The requirement to provide a better customer experience while improving agent productivity and controlling costs is paramount in contact centers in the best of times. During a recession, it could be the difference between survival and failure.
Workforce management (WFM) continues to be one of the most important contact center agent productivity tools. By optimizing the use of the new generation of WFM solutions, contact centers can reduce staff-related costs by 10-20% and improve contact center agent productivity. The best part: You can do this with minimal impact on service levels and the customer experience.
Sounds too good to be true? Read on to learn more about WFM software, why and how it’s beneficial, and, most importantly, ways you can leverage it to improve your contact center agent productivity.
What Is Workforce Management (and WFM Software)?
In the context of contact centers, workforce management refers to the strategies, processes, technologies, and metrics used to track and optimize agent or employee efficiency. Simply stated, it is having the right people in the right place at the right time—along with the right skills.
There is both a science and an art to making sure you have the right number and types of agents available at the right time to deliver outstanding customer experience (CX). This is carefully balanced with gaining the maximum efficiencies and controlling labor and other costs in your contact center.
This delicate balance can be achieved by setting workforce management goals and putting in place WFM strategies, best practices, and metrics for measurement. And by leveraging WFM software, organizations can streamline and automate the processes that manage employees’ time, organize and deploy their labor force efficiently and effectively, enable employee and manager self-service, and maximize contact center agent productivity.
Related Content: Migrating WFM Excel Spreadsheets to a Modern WFM
Why WFM Software?
Gone are the days of managing unwieldy spreadsheets to maintain employee schedules and hours allocations and track agent productivity. A modern contact center or customer service organization needs to leverage WFM software and AI-powered automation to:
- Meet strategic business goals and objectives
- Engage agents with flexible scheduling
- Improve performance and experience with in-the-moment KPIs
- Automatically schedule staff to meet forecasted demand
- Offer better customer interactions, using historical and most recent information
- Accurately forecast and support staff across an omnichannel business
- Manage intraday staffing needs with real-time insights
Benefits Of WFM Software
Technology is only as good as the planning and processes that are built into it, and WFM contact center software is no different. A good starting point when leveraging WFM is to make sure your contact or call center has solid strategies and processes in place for measuring and improving agent performance.
Strategies for improving agent productivity include:
- Find innovative ways to motivate and reward employees.
- Ensure well-oiled communication channels are in place.
- Facilitate a team environment, where customer service agents can trust, help, and support each other in addition to being nurtured by their managers.
- Make sure your contact center agents have the right skills and knowledge to adequately do their jobs.
- Offer opportunities for personal growth and professional development.
When you use workforce management software, you can gain invaluable insight into your employees’ work habits, your distribution of labor, and other key metrics to gauge and help improve contact center agent performance. Doing so leads to:
- Reduction in agent churn and attrition
- Lower operational costs
- Better customer service and experience
What Is Contact Center Agent Productivity?
Productivity is measured by how much time is spent servicing customers compared to an agent’s scheduled hours.
It is a standard best practice to have agents spend the large majority of their time with direct customer contact and problem resolution and little time on administrative tasks and after-call work. Agent productivity is also a function of how quickly agents can resolve customer problems and move on to their next customer interaction. This metric can vary by industry and also depends on the technical nature of the customer service interaction.
WFM software helps improve agent productivity by providing real-time visibility into how much time is being spent with customers during each given shift, easily integrating with omnichannel support options, and offering more engagement opportunities.
Related Article: Unlocking Productivity: Introduction To Workforce Management
How To Calculate Agent Productivity
Some call center experts suggest using a weighted approach to calculate agent productivity based on:
- Adherence to schedule
- Average Handling Time (AHT)
- Auxiliary or down time (AUX)
- Service level
Weighting will vary from organization to organization based on industry norms and organizational priorities, but it’s a more useful approach when measuring agent productivity versus call center operational efficiencies. This weighted formula also takes into account any service-level-based contact including phone, chat, etc.
Here’s a deeper dive into the key metrics that may be used to measure agent performance.
8 Key Metrics For Measuring Agent Performance
Whether your call center is made up of in-person, fully remote, or hybrid agents, happy customer service agents and great employee experience (EX) yield satisfied customers. Understanding what key productivity metrics are important when measuring team performance and individual agent performance comes first — then you can employ strategies to boost agent productivity.
Active Waiting Calls – This call center agent performance metric shows how well agents and teams manage call volumes and provides insight into the number of phone calls agents handle vs. those on hold. A high number of calls on hold causes agent stress and can lead to poor customer experience.
Agent Utilization Rate – The percentage of time that contact center agents spend in active contact handling versus in an idle or available state.
Availability Rate – The proportion of time an agent is actively ready to work with customers but not engaged directly with a customer, sometimes referred to as idle time or available time.
Average Handle Time (AHT) – The Average Handling Time metric is the average duration of an entire customer contact interaction from the time the customer initiates it until that interaction is complete. For synchronous contacts, this includes hold times, transfers, and after-call work. For example, to calculate Average Handle Time for calls, add total talk time, total hold time, and after-call work time, then divide that number by the total number of customer calls.
Average Speed of Answer – The average amount of time or response time it takes agents to answer inbound customer interactions once they appear in the contact center queue.
Average Talk Time – The amount of time a contact center agent spends handling customer calls and resolving queries, not to be confused with Average Handle Time, which is longer in duration.
First Contact Resolution – A case in which a customer’s question is answered or a problem is solved during the initial interaction so that no follow-up contacts are necessary.
Schedule Adherence – The amount of time an agent works that coincides with the time period they are scheduled to work, sometimes simply called adherence. The time considered in adherence includes on-queue time, off-queue work, and activities such as meetings and training.
Total Resolution Time – Total Resolution Time measures the average length of time it takes for support agents to resolve a customer issue.
Transfer Rate – The percentage of customer calls transferred or routed to another team member, department, or queue to be completed or resolved.
Wrap-Up Time – The time required by an agent after a conversation is ended to complete work that is directly associated with the contact just completed.
Ways To Improve Agent Productivity With WFM
The benefits of boosting agent productivity are well-known—reduce turnover, better customer satisfaction, etc. Organizations that leverage WFM to improve agent productivity are gaining a competitive advantage, which is especially helpful during tricky economic times.
Avoid Agent Burnout With Proper Staffing
In 2022, the average agent turnover rate climbed as high as 30% for large customer service organizations. With the cost to replace an agent averaging more than $14,000, you can’t afford to stay stuck in this cycle. WFM software can help.
Burnout is real in contact center environments, especially as CX leaders and contact center agents continue to navigate remote, on-premises, and hybrid work environments. In addition to creating turnover issues, burnout can also prompt interaction avoidance and quiet quitting.
That means burnout has direct effects on CX and efficiency. Contact center managers who prioritize technology solutions with AI insights will quickly see benefits to agent performance and CX through more accurate schedules, more visibility to real-time metrics, and more insight into the channel preferences needed for optimal staffing.
Related Content: How to Manage Contact Center Costs by Getting Staffing Right
Motivate And Engage Your Agents
Whether your agents are in a call center, remote, or hybrid, motivating and engaging employees is critical to boost agent retention and ultimately deliver outstanding customer support. Some WFM solutions have gamification and other engagement tactics built in.
Recognize agents with badges and leaderboards to build collaboration and promote higher employee satisfaction. Award points for various activities such as community posts, signing evaluations, and more, along with creating a virtual water cooler where agents can chat regardless of their location.
Related Article: 5 Strategies For Increasing Contact Center Performance
Without blurring the line between supervisor and employee, contact center leaders should get to know agents on a personal level. Understand their professional goals, their personal aspirations, and what motivates them.
Take the time to know your team members individually. Show them you care and that you’re there should they need anything. No one wants to work for a boss who only meets their employees for the first time because they did something wrong.
Let your agents know that they are important. Deliver positive feedback often. Share customer feedback. What’s important to them outside of work — like family, pets, hobbies, or even their favorite sports teams? Noticing the little things can go a long way. Take note of their birthdays and recognize their achievements. Handwritten notes on an agent’s monitor or keyboard can also go a long way toward motivating agent performance and building a friendship.
Strong relationships build up influence that will give you the power to manage and achieve objectives more effectively.
Connect Learning With Coaching
Closed-loop agent performance coaching is important. Help your team deliver consistently positive customer experiences by providing a seamless, closed-loop coaching process. Translate evaluation results into learning and agent training plans, easily schedule learning during off-peak hours, and monitor completion rates to streamline the coaching process.
Remember to include soft skills when providing learning and coaching to customer service agents.
Scale Your Knowledge Base
Develop and enhance your knowledge base and resources available to multichannel agents to help them better alleviate customer questions and challenges. Rather than have agents sift through reams of documents and sources of information, build a robust, centralized knowledge library. Having information easily available helps:
- Deliver faster, more accurate customer resolution
- Reduce search time
- Improve agent efficiency
- Build library for omnichannel CX
Related Article: Effective Time Management Techniques for Contact Center Agents
Solicit Agent Feedback
Your customer service teams are your eyes and ears on the front line with customers. Encourage your agents to provide feedback on what improvements could be made in workflows, technology, and processes and share those with management.
Being open to feedback from your team members on the front lines can motivate those employees to improve their performance and encourage those who are already doing a good job.
Reduce Post-Call Work
As discussed above, agent productivity is optimized by reducing the amount of time spent on administrative tasks, which detracts from their customer-facing time. Automate and reduce the amount of non-call-support and post-call work for agents, such as logging and reporting. Investments in technology solutions, including those integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) software can help with this automation.
Let Your WFM Software Do The Heavy Lifting
High-performing agents and employees feel motivated and inspired to do their jobs and deliver the ultimate prize of providing better customer experience, which contributes to business growth. This also translates to lower agent attrition, reduced operational costs, and better overall contact center productivity. To learn more, download our eBook Focus on Agent Retention in Tight Times.
Having the right contact center software in place is a powerful enabler to improve agent productivity. But equally important are having the strategies, processes, best practices, and metrics that go along with WFM software.
Request a demo today to see how the Playvox digital-first, culture-forward, and 100% cloud-based workforce management solution can improve agent productivity in your contact center.