From WFM to WEM: How to Enable Better Service with Aarde Cosseboom
Vanessa Gates 00:13
Hey everyone, welcome back to masters of support. I am your host, Vanessa Gates. And today I have with me, Aarde Cosseboom. He is customer experience thought leader and author. Aarde, thank you so much for being here with me today and welcome.
Aarde Cosseboom 00:28
Yeah, thank you, Vanessa. And thank you Playvox for helping put this all together. Really excited for the discussion today. I’m looking forward to talking to you a little bit more.
Vanessa Gates 00:40
Yes, for sure. So Aarde, I don’t know if you’ve heard some of our other episodes, but I always love to start with an icebreaker. And recently, I read your book, Enable Better Service. And in this book, you talk about kind of your unconventional journey into the CX industry want to go ahead and just give us the Cliff Notes of of how you got here.
Aarde Cosseboom 01:06
Yeah, it’s a, you know, a very, very short 380 Pages book, I like to tell people, it is the world’s heaviest business card. But essentially, over the last 20 years, over the last two decades, I’ve been in the customer experience customer service industry. And I’ve done everything from answering phone calls to leading teams as a team lead as a manager, Senior Manager, working my way all the way up into that kind of senior leadership roles, senior director at the VP level, making decisions for what used to be a small organization that turned into a growing huge organization. So a lot of experience in the customer service, customer experience space, I’ve seen and done and had been hands on with a lot of the customer inbound type conversations and a little bit of the customer outbound conversations like account management, or CSMs. as well. In my experience, I focus heavily on people process, and of course, technology or what we call product. So in my book, every chapter has kind of a whimsical theme. It’s kind of fun, I open it up with very light, fun, conversational aspects and things that are fun to talk through. And then it goes a little bit heavier at the end of the chapter of each chapter talks a little bit more about business and hands on and what I’ve learned and what I’ve seen in the industry over the last two decades, so. So yeah, thank you for the icebreaker. Of course, I could dive farther into my experience and what brought me into the customer experience world. But looking forward to the conversation today. And I know we’re going to deep dive into WFM, WEM, which I highlighted in my book as well in a couple of specific chapters. But looking forward to the conversation.
Vanessa Gates 03:11
Yes, me too. Thank you for sharing the cliffnotes of your journey into the CX industry. So today, like you just mentioned, we’re gonna be talking about taking care of your employees and delivering a great customer experience with WFM or WEM, I should say. So we’ll get right into it Aarde. Let’s go ahead and talk about kind of the evolution of WFM to WEM, you know, many that have been in the industry for a while we’ll know it as WFM. WEM may be a little new to some. So let’s talk about that.
Aarde Cosseboom 03:44
Yeah, absolutely. So customer service and contact centers were notorious for acronyms. And specifically, like three letter acronyms are really good at like CRM, IVR, ACD, all these ones that are super complex and don’t really have meaningful use cases anymore, because they’re just old, archaic, and they’re, they come from, you know, even pre computer days, you know, like an IVR and ACD, or even CRM, but WFM and WEM, this is near and dear to my heart. I talk a little bit about it in my book. And at the end of my book, The best of the best, I keep plugging my book, but the best part of my book is actually the part that I did not write. And it’s the appendix at the end, which has a definition of all of these acronyms for contact center. So if you do have a copy of my book, or if you want a copy of my book, feel free to reach out to us and we’ll supply you with those links. But at the end, it tells you it defines what is WFM or what is CRM. So today we’ll talk about WFM that, em traditionally back in the day, and when I say back in the day, I’m dating my Self about we’ll say 15 years ago, the industry really didn’t have WEM, or workforce engagement management. It was WFM, which is workforce management. And WFM was essentially something that’s very basic. It’s, I have X amount of calls or chats or emails or whatever. And I have X amount of humans. When should I schedule those humans so that they can be the most productive? To answer the varying number of phone calls, chats and emails that come in. And then there’s all sorts of mathematical equations that can use Erlang C is one, you don’t have to google that because all the tools out there today have that all built in. But essentially, it says, Okay, well, if there’s X amount of people calling this time, and calls, on average, take this amount of time, you need X amount of humans. And then don’t forget that those humans need to take bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, they they’re not robots. So factor that time allotment in so that you’re not over occupying their time. So they’re not literally talking on a phone call for an eight hour time period in a day. They have those natural natural breaks, they have the ability to take what’s called after call work. And then also make sure that they’re not wasting their time in those breaks and after color. So it’s all about productivity and measurement. So that’s WFM. I want to touch a little bit on WEM and how it’s evolved. W e m, is a little bit more advanced than WFM and encompasses WFM. So all that scheduling and mathematics and making sure that employees and team members are aren’t overworked or underworked is also wrapped into WEM, which also does things like speech analytics, tools like agent Assist, which, when an agent’s on a chat or call or email, it can feed them information to make their productivity better, so that they don’t have to know everything off the top of their head. They can just be a generalist and sort of a specialist. And then when a specific topic comes up, AI and speech analytics can pull that content up for them. Also speech analytics to tell whether or not if the customer is has high level sentiment or low, so happy, sad, frustrated. Same on the agent side, also can be used for compliance. So did the agent ask questions that they shouldn’t be asking? Or did the agents perform the tasks that they needed to perform an email or the chat or over the phone call? So I’ll pause there, there’s a ton of information around that. But a huge evolution between WFM and what we call we am today and I’m excited to drill in doing maybe tell some stories as well,
Vanessa Gates 08:17
For sure. Thank you for giving us kind of that quick evolution from the workforce management to the workforce engagement management. Funny, I have not gotten to the end of your book. So while you mentioning the glossary the appendix that I like, went to it and then reading for someone like myself who was new to the industry. When I came on to Playvox, I studied our glossary that is on our playbooks.com website, like I was going to apply and take the bar exam. Like you said, it is just so many acronyms and just so many things that I had to learn. And it’s funny because it’s like as I am on this podcast, and when the wonderful hostess kind of just fast track all these acronyms, and I’m like, feel all smart now because I know them all. Well, most of them. Don’t. Don’t give me a test though that will be a little pressured. But yeah, so very, very good that you highlight that because I am going to review them and see if there’s something that I have missed from Playvox’s website. So, you know, I mentioned in the beginning of the of the actual podcast that you know, we’re going to be talking about specifically like the taking care of employees part with this WFM solution or WEM solution. So, you know, the dreadful 2020 You know, we keep talking about this pandemic and how it’s fasttrack many things especially in industry and it has changed the way of work etc, etc. Let’s kind of talk about how the importance of utilizing this technology and leaning on it. You know why it’s been more crucial than ever now that a lot of our agents are working from home or many contact centers or in a hybrid Model.
Aarde Cosseboom 10:01
Yeah, I love this topic. And yeah, to touch on what you just mentioned about getting a master’s degree. I’ll touch on that a little bit first, and then I’ll bleed into the, where we are due to COVID. And the pandemic and work from home agents. You know, when when people start out in the call center industry, whether that is as a frontline agent, or in leadership, or maybe they’re on a workforce management team already, or maybe they just inherited, so maybe their senior director or a VP that inherited a call center or contact center, no one really goes to school and says, Oh, I want to major in call centers. There’s no like, degree for that there’s maybe like a business degree. And it’s kind of close or business communications is kind of close. But no one has curriculum, or at least not in a formal setting. Not yet. And they’re starting the universities are starting to do this. And I’m one of the guest professors at the university that I live close to here in Southern California. And we’re trying to bleed into business communications. But but no one really has a set formal curriculum for this area. And I would argue that WFM and WEM is probably one of the more advanced niche pieces of the contact center that if you don’t get rights, the whole thing can fall apart, it’s a house of cards, they’ll foundational fall apart, because you just don’t understand whether or not your agents are productive, or you have the right amount of team members or agents, you don’t know if you have the right channels. So phone, chat, email, and social. And you may not know exactly how the team individuals are performing, and how your customers measuring how your customers are reacting to the performance of your team. So it’s extremely important and crucial. And this is pre pandemic, when the pandemic hit, and it forced a lot of our businesses to go to the work from home agent model. It made it even harder for teams that didn’t have a very strong WEM practice or tool set or framework to be able to make sure that my work from home agents are signing out on and on time productive. They’re not overworked and underworked. They’re getting the right education in real time. So that’s kind of an agent assist environment. So they’re getting fed the right information. Pre pandemic, when you had call centers will say a team of 20 people in a room that would go into the office, can you park the car in the parking lot walk in not only what they have a sense of community and with their their co workers. But also when they had a problem when there’s a new hire that first day on the phones. And they have no idea how to answer this customer’s problem. They can literally just raise their hand. And then the team lead comes over and says, Hey, put them on mute. What can I help you with? Oh, it’s this? And just quick answer. quick, simple. And you get that face to face in person, when now fast forward to a new hire, starting in the pandemic and working from home. That raising of the hand isn’t as easy. They have to use tools and technology to digitally raise their hand. And then hopefully someone can see it digitally. They can use like Slack or teams or whatever that is, or even through the web em product itself. And hopefully someone can pick that up and then quickly message them or give them a quick note of this is how I’d answer that problem. So in this work from home environment, w e, workforce engagement tools is even more important than it was before when we had in person brick and mortar contact centers for multiple different reasons. Another kind of call out here is agents that work from home feel like their work. They’re like a one man army. They don’t see they can’t look around the room and say, oh, there’s 1000 other people doing my work so I can take a natural break. Because there’s other people here to get it. They’ll they’ll help me out and let me go on break. When they’re working from home in a physical office, in their home office or in their kitchen. They may overwork themselves because they don’t really see the presence of the rest of the organization and team that can help out so they’re going to try to you know, hit the home run every time. Try to be on time try to So we’ve seen a lot of productivity go up and Spike, because people are working with blinders on at home. And they have no idea that there are other people out on the team that can help them support them. So it’s extremely important to use WFM and WEM tools to help agents so that they’re not overworked in this environment as well.
Vanessa Gates 15:24
It’s a good analogy that you mentioned that overwork, I think some of us sometimes get in that trap. I know speaking for myself, it’s so easy to work through a lunch break. It’s so easy to just be on my desk. It’s convenient, I’m here. And we end up working way more than you know, what is expected from us. So that kind of segues to my next question about employee engagement and morale, you know, what are some Can you share maybe a story, how they’ve increased, that you’ve seen other organizations have increased, you know, engagement and morale in this new era that we’re in utilizing these tools?
Aarde Cosseboom 16:06
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I’ve got a bunch of stories. So I’ll just, I’m a storyteller. Obviously, I’ve wrote a book. So a book is just a collection of chapters, which is a collection of stories. So I’ll go on forever with stories. But yeah, the work from home environment is a lot harder than the the work in office environment. And there’s pros and cons to both. So I know that some of the people listening, maybe they’ve already brought the contact center back in house full time. Maybe they’re in a hybrid model, where it’s some days at home, and some days not. There’s benefits to both, there’s also individual agents. And this is kind of touching on your question a little bit, the agent experience, some agents Excel and perform better in certain environments. So there are individuals that have the same exact roles, and are skilled at the same level. But one individual may be way better at an in Office experience. And one person may be way better at an at home experience. And that’s just more personality types. That’s just how employees are and how they react to those types of environments. Some people working from home, it’s the most stressful thing in the world, because right beyond that door, sometimes not even beyond that door, when they’re working in their living room or their kitchen. It’s the Oh, I gotta do the dishes, Oh, I gotta take out the trash, oh, I got to do the laundry. All those type of monkeys on your back, we like to call them while still doing your jobs, you’ve always got that kind of thing looming over your shoulder that can maybe distract you enough so that you’re not productive. And then vice versa. When you’re in the office, for some people who like to be a little bit more fenced off, and like to work from home, if they’re forced to go into the office, they may have the distractions of the watercooler talk, you know, like that friend that you kind of know, that’s a word friend, but like, there’s three pods process like, Oh, they got a they got a little break, You’re stalling a call, like they make him come over and write me a little post it note and distract you. And that may not be productive or conducive for that person to be the best employee or have the best employee experience while they’re working as well. So think about that, as you’re putting together more of your policies. One of the stories I like to tell and this is a story about a company and won’t say the company, but they were a contact center in the Portland Seattle area. So North West Coast of the US, they had a pretty large contact center. And this is pre COVID. They ran out of physical contact center seats, and they didn’t want to do shared seats. They didn’t want to do cram more seats in the physical building. But they had to expand in number of contact center reps or agents. So what they did was they kept hiring, of course, but they allowed people to work from home. And it was wasn’t like a voluntary like, okay, seniority wise, the more senior people can work from home now it’s a privilege. And it wasn’t a all new hires have to work from home because we just don’t have enough space in the office wasn’t like that. And that was actually done by choice and they incentivized it or made it into a game so gamification, they basically said for every employee that works in the office, if you come into the office, you get paid an extra 25 cents or $1 depending on what your role is per hour. You made more money if you came into the office and did the exact same job than working from home. So then they put a signup sheet and then people had shifted and they’re like, Oh, well, what do I want to want to make my normal wage and work from the comfort of my own home? Or do I want to work and maybe it’s not all the time, maybe it’s just next week, I’ll work in the office make a little extra money so that when I go on PTO, I can spend some extra money on my vacation. And what they found was people were signing up for these shifts that were in office, and it was a hot commodity. And it wasn’t necessarily for the pay, they thought it was for the pay originally. But it was really because you learn more through osmosis when you work in a contact center in person, because you learn from your peers, you have the ability, that culture ability to talk to people take lunch breaks together, so forth, and so on. So I’ll pause there. But that’s, that’s a good great story of a pre pandemic, and they had a problem they had to solve and they solved it with WEM solutions with work from home options
Vanessa Gates 21:11
Aarde. This has been wonderful. We can keep talking about WFM, WEM for much, much longer. Before we end this episode, can you share with us? Where can our audience get a copy of your book and our shirt for everyone?
Aarde Cosseboom 21:27
Yeah, absolutely. So you can always message me on LinkedIn, I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. And also, you can go to my website, you can buy it on Amazon. So if you were to type in enable better service, book, and it search, it’ll pop up on Amazon. But I also have a website too. So if you want a free copy of my book, or a signed copy of my book, let me know reach me out. My organization is called Go clarity. So go clarity.com And you can go to the Books tab or you can go to go claire.com/books. And I would have I love talking about WEM and WFM. I also love talking about all the intracicies of CX and customer experience. So feel free to reach out this is what I do for my nine to five job which is just help other professionals in the customer experience contact center world. So you’re not bugging me, feel free to reach out and I’d love to connect on LinkedIn and or in person or over a zoom call.
Vanessa Gates 22:29
Thank you. And just to clarify, all of your contact information is on your website. Correct? We’ll make sure that we put a link to that on this podcast episodes page. Aarde, again, thank you so much for being here today with me. I enjoyed this conversation. I look forward to hopefully us crossing paths again. Thank you to our audience for listening today. Everyone, I will catch you in our next episode and as always be a good human. I’ll see you next time. Thank you.
Aarde Cosseboom 22:58
Thanks, Vanessa. Thanks, Playvox