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I’m Just Gonna Say You’re a Farmer featuring Dan Smitley

Released on FEBRUARY 23, 2024

During the Career Day episode of That 70’s Show, Michael Kelso’s father, John Kelso, tries to explain his job as a “Senior Executive Statistical Analysis Technician. ”While Michael isn’t known as the brightest bulb, I think most people would struggle to clearly explain exactly what it is he does and why it’s important.

In the world of Customer Service and Support, many view the Workforce Management department as similarly confusing. Like John Kelso’s job, it involves “diverse statistical information” and can be challenging to explain in layman’s terms. But Dan Smitley joins Next in Queue to break down the role of WFM and how it supports the business, the customer, and the employees. 

We discuss:

  • The most common problem in Workforce Management
  • The biggest mistake in Workforce Management
  • Balancing business needs and employee autonomy
  • How WFM impacts the Customer Experience
  • How often to review schedule preferences

Connect with Dan on LinkedIn

Music courtesy of Big Red Horse


Rob Dwyer (00:01.343)
Oh, look at this guy. Dan Smitley is next in queue. How are you, Dan? I am fantastic. I am so excited to have you on the show. We got an opportunity to meet in person last year at the ICMI event. And we've been planning this for a hot minute and now we're getting the opportunity.

Dan Smitley (00:06.167)
Good man, how are you?

Dan Smitley (00:18.222)

Dan Smitley (00:22.973)

Rob Dwyer (00:28.919)
do it. So thank you so much for joining me.

Dan Smitley (00:32.402)
No, the honor is all mine. Glad to chat with you. Record or otherwise, it's always a pleasure. So glad to be here, man.

Rob Dwyer (00:40.395)
So nearly 20 years in the world of workforce management, AKA WFM, that's a long time. I'm, like, that's a career, I think, is what most people call that, 20 years.

Dan Smitley (00:43.781)

Dan Smitley (00:47.326)
Indeed. Yes. Uh, you're telling me. Yeah.

Dan Smitley (01:00.35)
an accidental career indeed. It is something that I've just kept doing. And it keeps paying my bills and I'm happy with it. I always tell everyone, you know, I started my career as a dial-up tech support person on the phones, trying to help people connect to the dial. And I'm like, ma'am, please hang up that you cannot dial onto the internet while we're on this phone. You're going to have to hang up first.

Rob Dwyer (01:24.523)

Dan Smitley (01:27.638)
That's how it all started back in something 2000. And 20 years later, still in the contact center, still trying to help people overcome themselves and help them out with their problems.

Rob Dwyer (01:42.409)
That is that had to be a crazy job in that right? The phone was the primary method of reaching for support. And yet that phone line was also critical for the one thing that they were trying to get support for.

Dan Smitley (01:47.904)

Dan Smitley (01:51.678)

Dan Smitley (02:00.086)
Right. Absolutely. First call resolution was not a thing that wasn't, I mean, right. Because you had to hang up and go try the solution. Call us back if it doesn't work. That's the way that it worked. Yeah, it was a it was a good time.

Rob Dwyer (02:13.653)
Yeah, good times.

Well, we're going to talk about some really important workforce management concepts today. And really, we're going to talk about three primary legs, maybe, that you could think of. If you think about a stool with three legs, you need that third leg for that stool to work. And if you don't have all three, it's

Dan Smitley (02:24.961)

Dan Smitley (02:33.195)

Dan Smitley (02:36.77)

Rob Dwyer (02:45.951)
You're sitting or laying on the ground is what's happening. So We talked earlier about these different environments that we're going to explore today. I Want to just start off with? the most common Problem area, can you just get us kicked off with when we talk about? the most common problem area

Dan Smitley (02:48.459)
Great. Yep.

Dan Smitley (03:00.558)

Rob Dwyer (03:15.258)
as it relates to workforce. What is that?

Dan Smitley (03:18.798)
Most common problem is we've got people and we don't know where they need to be. The kind of the key question that workforce management answers is, how do I need to schedule these people? Maybe I forecast it, maybe I haven't, I've got staff, I think I need to optimize them. The key question, the common problem, stops and starts at simply saying, I know people are expensive, labor is expensive, I want to optimize it.

how can I best leverage it? It's insufficient, it's an incomplete question, it's an incomplete solution, but it is the most common problem and the most common solution is simply saying, we got people, what do we do with them?

Rob Dwyer (04:03.735)
Yeah, absolutely. So let's talk about those specific people. Most of the time, we call them agents. We may call them customer support specialists or customer service representatives or tech support specialists. Or there are a million names for them. But they are the people on the front lines. They are.

Dan Smitley (04:17.974)

Dan Smitley (04:28.574)

Rob Dwyer (04:33.063)
answering phones, support tickets, chats, emails, the social medias, all the things. They're the people that are interacting with customers. What's the biggest mistake we make for them as it relates to workforce? So the biggest problem, maybe it's not a mistake, but problem or challenge.

Dan Smitley (04:36.342)
Thank you.

Dan Smitley (04:49.558)

Dan Smitley (04:55.414)
The, I think the biggest, I'll say the mistake and maybe what it looks like as a challenge or the problem, the biggest mistake is that we don't ask them what they want, right? So I started with the problem of we've got people, what do we do with them? And the way that we go to answer that is business need or customer need, right? So we say as a business, we need to optimize them. We need to put them in the right places. So we're not spending money when we don't need it. And that's a, it's a good goal. We have to consider that. We.

We place them wherever the customer is calling or pay possibly when they're emailing us or when they're chatting with us. And again, that's great because the customer is getting that benefit. Uh, but the mistake that we often make is that we do not ask the agent. What do you need? What do you want? How can I help? And it's that small little thing. And the problem then that creates is that they leave, right? I added it's so many contacts in our space.

we've justified this incredibly high attrition rate and it's just kind of it is what it is we don't pay them enough we'll just get another button that seat and we've so focused on the customer experience we've so focused on the business outcome that we haven't given enough weight to the employee experience and we've we're not seeing the impact and it's having a huge impact so that's the mistake not asking and the problem kind of

manifests itself as agents are just constantly leaving our environments, which of course, from my perspective, minimizes the business outcome, minimizes the customer experience we can provide. But I would say that's probably our biggest mix. Just not stopping to ask, how can I help? What's going on?

Rob Dwyer (06:36.215)
So let's talk about when we ask that question, we're going to get some answers. What are some of those answers and what are some of the things we can do? Because obviously, we can listen, but it doesn't do any good if we just hear an answer and then go, we can't do that.

Dan Smitley (06:41.045)


Dan Smitley (06:55.31)
there's no extra.

Right, right. So when we listen, it's going to be a compromise. So what might they be asking for? I think one of the biggest mistakes and biggest assumptions that WFM professionals make is, well, if I go and ask them, they're all going to say the same thing. Everyone just wants Monday through Friday. Everyone wants banker hours. And I can't do that. So I even ask, like, I can't give them what they want. And it's such a massive assumption. It assumes that all of our staff.

has the same priorities, has the same lifestyle, has the same dynamic in their community and their families. And that's not true. And so when we go and ask, and when we say, how can we help? What is it that we can do from it? As a WFM team, we can say, holy cow, you actually wanna work double weekends? Like you actually want to work Saturday? I'll give you whatever you want. You're willing to do a 410 Friday through Monday?

absolutely you can have Tuesday through the Thursday off. That would be amazing. Thank you so much. And all of a sudden, because they're picking that up, I might actually be able to give someone a Monday through Friday. So it's that compromising is the shifting of how can I meet these needs? I work in a lot in a remote environment. I had a lot of contact centers I think went remote and really haven't come back from that. There hasn't been the same return to office kind of movement in the contact center.

And yet so many WFM professionals haven't really taken advantage of that. Haven't taken advantage of this. I can have them come in for two hours and then have them dip out for two hours and finish out their shift for six hours. If it matches the volume, if it meets their needs, because they need a two hour block to get their three kids off to school and then have a breakfast themselves, that's a win. And so it's ask and then try to think creatively around how can I actually adjust schedules?

Dan Smitley (08:47.614)
How can I give you these weird things that makes no sense and literally no one else is going to want them except you and That somehow 80% of that actually meets a business need Absolutely. Yes, you can have that all day long. So You're you might get some you know, Monday through Fridays that you cannot account you can't give them but It is I have seen

huge benefits of just asking a stand. I can't give you everything, but I can give you three-fourths of what you're looking for. I can give you 80% of what you're looking for, and the agents really appreciate simply being listened to and realizing there's a compromise. There's an effort that's being made to help them accomplish what they need for their work-life balance. Personally, I love it. That is that most of the reason I'm in workforce management. That moment of helping an agent get what they need.

and having a better work-life balance.

Rob Dwyer (09:44.499)
Yeah, when you talk about the different needs that people have, it immediately makes me think of both my wife and I in our history, both worked overnights at one point in time. And I worked overnights because it worked for my schedule. I was going to school at the time.

Dan Smitley (09:58.843)

Dan Smitley (10:08.806)

Rob Dwyer (10:13.119)
young children or maybe a caregiver that working overnight, maybe opposite shift of a spouse allows them to not have to worry about the cost of child care. Like child care in this country is insane. If you are listening to this and you do not have children or they're grown, that's a huge source of

Dan Smitley (10:15.114)

Dan Smitley (10:30.934)
Yeah, yes, yes.

Rob Dwyer (10:41.723)
lost income when people have to pay for good child care. It's crazy expensive. And so there are times when I might want to work, whether it's that evening shift, that kind of second shift, or I want to work overnight, or as you mentioned, maybe a little bit of a split shift where I'm working during the day, but there are moments during the day where I've got a couple of hours

Dan Smitley (10:41.947)

Dan Smitley (10:55.926)

Dan Smitley (11:03.446)

Rob Dwyer (11:12.363)
At three o'clock, kids are coming home from school. I can step away, I can kind of get them settled, maybe get them started on their homework, give them that snack, whatever the case may be, and then I can come back later and I can knock out a few more hours. So there are all kinds of different reasons that people want and need a schedule that may sound unique or undesirable to someone else.

Dan Smitley (11:15.47)

Dan Smitley (11:34.123)

Dan Smitley (11:39.702)
Mm-hmm. Exactly. And it's the assumption. That's the challenge, right? There's the challenge you've caught out appropriately, so listening and then doing nothing. For me, not even listening and doing nothing is even worse, because we just assume. No one would want this split shift. No one would work.

third shift. No one's gonna want this. Ask. You don't know how people's lives have changed. You could have asked last year and this year, something's shifted. They've gone through a divorce and they actually don't have their kids on the weekend anymore. And so working a week and actually gives them a welcome distraction. And that frees them up to be able to have weekdays when the kids are around. Like you just, you don't know. And so ask, work with them, compromise, and just...

Seeing how you can improve a life simply with a schedule can have such an immense impact. And I also wonder just how important it is culturally as an organization, when we do stop, we listen and compromise. It feels like there's some value signaling that's happening there that's really going to keep an agent there. Even if the answer is no, listening to them asking and trying to work with them and being like, I don't know if I can do that right now. Come back to me in three months. Maybe something's shifted.

I think that's gonna help our attrition rates.

Rob Dwyer (13:01.859)
Yeah, absolutely. Speaking of other ways to accommodate, there are now some technologies out there that are getting better and better at helping organizations deal with some of these oddities in scheduling. Like if you can just schedule people in straight eight hour shifts and...

Dan Smitley (13:10.03)

Dan Smitley (13:14.454)

Dan Smitley (13:23.005)
Mm. Mm-hmm.

Rob Dwyer (13:29.859)
the hours of operation make it nice and easy where maybe you only need two waves of people and you don't need to cover weekends. Like that's super easy, right? I don't have to worry about that. But when I work 24 seven or I've got maybe some odd arrival patterns, scheduling gets a lot more complicated and a lot of people do this out of an old Excel spreadsheet that they've been using for the last 15 years.

Dan Smitley (13:39.563)

Dan Smitley (13:45.934)

Dan Smitley (13:51.35)

Dan Smitley (13:58.766)

Rob Dwyer (13:58.943)
But there are technologies out there. Can you talk about some of the things that are out there for organizations today where they can really get a little more creative in what they're doing from a scheduling perspective?

Dan Smitley (14:11.802)
Yeah, I would say that there's probably going to be like three different tiers of WFM software. The initial tier is really just going to be a fancy spreadsheet, right? So you referenced people in spreadsheets. The first year is simply moving out and maybe the spreadsheet functions are just a little bit sleeker, a little bit easier, a little bit better. It's very tabular view of everything, but there's just a little bit more button pushing, a little bit more automation.

I won't name names of each of these tiers, but there's players out there, real, real basic, but it's an improvement over Excel. And there's some kind of forecasting automation in there. The next step up would say it's not just Excel-based, right? It's not just a tabular view. We have some creativity and really we're going to do some of the heavy lifting for you. We're actually, you put in some criteria. How do you want your brakes set up? How minimum of a shift doing it? What's the maximum of a shift?

how many people do we need? You're able to put in some criteria, and the system's actually then gonna create the schedules for you. Here's where we're able to get a little bit creative with say split shifts, 410s, pyramid schedules, waterfalls, all the crazy schedule. We can start getting kind of creative here. That third tier, that top tier, is when we've moved away from just kind of schedule flexibility, and we're moving into schedule autonomy or schedule control. So it's at this level then.

Rob Dwyer (15:33.859)

Dan Smitley (15:36.094)
It's not only are we creating the schedules, agents are now starting to create schedules. That the system is proficient in understanding when we're gonna need staff, right? We're gonna talk about net staffing. Are we overstaffed, understaffed? The system understands that. We're able to create rules behind the scenes that says if we're overstaffed and Rob wants off, just give it to him automatically. We don't care, like get him out of here. Get him, he wants it, we want it, it works out.

And this is shifted now from the WFM team having to monitor everything and Hawkeye everything and say, okay, you know, push this, push that. And now the agents are in control in large part. They are able to say, I want to go and submit the request. Again, granted off of rules and logic, so you put behind it, there's boundaries here, but we've shifted from simply doing schedules into possibly getting creative with schedules. And now we're using schedules to give them a sense of autonomy. How little.

to agents have of autonomy in the contact center. We script them, we tell them when they have to start their shift, when they have to stop their shift. We tell them when they have to go to the bathroom. I do that, I'm WFM. I literally tell them this is when you're allowed to use the restroom, right? There's so little autonomy in WFM. And I love this idea where we can start leveraging schedules and creating rules that then say, if you can match these rules, right? Now staffing is here, your performance here, whatever those criteria are.

Rob Dwyer (16:43.743)

Dan Smitley (17:01.758)
You can come and go as you please. And now of a sudden, the agents can catch a breath. There is this sense of, I have some control, some autonomy. And for me, Daniel Pink's drive, it's just sunk into my head as to the intrinsic motivations, and autonomy is one of the three key principles. And so for me, I'm like, this is how we fix attrition issues, is giving them some control, some autonomy. So WFM software, yeah, you have basic.

Excel Plus, let's call it right there, out of Excel, but barely. You've got creative scheduling where you push a couple buttons, put some criteria in, and they're creating amazing schedules. And then that last here is, how can we almost remove ourselves from the process and allow the system and the agents to determine what they want to do and when they want to do it? And that is the fun space. That is the magic happens. And we start empowering people. It can be a lot of fun.

Rob Dwyer (17:58.371)
So the magic sounds amazing. It sounds like just letting people go, I will tell you when I wanna work and I will show up. But.

Dan Smitley (18:10.123)

Rob Dwyer (18:12.471)
The business has needs when it comes to when people are available. And that is one of the reasons that we can't just say, well, work whenever you want to work. Let's talk about what those business needs are. You touched on it a little bit, even just scheduling down to the bathroom break. Like, why is that? Why does that happen?

Dan Smitley (18:14.832)

Dan Smitley (18:18.616)

Dan Smitley (18:26.622)

Dan Smitley (18:32.578)
in it.

Dan Smitley (18:37.254)
Yeah. That happens because WFM has knowledge agents don't have. WFM has this deep knowledge around volume and forecasting, right? Whether that's voice or tickets or email or whatever it is, whether it's a platform Excel, we've done the hard work of diving into the data to say when our

When is this interaction going to happen? What kind of an interaction is it going to be? How long is it going to take? We have done all sorts of forecasting. And so because we know the arrival pattern, at least in large accuracy percentage, we know the arrival pattern. We can then say, well, based upon this arrival pattern, this is the time to do the fun stuff.

It might be the breaks that might be the birthday parties that might be the coaching I wouldn't call bathroom breaks necessarily fun, but it's these non-productive states, right? The non-productive states are happening in the low periods and until we know oh my god noon's a crazy hour We can't have anyone going to lunch there And so we schedule all of these interactions and we schedule all of these kind of off the off the phone off

Rob Dwyer (19:31.51)
Ha ha!

Dan Smitley (19:52.142)
email, non-productive activities whenever the business can accommodate them, when the customers aren't going to be calling in, when the customers aren't going to be needing help. So that's the reason why we get down to that granular level is because we have insight and knowledge that almost no one else in the organization does. We've done so much review of the hard numbers and we have such a clear understanding of what's going to happen.

we feel comfortable saying this is what we need to do, when we need to do it, and why we need to do it.

Rob Dwyer (20:25.003)
Yeah, it's fascinating to me that there are all these different needs, right? So I've got maybe some ongoing training or professional development that I might offer. I've got obviously breaks and lunches. I've got one-on-one time with a supervisor coaching time. All of these things turn out to be what

Dan Smitley (20:34.513)

Dan Smitley (20:39.607)

Dan Smitley (20:44.814)

Rob Dwyer (20:53.931)
what you would call non-productive time, right? There are time where I'm not interacting with customers. And often you go, well, why can't I just have my one-on-one at the same time every day that I have it? And to your point, you talked about call arrival patterns or arrival patterns, right? It's not just calls, it could be any contact method. And I don't think people understand how

Dan Smitley (20:57.006)


Dan Smitley (21:07.606)

Dan Smitley (21:15.47)
Mm-hmm. Sure. Right.

Rob Dwyer (21:24.387)
predictable those patterns are for a given business or business unit. Can you talk a little bit about some of the various situations where we know on this day during this hourly interval, we're going to have heavy volume and why? Why does that happen?

Dan Smitley (21:26.646)

Dan Smitley (21:47.902)
Yeah. So our confidence is going to vary for a variety of reasons, right? So let's go to why we won't feel you ask the question, why would we feel comfortable? I'm going to answer the question. Why would we not feel comfortable? We're not going to feel comfortable when for the day from 8 a.m. to midnight, right? We're talking about a 16 hour span. We get 50 calls. I'm not going to feel comfortable about that. I'm going to forecast. I'm going to take my best guess.

my accuracy is going to be real bad, right? If I can have at the day level a kind of a forecast accuracy of 70, 80 percent, I'll be happy with that at an interval level, like intraday at 1030 and then 11 and 1130, the forecast volume, the forecast accuracy is going to be horrible. My guess about what's going to happen is going to be because the sample size is so small, right? So that's why I'm going to feel very uncomfortable and why I'm not going to feel confident in the

Rob Dwyer (22:21.28)

Dan Smitley (22:48.114)
scale that up, the more volume I have, the more 10 people not calling in is really just a fraction. 10 people not calling in out of the 50 that we normally have, that's huge, right? That's 20% of the volume just dropped out and didn't come in. If I'm forecasting at 50,000 and 10 people aren't calling in, I mean, that's nothing, right? That's a fraction of a fraction of a fraction, right? And so that's the reason why we can have accuracy and forecast confidence.

is because we have the scale. We have the ability to say, on average, when we're looking at Mondays at 8 a.m., when we're looking at Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the States, what happens? If we're a sales organization, it's gonna be blowing up. If it's a service organization, maybe the volume's low. If it's something else, we might not even be open. It's just a fat zero. And so that's the reason why we are gonna be able to have some confidence is because, one, we're looking at scale.

the smaller the scale, the less confident we're going to feel. It's also because we've looked over so much, literally in my organizations in the past, we've looked over years of data. When I'm saying Monday at 8 AM, how many people are calling in? I'm saying Monday at 8 AM for this particular skill, and I'm not just looking at all Mondays at 8 AM, I'm also looking at Mondays in January. I'm looking at Mondays over the past three months. I'm looking at Mondays in January,

compared to previous January, compared to the January before that. And I'm also looking at Mondays against Tuesdays. I'm looking at 8 AM versus 9. There are so many pieces. I'm looking at the arrival pattern, literally, of so much at the same time. That's the reason why WFM software isn't helpful, right? Because those spreadsheets get heavy, they get complex, and the ability to be able to get to high level of accuracy becomes very arduous and a ton of manual work. But your question.

minutes ago when I started answering it was why can we have confidence? And the confidence comes from scale, comes from predictability, and it comes from historical data that we're able to view to be able to identify patterns of how Monday at eight is slightly different than Monday at nine, Tuesday at eight, or even Sunday at noon.

Rob Dwyer (25:10.147)
Yeah, you speak to something that is so important. And that is the scale piece because certainly the smaller you get the smaller that sample size is the smaller the team is the harder all of this become to manage like when people talk about economies of scale. It 100% applies to WFM because if you are managing, you know.

Dan Smitley (25:18.072)

Dan Smitley (25:24.491)

Dan Smitley (25:28.226)

Dan Smitley (25:35.306)

Rob Dwyer (25:39.303)
thousand plus agents for a project That's actually way easier to manage than if you're managing ten agents partly because of the volume of interactions and partly because Like one person to your point like that's 10% of my workforce If they need a day off that is outside of their normal days off I've already got a 10% variance and that's huge

Dan Smitley (25:41.752)

Dan Smitley (25:49.23)

Dan Smitley (25:58.166)

Rob Dwyer (26:08.547)
Whereas if I've got a thousand agents and I got two people who need a day off, like it's nothing. It's, it's a rounding error.

Dan Smitley (26:13.836)

Right. Yeah, it's so true. And That's what's funny in WFM circles. It's funny, at least to me, it's ironic as people kind of tout the scale, right? I was at such and such bank and we had so many agents and I was at such and such, you know, tech startup. We had this many agents and we are a team of this size and they use it as a way to kind of validate their experience, which amazing. I doubt I could do it. That's so cool. To me.

I love listening to the individual contributors that are like, I just picked up WFM a year ago. We've got 30 agents and I don't know what I'm doing. I'm like, you're a freaking rock star. Like, you're amazing, right? Like, I want to see your spreadsheets because I'm sure they've, they're more sophisticated than anything that I've built. Like, let's talk, I can learn from you. And it's because of the kind of economies of scale. right? Like, sure, 10,000 employees is a real challenge to manage.

Rob Dwyer (26:57.759)

Dan Smitley (27:14.418)
And also you've got a lot of grace in there. You've got a lot of variation in there that you can absorb. That person that has no clue about WFM, trying to do it for 30 people and they just have some back of the napkin math that they're going off of, like God bless them. They're amazing. Those are the heroes I love to talk to. And those are the people that like, honestly I learned from the most.

Rob Dwyer (27:36.755)
It reminds me a little bit, there are some things in this world that kind of go backwards. So WFM is kind of one of those because often you may get your start in a smaller organization where the job is actually harder. The tools are more crude, you might say. I don't want to...

Dan Smitley (27:44.63)

Dan Smitley (27:50.392)

Dan Smitley (27:58.454)

Dan Smitley (28:05.09)
Good word, sir. Yeah. Cool.

Rob Dwyer (28:06.359)
disparage Excel because I love Excel. I use it all the time, but right, compared to some other solutions, you might call it more crude, right? It's a harder job. You get more curve balls. You get more unknowns that you're dealing with. You get more wacky wild situations that you have to figure out. And as your career progresses, there's a good chance that you end up.

Dan Smitley (28:09.443)

Dan Smitley (28:17.735)


Dan Smitley (28:27.669)

Rob Dwyer (28:33.175)
working for a larger organization with way more agents, way more tools at your disposal, and the job becomes easier, despite the fact that seems backwards. And I will tell you that, as having spent about the same amount of time being an official for baseball, an umpire, as you have in WFM, it's very much the same.

Dan Smitley (28:39.054)
Yep. Yeah.

Dan Smitley (28:46.37)

Dan Smitley (28:57.214)
Mm. Mm-hmm.

Rob Dwyer (29:02.155)
You start out and you learn with little kids who have no clue what they're doing. They're just learning the game. Sometimes they run backwards around the bases. Like you get, you have to know the rule book in and out because so many rules get violated on a regular basis that you have to know how to apply everything. It's like really hard. By the time you get to the upper ranks of

Dan Smitley (29:24.518)

Dan Smitley (29:28.258)

Rob Dwyer (29:30.359)
high school, college, and into professionals, the weird stuff never happens. All you have to do is go out there and have a good strike zone and don't blow the really close calls. The really weird stuff, probably not gonna happen because the level of experience is higher, the people engaged in that activity know what they're doing and it just goes so much more smoother. And I will tell anybody.

Dan Smitley (29:32.182)

Dan Smitley (29:36.055)

Dan Smitley (29:44.418)


Rob Dwyer (29:58.847)
Umpiring a college baseball game is an order of magnitude easier than umpiring a game full of a bunch of nine year olds. Like it's not the same thing.

Dan Smitley (30:04.231)

Dan Smitley (30:11.69)
Yeah, yeah, I'm just saying if it happens in your at a game and a college player starts running backwards, going to third base first, please let me know. I want to watch that video. I just I there would be an amazing experience. Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's true, too. So true, though.

Rob Dwyer (30:26.283)
It would blow up on TikTok, I guarantee you. Yeah.

Rob Dwyer (30:32.595)
OK, we've talked about two of these three really key stakeholders. And we've left out, I don't want to say the most important one, but it is certainly an important one. It's the one that drives the revenue for the business. And that's the customer. So like, how do you do that?

Dan Smitley (30:37.53)
Okay. Yes.

Dan Smitley (30:51.318)


Rob Dwyer (30:56.631)
Tell me about the customer as it relates to WFM because I gotta think as a customer, I really just don't care.

Dan Smitley (31:03.95)
Sure, right. You think that the workforce management professionals are always challenged to try to explain what we do. And it's one of the kind of the funny things when you get a room of WFM and everyone kind of has a different definition. And so you're always curious, like what's your airplane pitch? Like how do you, and if, you know, if I want to shut people up, I'm just like, I'm a forecaster and analyst. Like I look at numbers and I data crunch all day long. And that normally shuts people up. And it, but the better answer is right, if I want to engage,

It's the scenario of like, you ever call a contact center? Yeah. And you waited a long time? Yeah. It's because they weren't doing my job well. Like workforce management, when done well, like we said, is forecasting out volume, right? Whether that's chats or emails or tickets or whatever it is, right? We're forecasting out what's happening Monday at 8 a.m. We know that people need to be there, but why do people need to be there? Why do we need to have some?

We have this many calls, they're gonna handle this long. Why do we need that many people? We need that many people because we wanna make sure our customers aren't waiting. And when we miss our forecast, when we get those numbers wrong and yet the staff shows up, who suffers? Little bit of the staff, right? Whether that's because they're sitting around bored or they're just back to back calls and it's just burning them out, they get impacted to some extent. Business a little bit.

Right? People are sitting around not doing anything that's bad for the business. They have a lot of who really gets impacted are the customers. When we screw up our job, the customers feel it because they're having to sit on hold forever. And then when they finally get to the agent, the agent's exhausted and frustrated because the calls have been back to back. And they probably have had WFM on the side being like, hey, agent, I need you to move faster. Hey, agent, can you get off that call? Hey, agent, I need you to. And so the agent is frustrated.

because WFM's panicking and now the agent's talking to this customer who's been on hold for the past 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and however long, they're frustrated, agent's frustrated, and just everything's falling apart. Why would that customer come back? Why would they want to come and call again? They're gonna do everything they can to not have to interact with this business again, and why? What is at the core of that? WFM doing a bad job forecasting. WFM.

Dan Smitley (33:25.074)
missing the ball, WFM not knowing how many people needed to be there to be able to handle the customer. So we've already talked about the agent experience and the business experience. The customer experience is there too, right? If WFM is doing their job well, everyone's happy. It's a nice even pace for the agents. They can breathe. The organization's getting the return that they need. Their labor is being appropriately leveraged and the customer feels seamless. They come in, they get answered. It's an appropriate amount of waiting time and it's

and it's nice and simple and easy. When WFM does their job well, everyone should be mostly happy. Mostly happy.

Rob Dwyer (34:06.563)
Are you saying that WFM is important to the business?

Dan Smitley (34:10.71)
I'm biased I'm biased, but yes, I'm completely biased, but I will genuinely say like HR, they don't care about all three, right? HR is probably over indexing on the employee as they should, that's their thing. IT does not care about all three, they're over indexing on the business. Even the customer care structure, the agents, the supervisors, they probably are agent.

Rob Dwyer (34:12.491)

Dan Smitley (34:39.794)
its customer, right? But they probably aren't thinking that much about the budget. WFM at 100% sits in the crossroads of everything and we have to hit all three every interval. Every interval. It's a high bar. But yeah, like I'm completely biased, but I think we're probably the most important team in the contact center. Surprise, I've been in WFM and I think we're kind of important.

Rob Dwyer (34:54.38)

Rob Dwyer (35:07.523)
Well, and walking that balance beam, you're absolutely right. There are different elements of an organization where they're focused is going to lean in one or two different ways, and they are probably going to ignore the third. And I learned this a long time ago when I really didn't know how to explain to an agent why they needed to...

Dan Smitley (35:19.658)
So yeah.

Dan Smitley (35:26.381)

Dan Smitley (35:29.622)

Rob Dwyer (35:36.931)
work on their handle time because it was out of control. They were great, but their handle time was out of control. And they were like, well, I'm doing a great job. So they were totally over indexing on the customer. And they were doing a great job for the customer. But what they weren't recognizing is because you spend three times longer on each customer, that's two other customers that you could have helped.

Dan Smitley (35:49.015)

Absolutely. Right.

Dan Smitley (36:01.642)


Rob Dwyer (36:06.103)
that are just waiting, that are not going anywhere. And I don't think people think about it a lot, but you see this typically as you, is if you're in the BPO side and you talk to customers and they have very keen ideas about how long someone should wait on hold for instance, or what an abandon rate should be. And they're like, well, I don't want.

Dan Smitley (36:29.318)

Rob Dwyer (36:33.339)
a call ever to be abandoned. Like you should answer every call. And it's like, well, OK, we can do that. But the cost to you is going to be this, because the reality is I have to then over staff and have people sitting around doing nothing most of the time in order to ensure that we answer every single call. And that doesn't make sense, right? People don't want to actually pay for that when they learn the intricacies of.

Dan Smitley (36:42.081)

Dan Smitley (36:49.611)

Rob Dwyer (37:01.599)
of what that means. And so it's always this constant balancing act where, yeah, I want to have great service levels. I want to answer the calls. I don't want the speed of answer to be way high. But I also don't want to over index and have my agents either not have anything to do or be back to back all day long. There's just so much that goes into it.

Dan Smitley (37:17.454)

Dan Smitley (37:27.947)

Dan Smitley (37:31.486)
Absolutely. It is this challenging balancing act. And my challenge is to get to the WFM professionals and to help them see that it's all three. Right. I've seen in startup environments where they over index on the employee experience. They're like, yeah, come in when you want, do what you want. Right. Like we just care about the employee and that's wonderful. And then six months later, there's this massive layoff because they've just overspent so much.

on the labor that was unnecessary, right? And it's really a shame. It's really unfortunate. It's one of those like we could have avoided this had we just had the appropriate counterbalance, right? That third leg of the business need needed to be there in the startup. And then on the other side, we'll have these large organizations, massive organizations that are driven by the shareholder price and they're looking to get their EBITDA down and nothing against EBITDA, or get their EBITDA up. Nothing against it. It's a fine goal.

but you're again over indexing on the business need, maybe a little bit on the customer need, and the employee is just left out there with no one advocating for them, or at least very few. And so I talked to WFM professionals and they come from these different environments. And it's so interesting to me how often we only are looking at one or two of these kind of legs to the stool. And my challenge to them is to say, there's an appropriate third. We have to be considering this other piece.

You're a great startup. I love that you so focused on the culture. I love that you're so focused on your employees. And if you don't take better care of aligning your staff to the volume, they're not gonna have a job. And to the companies that are so focused on the bottom line, that's great. I love how profitable you're being and you're burning your people out. You're not gonna get the help you need. You need to focus a little bit more and invest some of that EBITDA back into the agents because they're...

they're churning and they're providing a horrible experience and your customer loyalty is gonna suffer. So for me, it's this, you're right, it's this challenging balancing act. And for me, I just wanna get every WFM manager and just be like, listen, there's more. You gotta constantly live in this tension. If you think you're just nailing it, you're probably taking your eye off the ball because there's some other thing that needs to be considered.

Rob Dwyer (39:45.471)

Rob Dwyer (39:54.047)
So then I guess one of the things that I think about is that it's very easy for us all to kind of get into a rut. We get comfortable and we start doing things. To your point, I'm nailing it and I'm just kind of letting things continue on. How often and what?

Dan Smitley (40:06.562)

Dan Smitley (40:18.766)

Rob Dwyer (40:21.123)
process do you recommend for people to kind of audit what they're doing and Reinspect and take stock So that maybe they change course a little

Dan Smitley (40:25.579)

Dan Smitley (40:36.97)
Got a couple different answers. So why do you feel like you're nailing it? What are you looking at? Well, the staff have kind of picked their schedules. They're happy. Volume's coming in, we're nailing volume, we're getting the EBITA that we need, we're getting the profitability that we need, business is happy. Great. Are you telling me in three months that those agents' lives aren't gonna change? That when you shift from springtime into summertime, the parents don't need something slightly different?

Right, so it depends, that audit, the frequency. I love quarterly. So especially when it comes to asking agents, I love a good quarterly pulse check. Is your schedule meeting your work-life balance? Yes, no. If you could create an ideal schedule, what would it look like? And then compare notes of saying, how are the ideals changing? What is it that they're looking for? How are people's work-life balances Is it impacted because, again, what's...

what's happening in the winter versus summer is dramatically different from what I need to feel fulfilled with my job and my family and my community. Forecasting, if I'm waiting quarterly, I'm in trouble. I mean, forecast in my perspective needs to be happening weekly. You need to be auditing your forecast weekly to say, is my 90 day view looking different? Is my 30 day looking different? Is my next seven days looking different? Constantly, constantly, constantly.

looking at that because the thing is you need as much kind of headway as much runway as possible to be able to make those adjustments. How do we need to move schedules around? Do we need a new training class? Do we need to start recruiting a whole new you know class to come in? So those things and then business they're not going to let you go very long probably before they let you know that we need to adjust this.

Depending upon the environment, right? If you're a startup and you've got a ton of VC money, maybe they don't come knocking, but I think most organizations, I would probably be meeting with finance at least monthly, probably. So maybe that's the cadence. From a customer perspective, weekly. From a business perspective, monthly. And then from an agent perspective, quarterly. And in all three of those, what I'm doing is looking, listening, and then making adjustments.

Rob Dwyer (42:56.063)
That's amazing advice and I think that's the perfect place for us to end our listening today and let people take away this. If you want to talk to Dan about workforce or anything else, the guy will talk to you about all kinds of things, not just workforce.

Rob Dwyer (43:22.396)
You're a huge LinkedIn user. Is that the best place for people to reach out to you?

Dan Smitley (43:26.734)
That is the best place. I'm literally on there Monday through Friday and a little bit on the weekends, but I post every single day Monday through Friday and love helping people network, connect, find opportunities, answer questions. So yeah, just follow me, Dan Smitley on LinkedIn and let me know how I can help.

Rob Dwyer (43:47.855)
Yeah, Dan, been such a pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much for taking the time to join and be on Next in Q.

Dan Smitley (43:56.47)
This was wonderful. Thanks so much, man. Appreciate you.

Rob Dwyer (43:59.533)