work," be ready to explain how your plan/idea/recommendation is significantly different. Take note of the specific variables and circumstances that make it more likely to succeed.
Create Momentum and trial close - Throughout your presentation of your findings, solicit feedback often. The best thing is that if you keep checking for agreement, your stakeholders will often want to choose or at least change the talk to action-oriented at the conclusion. If you aren't getting those buying signals, that's fine; just ask for the following stages. Do this by summarising your presentation and asking a few closing questions to confirm that your stakeholder agrees it's feasible. "Does this make sense to you?" for example. If you gain agreement, you'll have the go-ahead to proceed further.