Until 2001, Frederick's of Hollywood outsourced its call center operations. When the company decided to bring the work in-house as a cost-saving measure, executives quickly discovered that creating and managing agent schedules was not a job for the faint of heart. Soon it was taking 80 hours to generate a quarterly work schedule for the 80 agents who were then handling catalog and website orders at Frederick's Phoenix headquarters.
Then in March 2002, Frederick's adopted a solution that is as easy on supervisors and the company's bottom line as its come-hither lingerie is on the eyes. With Pipkins' WorkforceScheduling.com online subscription service, the same quarterly work schedule can be produced in just one hour, agents can view and manage their schedules online without bothering supervisors, and Frederick's has no in-house workforce management system to install or maintain.
"The Internet model offered us instant deployment, no upfront investment, and no technology requirements except Internet access," says Clay Myers, contact center support supervisor. "We don't have the resources or the technical staff to manage a system like this ourselves, so the fact that we can get a full-featured solution without having to pay the usual freight is a major advantage."
Online offshoot: WorkforceScheduling.com is the Internet equivalent of Pipkins' Vantage Point workforce management software, an 18-year work in progress that has won a pile of awards for its sophisticated workforce scheduling algorithm and wide range of advanced features. The online service — designed for call centers or outsourced teams with 100 agents or fewer — provides Vantage Point's full database, forecasting, scheduling and reporting functionality over the Web.
As an added advantage, an optional agent Web portal allows agents to view their schedules, request modifications or vacations, sign up for overtime, exchange schedules with other agents, and report absences online. Supervisors can approve requests and record exceptions with a click, freeing them from the need to field scheduling-related phone calls and make changes manually.
For Frederick's, the agent-self-help functions of the portal alone are eliminating hours of supervisor overhead every week.
Operational assistance: Beyond the considerable time savings involved in building schedules and interfacing with agents, WorkforceScheduling.com has also increased Frederick's scheduling accuracy, eased the process of adding staff as the call center has grown to 100 agents, and made it easy to handle complicated scheduling issues such as integrating e-mail order handling into the mix.
The system also spurred a major expansion in call center hours by enabling Myers to calculate "what-if" scenarios that proved the extra hours could be added without adding staff, partly by changing lunch breaks from 30 minutes to one hour. As a result, the Frederick's call center is now open from 4 a.m. to midnight seven days a week — 39 hours more than before.
Pay by the month: Frederick's is enjoying all of these benefits and more for just $20 per month per agent, plus nominal fees based on the number of supervisors.
"We looked at 15 different vendors, and Pipkins' subscription service was not only the right price but also had a lot more to offer us, particularly with the agent portal," says Mark Riedel, Frederick's Vice President of Operations. "Frederick's has been in bankruptcy and cash is at a premium, and we feel we got a Cadillac for the price of a Hyundai."
Apples and oranges: What separates WorkforceScheduling.com from other hosted workforce management solutions is the comprehensiveness of the service. Most hosted systems lack an agent Web portal, requiring agents to call in for schedules and changes and thereby removing the time advantage of making those functions self-serve. Services that have portals typically lack advanced Pipkins' capabilities such as skill-based routing and the ability to fine-tune call volume forecasts for special events such as mail drops through historical trend analysis.
Also missing from some services is WorkforceScheduling.com's ability to provide a full complement of reports and integrate with leading ACDs, e-mail response systems and other multimedia queuing devices for data collection across multiple call center sites and time zones.
For Frederick's, it has been a perfect match — just like pairing the right teddy or bustier with the right customer.