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WFM for Beginners


The Workforce Management (WFM) process ensures that properly trained people are working optimized schedules to answer contacts with the highest resulting service level. Activities include forecasting, scheduling, communicating schedules to people, and real-time changes made "on the fly" to meet changing circumstances. In order to accurately predict and schedule the correct number of people for a contact center, a specialized application like Eleveo WFM can be employed to automate the process.


Forecasting is the art of predicting how many calls, emails, or chats the contact center will receive in a given time period. From this, we can calculate how many agents will be needed to handle them. Usually, forecasting is done based on historical data which is used as a model to predict workloads in the future. Historical data, containing information on call volume in regular time intervals, is taken from Automated Call Distribution (ACD) systems such as Cisco UCCE/X or others.

Historical data includes unusual events, such as:

  • high call volumes (for example as a result of promotions or service, system or power outages) which are normally removed from workload data for forecasting

  • regular, predictable deviations from call volumes (for example public holidays); these are normally saved as special templates to use for special days' forecasts in the future

Analysts need to compare their forecasts with reality to decide if unusual data should be included in a given forecast or not. If an event is not likely to occur again, it can be safely removed from the forecast. Additionally, current development or changes in the business model should be included in the forecast. Potential growth or market changes, which are not visible in historical data, may be added manually.


Scheduling is the process of planning the work schedule for the calculated number of people. Schedules are created based on the workload forecast.

Several factors which influence the scheduling process are:

  • multiple queues – not all people can handle the same tasks

  • contracts and labor law – legally required minimum breaks between shifts, such as the EU law stating that workers must have a minimum 11 hour rest period between the end of one working day and the start of the next

  • union rules – changing working patterns can be seen as "exploitation"

  • different activities or absences – such as Islamic prayer breaks (up to five a day), jury service, compulsory military service etc., some may be paid and some not

  • shrinkage – the process of compensating for the loss of resources (staff) due to time off or sickness. There are some contact centers that factor in other "non productive activities" such as meetings or training, but this is not standard.

An additional important factor is a fairness in shift distribution, which also plays an important role in the creation of a schedule. This can often be a key factor in gaining acceptance for a new WFM system from the trade unions.

Typical WFM Process

WFM processes are similar in most contact centers. The table below describes an example of a process and related actions.



Minus four weeks

Analysts prepare a detailed forecast for the next schedule period

Minus two weeks

Forecast is ready

Minus one week

Analysts prepare a schedule matching shifts to forecast

Minus one week

The schedule is published and available for change requests

Minus one day

Change request window closes

Schedule period starts

Schedule goes live

Plus one week

Exception/violation authorization window closes

Plus two to four weeks

Analysts analyze schedule adherence and performance of the forecast against actual call volumes received

Plus four weeks

Attendance and schedule adherence figures sent to payroll

Common Challenges

Some challenges can be easily recognized in most of the contact centers when it comes to planning the work of people:

  • workload volume is usually not evenly distributed during the day – contact center can be overstaffed or understaffed depending on the time of a day

  • the workload is also usually not evenly distributed during the month and year – contact center can be overstaffed or understaffed depending on the month/season/day of a week etc.

  • some events cannot be predicted (for example loss of service, which causes high call volume in the contact center which handles support)

  • shrinkage needs to be included in planning (for example unpredictable absences)

  • staff turnover (people are leaving, new people need to be trained)

  • forecasts based on historical data usually need manual corrections and adjustment

  • there is a risk of errors caused by a human factor

Benefits of Using the Eleveo WFM Application

The Eleveo WFM application simplifies the Workforce Management processes:

  • It automates calculations

  • It reduces the risk of error

  • It reduces the workload on workforce analysts

  • It protects data by requiring application credentials

  • It accepts data feeds, critical for forecasting, from ACD systems

  • It facilities alternative forecast and schedule scenarios with Eleveo’s Studio environment

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