I was reading an article in the Huffington Post about misheard song lyrics and, in a roundabout way, brought to mind the challenges WFM and operations partners face while communicating with each other. I don’t know how many times I have seen frustration on a colleague’s face when trying to express, “Hold me closer tiny dancer” but what was registered was, “Hold me closer Tony Danza” (metaphorically, of course).
From a WFM perspective, we invest a great deal of effort in analyzing trends, influences and behaviors when trying to forecast the course of our business. However, we don’t always take the time to develop a story that conveys the importance of our analysis. Let’s look at the following messages, describing the same data set:
WFM Message 1: Last week we were ~3 percent below total forecast, with ~35 percent STDEV. We anticipated a total of 5,818 calls and received 5,640.
WFM Message 2: We need to re-evaluate our intra-week call volume distribution model. While our weekly total was 97 percent of the forecast, each of our weekdays were grossly misrepresented. Saturday and Sunday, we saw less than 50 percent of our anticipated volume. Moreover, each of our weekdays delivered ~18 percent more volume than planned. The OPEX impact, due to this misalignment, is estimated to be equivalent to 3.5 FTE or slightly less than $158k annually. If we move two or three agents from weekend shifts, we should be able to increase our occupancy rate on Saturdays and Sundays to an acceptable level and meet service levels (SL) Monday – Friday, without significant OT expense.
Of course, the data points are important; operations partners often request reports under various names – e.g. Post Mortems, Triage, State of the Business – but as WFM professionals, we need to sharpen our communication skills, not our pencils.
Here are some key pointers to keep in mind when delivering the findings of your analysis:
- Tell a story: data points should support the message you communicate, not be the message.
- Deliver “So what”: our partners need to know why the data points you’re referencing are important. No one will get too excited when the fuel gauge points to empty, unless they understand the consequences of continuing down the road without taking action.
- Provide partners with choices: offer analyses of alternative “what if” scenarios. Our partners get much more value from us when we position ourselves as advisors, giving options to the pros and cons of each, along with insights.
- Check for understanding – ask questions to ensure you and your partners are on the same page.
If we want our partners to “Rock the Casbah” and not make a mess of the cat litter (Rock the Cat Box), we need to sing clearly. Please share your tips for better communication.