You’ve planned your dream vacation. You spent weeks or even months researching the best places to stay, ironing out an itinerary, and making reservations. Now, you’re officially on your trip. You wake up one morning and realize there’s a problem: You had booked today as a beach day, but it looks like it’s going to be cloudy, rainy, and cold. Sigh. The best laid plans, right?
You have a couple of options for what you can do next. You can resolve yourself to grabbing an umbrella, gritting your teeth, and white-knuckling your planned beach day rain or shine. Or, you can use that more accurate weather information to revisit your itinerary and move things around to better suit what will actually happen during the rest of your vacation.
That second option? It’s exactly what Intraday Schedule Management is all about.
Do you really need to care about this? The answer is “yes” if…
- You feel confident that you have the right coverage plan at the beginning of the week or month, but things almost never work out that way.
- You find yourself overrun by tactical scheduling requests and don't know how to prioritize.
- You’re scheduling general shift times, and are looking for low-hanging fruit to improve your response times.
- Your team frequently context switches between handling case work, working on projects, and attending meetings.
- Your SLA and agent performance reporting is suffering because agents schedules aren’t updated to reflect what actually happened.
What is Intraday Schedule Management?
Think of Intraday Schedule Management as the bridge between your forecasts and what’s actually happening on your support team. It’s the happy medium between having a completely rigid and inflexible plan and having no plan at all. How does it work? With Intraday Schedule Management, you look at your existing plans and forecasts for agents and volume (you know, the ones you probably ironed out to the best of your ability weeks or months ago), incorporate what you’re actually seeing from Real-Time Management, and then re-forecast your plans accordingly.
This means that you can make well-informed adjustments to ensure even more accurate coverage both today and moving forward. That could include tweaks like:
- Adjusting schedules to meet unexpected fluctuations in workload (for both busy times and slow times)
- Accounting for time off requests or last-minute absenteeism or tardiness
- Optimizing lunches and other breaks (shrinkage) to ensure the best response time targets
- Finding the best time for a team meeting
That’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but provides a sampling of how Intraday Schedule Management still involves looking into the future and making forecasts as best as you can, but balances that with the flexibility to adjust to up-to-the-minute data and happenings.
How is Intraday Schedule Management different from Real-Time Management?
Here’s the truth: There’s a lot of overlap here. In fact, you might even hear the terms used interchangeably.
That’s not incorrect. But, we pick up on something small that differentiates the two—and it comes down to timing.
Real-Time Management is, well, real-time. It’s about monitoring, assessing, and responding to what’s happening on your support team right this minute. In contrast, Intraday Management looks at what’s happening that given day so that you can adjust slightly more proactively.
Still feeling a little murky? Let’s clear it up by revisiting our vacation scenario:
- Real-Time Management: You pack up your chair and towel, arrive at the beach, realize that it’s raining, and figure out what to do now.
- Intraday Schedule Management: You wake up in the morning on vacation, check the weather, realize that there’s a high likelihood of rain at the beach, and figure out what to do next.
See the slight difference? While Real-Time Management involves reacting in the moment, Intraday Management uses the insights you get from Real-Time Management to figure out a more proactive plan.
The benefits of Intraday Schedule Management
If you’re already doing Real-Time Management, is Intraday Schedule Management really something you need to focus on? The short answer is “yes.” Here are a few compelling reasons why.
You have maximum control to balance response times and agent happiness
You know firsthand that your plans—even the ones that are carefully strategized and agonized over—don’t always pan out. Things happen and day-of performance can vary wildly from the expectations you were working with when you first made your schedule. For example, maybe you’re facing a product breakage or an unexpected staffing shortage. When you aren’t equipped to deal with those, you’re left with a general feeling of helplessness, as if you and your support team have no choice but to put your heads down and get through it. However, Intraday Schedule Management leans on insights you get from Real-Time Management in order to help you make decisions about what you need to adjust right now. You’re not just along for the ride—you’re steering the ship.
You understand what changes you need to make for the rest of the day
Intraday Management and Real-Time Management work together hand-in-hand to help your team stay afloat right here and right now. But, this is where Intraday Management really sets itself apart: After you’ve made those instant adjustments to agent schedules, it’s time to look ahead, take back control, and make strategic changes for the remainder of the day. For example, did you cancel shrinkage activities earlier in the day to accommodate that unforeseen staffing shortage? You might decide to push those to the afternoon when your staffing levels are more adequate. Remember, Intraday Schedule Management goes beyond what reactionary changes you need to make right now and helps you identify proactive changes you can make to optimize the rest of your team’s workday.
You have a firmer grasp on agent performance
Workforce management can feel like a series of best guesses. But fortunately, this process gives you valuable performance data that you can use to build a more normalized measurement and expectation of agent performance. Right now, you might look at a given time span and see that Agent A got five things done during that time while Agent B got 10 things done. At face value, it seems like Agent B is far more efficient and productive.
But it’s not always so cut and dried. By being thorough about managing schedules and retroactively inputting other activities (like trainings, meetings, and more), you can start tracking apples-to-apples performance. When you do that, you might see that Agent A got pulled into a product meeting. Or maybe Agent B got lucky with fast and easy customer tickets. In short, there’s a lot of nuance in your agent schedules. And, Intraday Schedule Management gives you insight you can use to better understand your team and then ground your future forecasts, reporting, and scheduling in more realism (rather than optimism).
How Intraday Schedule Management actually works
Intraday Schedule Management is part of what helps you go from simply reacting to your business’ performance to being proactive about optimizing it.
Here are a few examples of how this could play out on your support team:
- Your contacts are queueing up, service levels are down, and half of your team is about to log off for a planned team meeting. That meeting was part of your original plan and forecast, but with what you know about your current situation, you move the meeting (and a few other shrinkage activities) to a time later this week when you expect to have a staffing surplus.
- Agents are waiting a long time between customers and they’ve completed all of their team meetings and training. You check your dashboard and volume has been down all day—and there’s no signs of it picking up later on. You decide to send a few agents home, which saves costs and boosts morale. You also take things a step further to let agents who are scheduled later in the day know that they can push back their start time or no longer need to sign in at all.
When executed correctly, Intraday Schedule Management should complement Real-Time Management and make that process even easier.
The key takeaways
While you work hard on creating as accurate of forecasts as possible, things still come up—and you can’t be afraid to reforecast based on what’s actually happening on your team.
That’s the very concept of Intraday Schedule Management, and it works best if you keep a couple of other best practices in mind:
- Keep track of what was added, moved, or removed from schedules. Input it into your system right away or keep a detailed log that you can enter later (and then actually do so). It makes reporting significantly easier.
- Don’t just make changes when times are stressful or bad. An effective Intraday Schedule Management program isn’t only about responding to crises—it can also help you keep morale high by keeping agents up to date or even sending them home early when things are going well.
To put it simply, don’t resign yourself to grabbing your umbrella and shivering through that cold and drizzly beach day simply because it was part of your original plan. Make smart decisions and strategic changes using the new information you have available. After all, the best plan is ultimately a flexible one.