What the "Power of One" means to Workforce Management
Updated: Feb 7
The contact center planning community, I believe, is acutely aware of the 'power of one' on a plan. However, it never ceases to amaze me how many times an operational manager will claim "it's just one person," or how an agent has no notion of the impact that one or two people may have on service level - "what possible difference could it make if I just log out a couple of minutes early for lunch?"
There are various unique ways to convey this message, ranging from more scenario presentations to more creative entertaining activities that demonstrate the concept... What's your favorite? Mine involves balloons; what's yours?
The point is that educating front-line colleagues on the "power of one" can significantly influence them by helping them realize the importance of sticking to a schedule and enhancing their cooperation with the scheduling process.
So, what exactly is the "power of one"?
The "Power of One" concept focuses on making the most of each customer interaction and details how agents contribute to the three criteria of contact center success: service levels, efficiency, and cost. From the perspective of a Workforce Management professional, "The Power of One" primarily impacts Service Level achievement. Still, more than that, the impact of a single encounter isn't limited to just this. Each interaction can significantly affect the customer's overall lifetime value. If you serve a customer well, they will return to your company and tell others about his positive experience. As the customer's lifetime value grows, so do your company's profits.
Impact on Service Levels (Grade of Service or Average Speed of Answer)
It depends, as it does in many Workforce Management scenarios, on the organization's size and what you are currently achieving in terms of Service Level.
It should go without saying that the smaller the operation, the greater the percentage of burden handled by any one person, and hence the greater the influence of one person's contribution on the Service Level.
However, if you delve a bit deeper, you will discover that current Service Level Achievement significantly impacts how much "power" the individual possesses. Therefore, the "Power of One" and Service Level attainment are not linear.
The graph below (with the vertical representing Average Speed to Answer and the horizontal representing the number of agents) demonstrates that moving from 67 to 66 would have a modest impact, with an ASA increase of only 2 seconds. Dropping one person from 61 to 60, on the other hand, has a 135-second impact. This indicates that if you're having a good day, taking that agent off for coaching will have no effect, but if Service Levels are already low, that one person has an x100 impact.
The "Power of One" impact on the workload of others
Delivering good service to customers requires that every person be available when planned, but it isn't just customers who suffer when there aren't enough people available. It also means that agents will have to work even harder.
When employees are unavailable, occupancy rates soon rise, implying that the idle time between contacts becomes increasingly shorter. The shorter the period between each contact, with no idle time, the more difficult it will be for everyone to "catch their breath." If this continues for too long, it usually results in agent burn-out, which in turn results in either Agents taking longer on each contact (increased Average Handle time or AHT) or just plainly taking more days off sick to recover. Both of these outcomes will then contribute to ever greater workload increased occupancy, and so the cycle continues in a spiral of death.
The "Power of One" impact on cost
As we've seen, failing to stick to a schedule can have a negative impact on both your customers and your agents. Furthermore, and linked to the impact on the workload of others, a lack of schedule adherence leads to higher sickness or AHT, a death spiral of ever-worsening Service Levels, and unless you are fortunate enough to then have a period of reduced work volume (with the same staffing levels) the only way out of this death spiral is to increase the workforce size usually via over-time that comes at a premium. By the way, running over-time campaigns can also cause agent burn-out, but that is subject to itself.
"The power of one" may be an old hat for many planners, but keep in mind that in a fluid operation, there will be many people who are unaware of the impact one person can have. Whether it's improved schedule adherence, increased operational buy-in, or just better staffing decisions made in enabling non-productive activity, the "power of one" is enormously essential, and you ignore it at your peril.