Workforce management has come a long way from its humble origins.
Beginning as little more than a punch clock and managerial expectations, it has evolved into a set of sophisticated business processes orchestrated to maximize contact center agent productivity.
Due to the variability in calls, chats, and service tickets, it’s a tall order for a contact center. But just as workplace expectations have evolved, so too have the technology and tools that make it all possible. The systems contact centers use to manage and optimize agent performance have advanced to enable the forecasting of customer demand, staffing and scheduling, and productivity management. In addition to these benefits, workforce management also helps contact centers lower operating costs and manage workloads to ensure an optimum agent and customer experience.
So, what is Workforce Management?
In the context of a contact center, workforce management is the art and science of having the right number of agents, at the right times, to answer an accurately forecasted volume of incoming calls, emails, and chats at the service level standard set by a contact center -- all while minimizing cost.
There are a number of triggers that signal the need for a WFM solution, which could occur at different points, depending on industry, growth rate and business model. Generally, contact center managers can anticipate deploying WFM software when forecasting contact volumes and scheduling agents around those forecasts becomes a complex task.
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When should your contact center implement Workforce Management?
When considering WFM software it's important to understand your business's goals for the following metrics to ensure your contact center is acting at the right time. If you answer yes to more than five of these items, the time is right to consider implementing WFM.
- Replace spreadsheets that have become too complex, time consuming, and prone to error
- Improve scheduling accuracy
- Reduce staffing costs
- Balance staffing with desired customer experience levels
- Monitor schedule adherence and occupancy
- Achieve service level goals, such as utilization rates and quality assurance scores
- Optimize agent performance and engagement
- Integrate with other business systems, such as QA platforms, CRMs, user management and reporting tools
Given the level of sophistication in today’s WFM solutions, these goals can be achieved with the right level of focus and vendor partnership.
Once a contact center leader has determined a WFM solution is needed, stakeholders need to be brought into the fold, including heads of business units, functional and operational leads, and other customer-facing leaders. With stakeholder collaboration and buy-in, a contact center can more easily avoid hurdles that might otherwise hobble a WFM deployment.
Deploying WFM can feel like a major change, no matter how beneficial the expected outcome. Keep in mind that a contact center can deploy modules over time and not do everything at once. This helps to ensure that every module, once implemented, will have the intended benefit along with full agent adoption.
For a contact center to deploy the desired solution efficiently and effectively, ensure that you have the right resources lined up ahead of time. Your vendor is in an excellent position to help guide you through this.
As WFM continues to evolve, these are a few tips contact center managers, QA analysts and agents need to keep in mind:
- Integration and visibility are key - this enables accurate forecasting and scheduling as hybrid workforces become the norm.
- It’s not one-for-one - when volume, demand or business priorities shift, several other priorities come into play. In this context, it’s especially important to understand growth and decline rates based on seasonality, promotions, and the like.
- Concurrency becomes a bigger factor - modern WFM systems enable agents to handle multiple contacts at the same time, especially via chat, email and social. As these channels become more heavily used by customers, staffing and scheduling become areas of focus and re-evaluation.
A natural extension of these tips is an expanded view of managing volume. This means contact centers need to use analytics from their CRM and WFM systems to uncover opportunities for additional optimization.