What is Workforce Management and When Should Your Contact Center Implement It?
For anyone asking, “What is workforce management?” there’s never been a better time to understand—and turn up—its power to transform and optimize your business.
Workforce management is the critical link between today’s top-performing contact centers and thriving brands—across every industry. And it’s increasingly top-of-mind for customer experience leaders who want to help reduce costs and optimize processes.
So, how do you leverage effective workforce management to optimize your customer service team and meet the strategic goals of your organization? Here’s a smart approach to getting started:
- Clarify and communicate—organization-wide—the benefits
- Understand how to better schedule staff across channels
- More accurately forecast labor requirements directly affecting important business metrics—from customer experience to employee engagement to staff turnover
- Learn and implement practical ways to quickly deliver the potential benefits
What Is Workforce Management?
In the context of a customer service center, workforce management means having the right number of employees at the right time, with the right skills. Sounds straightforward and simple, right?
But, in fact (and in practice) there’s a lot to it. It takes striking a finely tuned balance—part art and part science—to consistently maintain the dedicated team needed to adequately support your customers on the channels they prefer, while staying within the (growing) constraints of shrinking labor budgets. Getting the balance right means optimizing staff productivity and team performance without sacrificing—even improving—the customer experience.
It’s no small feat, and it’s one that today’s top customer support center leaders know well.
An effective strategy and execution requires an accurate forecast of the volume of incoming customer demand across channels—calls, email, and chats—to ensure positive experience with every contact center agent interaction. It requires controlling and minimizing labor cost to support daily operations and deliver a level of service that keeps your customers loyal.
For customer support department heads, workforce management is a monumental undertaking, and it has far-reaching effects on the entire business because it directly contributes to organizational-wide business performance. It is the essential and direct link from the CX center to an organization’s bottom line.
Breaking Down The Key Functions
While it may seem like a lot to take on, workforce management is essentially just a matter of assigning employees with the right skills to the right jobs—at the right time—to meet demand. Here are the key functions necessary for a smooth process:
- Capacity planning
- Contact volume forecasting
- Staff scheduling
- Intraday management
Effective, comprehensive processes and systems have come a long way from their humble origins of rudimentary attendance tracking and manual scheduling that was based on simple spreadsheets and unscientific forecasting. Although it began as little more than time clocks and management projections of needed staffing levels, modern workforce management solutions have evolved into a set of streamlined processes—powerfully fueled by a wide range of sophisticated technology, including advanced AI developed to maximize customer service agent productivity.
How Do I Know If My Contact Center Needs A Workforce Management Solution?
For customer service team leaders trying to meet SLAs while still managing Great Resignation labor shortages that continue to negatively affect their current workforce—consistent gaps in coverage, for example—workforce management can help.
One major benefit is using data to help forecast staff across channels more accurately, which has a very direct, positive impact on organizations’ two most valuable assets: employees and customer base.
If you’re tracking and want to improve any (or all) of the following performance metrics, then you should seriously consider implementation of workforce management for your support center:
- Team productivity
- Employee performance
- Team morale
- Idle time
- Labor standards
- Cost efficiency
- Customer experience
Related Article: 12 Signs Your Contact Center Needs A WEM Solution
Workforce management is tied to specific organization-wide metrics affecting not only the customer support center’s productivity, but overall business productivity. And right now, it’s more important and more challenging than ever for workforce managers to optimize their resources to meet and exceed their goals for these metrics.
If this sounds familiar, workforce management is right for you.
Fortunately, just as expectations have evolved, so have software solutions and systems that help improve workforce productivity. In contact centers, the workforce management systems that optimize customer service employee productivity have become highly advanced. They now power demand forecasting that allows managers to better project employee scheduling needs, as well as labor costs to improve productivity. Today’s workforce management systems also help customer support centers lower operating costs and balance workload to ensure both optimal employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. If you need help in these areas, you need a workforce management solution.
When Should My Contact Center Implement Workforce Management?
There are a number of triggers that signal the need. Timing depends on industry trends, market demands, and your organization’s business model and goals. Generally, contact center managers can expect to quickly generate specific workforce management benefits related to forecasting contact volumes and scheduling contact center agents at the point when forecasting becomes too complex for spreadsheets, particularly when adding channels.
If you’re providing support through more than one communication channel, such as email and chat, you should consider a tool to help. Once you have evolved and grown your channels, using Excel to manage and staff those channel channels becomes increasingly difficult— and far less accurate.
Much of the complexity comes from the variability of the entire process, including fluctuating volume from all contact types, unpredictable employee turnover, and ever-evolving mobile demands. As customer service department leaders work to improve internal processes and tame complexity to achieve common goals, it’s a tall order to address the needs of all key stakeholders, including a multi-generational workforce and customer base.
Today’s customer service managers are simultaneously balancing operational costs, daily performance, and team morale. These are all areas in which workforce management solutions can help ease the challenges.
Related Article: The Human Side of Workforce Management
How Do I Choose The Right Solution?
When considering workforce management software, it’s important to understand your organizational goals for key metrics to ensure your contact center is moving forward with a solution at the right time, and with the right technology partner.
If at least five of the following goals apply to you, the time is right to consider adoption.
- Replace spreadsheets for employee scheduling because they’ve become too complex, time-consuming, and prone to error
- Improve forecasting accuracy
- Reduce staffing costs
- Balance staffing with desired customer experience expectations
- Monitor real-time metrics, like schedule adherence and occupancy, to adjust staffing and manage costs
- Achieve service-level goals, such as utilization rates and quality assurance scores
- Optimize agent performance and engagement for happier employees
- Integrate with other business systems, such as QA platforms, CRMs, user management and reporting tools
Given the level of sophistication in today’s solutions, all these goals can be achieved with the right level of focus and the right partner vendor.
Related Article: WFM from A to Z: Must-Know Contact Center Terms
How Do We Optimize Results?
Once a contact center leader has determined a workforce management solution is needed, key stakeholders should be brought into the fold, including heads of business units, functional and operational executives, and other customer-facing leaders. With key stakeholder collaboration and buy-in, a customer support center can more easily avoid hurdles that might otherwise challenge adoption.
Related Article: The 10 Best Call Center Metrics To Measure Agent Productivity.
Deployment can feel like a major change, no matter how beneficial the expected outcome. Remember, though, that you can deploy modules over time. This helps to ensure that every module, once implemented, has the intended benefit, along with full contact center agent adoption.
To deploy the desired solution efficiently and effectively, ensure that you have the right resources lined up in advance. The right vendor partner will help guide you through this.
Top Three Optimization Tips
As workforce management continues to evolve, customer experience leaders, managers of contact center agents, QA analysts, and agents themselves can optimize the results of their efforts by considering the following:
- Integration and visibility are key. Accurate forecasting and scheduling, especially with hybrid workforces, require consistency and effective communication. Ensure your teams understand the approach so they can adapt to the need for flexibility. But constantly encourage their feedback and provide them with some influence on their schedules where possible.
- It’s not one-for-one. When volume, demand, or business priorities shift, many other priorities come into play. That’s why it’s important to understand growth and decline rates are based on seasonality, promotions, and other variables. In many cases, you will have many levers to move and manage at once to achieve desired results.
- Concurrency becomes a bigger factor. Modern software solutions enable agents to handle multiple contacts at the same time, especially via chat and social channels. As these channels become more frequently used by customers, and as usage fluctuates, there will be significant effects on staffing and scheduling. Your focus and near-constant re-evaluation should be the normal course of operations.
The Importance of Data
When followed, a natural extension of these tips is an expanded view for managing volume. This means customer support center leaders must turn to integrated, comprehensive data, analytics, and reporting from all systems used in the support center, including your CRM. Smart integration will uncover opportunities for further optimization.
Using the data means adapting in real-time. You’ll likely have to adjust your assumptions—even re-evaluate SLA expectations—based on the most current data available. The quickest way to do that is with Workforce Management and Quality Management solutions that aggregate and report on changes in real-time, empowering planners to adjust accordingly to optimize performance, and measure your customer experience
The most sophisticated and effective workforce management tools aggregate critical data, make it available through a shared console, and even have the intelligence to offer recommendations for effective shifts and responses.
How Can Playvox Help?
Modern, highly tuned workforce management tools and processes are a boon for workforce productivity and operational efficiencies, with customer experience the big winner. With the necessary know-how and the right technology partner, the benefits of workforce management start in your contact center and have lasting business impact throughout your organization. See the powerful effects firsthand by requesting a Playvox demo today.