Reverse the recessional curse by optimizing AI and automation for long-term digital and back-office planning

Reverse the recessional curse by optimizing AI and automation for long-term digital and back-office planning

This is the second in a three-part blog series in which we explore lessons learned from the previous recession and define the strategies and tools contact center leadership should implement now in order to do more with less and win in the turns ahead. You can read the first blog here.

At the 2022 Beijing Olympics, athletes and experts claimed there was a curve—13—on the 1,615-meter sliding track that was cursed. In the women’s singles luge event, Germany’s Julia Taubitz was in the lead after a run that set a new track record. But then she lost control on turn 13, flipping and skidding toward the finish line. The United States’ Emily Sweeney had a strong first run, but then she too was hit by the curse of curve 13.

“That was hard,” Sweeney told the press, fighting back tears. “It’s a tough spot you have to come out right. If you’re not correct coming out, then the track gives away and you’re weightless. If you’re crooked a little bit in your sled or you’re not in the right spot, it’ll get you.”

During periods of economic uncertainty, and especially during recessions, inaccurate staffing calculations can curse a contact center. And like curve 13, those calculations require precise positioning, timing, and speed to hit the sweet spot of optimized staffing, both in digital and back-office operations.

The variables litter an already tricky forecasting track with obstacles. With the ever-growing number of digital channels, the ever-increasing agent skill-set requirements, and the influx of hybrid work-from-anywhere contact center environments, today’s contact centers need to consider not only how to forecast for all these variables but also how to carefully plan for their long-term capacity needs.

Utilizing long-term planning in your workforce management (WFM) suite reveals hidden financial benefits and opportunities to better meet key performance indicator (KPI) objectives. Moreover, the efficient management of a multiskill and multichannel environment can save on agent head count. However, if not planned for and executed with precision, it can also be a curse for contact center leaders, particularly in a recessionary environment.

Avoiding the curse of poor digital and back-office planning

Traditional forecasting methods do not account for multiskill and multichannel efficiencies, leaving contact centers forced to mimic the planning model for inbound calls and apply the same logic when planning for the digital environment. This leaves room for errors, as a phone call and a chat have vastly different average handling times. For instance, a customer may walk away from a chat for hours or days and then return to it, and agents may be managing multiple chats at one time.

These attribute differences, including concurrency, interpretability, and handle times, highlight the complexity of applying an inbound call center model to digital interactions.

Moreover, as customer-facing scheduling and planning become increasingly skills-based (and complex), back-office functions must follow. Again, traditional concurrent, interpretability scheduling models won’t work in the back office when meeting customer needs in an increasingly omnichannel 24/7 world. Sophisticated consumers expect every touch point they have with a company to be consistently seamless, simple, and on their terms.

The antidote for the curse of poor planning is real-time AI-generated insights. The right insights tame the complexity of front- and back-office staffing needs, giving leaders the tools to do more with less and the confidence to win through the turns of market uncertainty ahead.

Gaining visibility to plan for the unknown turns ahead

As we highlighted in the first blog in this series, Gartner analysis reveals that in times of recession, companies that focus only on cost-cutting did so at the expense of top-line growth. Simply cutting head count for the sake of short-term gains could compromise service-level objectives.

So how do contact center leaders gain the right strategic insights to improve efficiencies while delivering an exceptional customer experience?

Enter NICE WFM Enhanced Strategic Planner (ESP). This solution generates the precise insights leaders need to make smarter workforce planning decisions for long-term top-line growth. NICE ESP leverages AI-generated forecasts from NICE WFM that adapt historical data, channels, business rules, and staff to generate precise scenarios.

By allowing for user-defined shrinkage, NICE ESP provides granularity at the rolled-up or subcategory level, empowering real-time discussions around shrinkage planning. With “what-if” planning for multiple channels, including back-office operations, NICE ESP enables contact center leaders to control costs, develop smarter hiring plans, and improve customer service. The cloud-based solution goes beyond simply showing the number of staff members required in different scenarios; it also provides projected service level, average speed of answer, occupancy, and more based on predicted staffing levels and skill types.

Contact centers simply can’t afford to get their planning calculations wrong right now. The landscape is changing faster than ever, and the visibility ahead is poor. NICE ESP gives contact center leaders a unique advantage with long-term planning forecasts and real-time modeling to adjust for bumps on the track.