What to Look for in a Workforce Management Solution

Contact centers are growing more complex by the day. New channels require more advanced agent skill sets, and customers have higher expectations for every interaction. It’s a lot to ask of employees, who have the power to make every customer contact successful.

Numerous studies have shown that engaged employees deliver higher customer satisfaction and play a key role in your ability to meet business goals, but picking the right workforce management solution to engage them can be difficult. Every contact center has its own business environment, rules and goals, so it can be challenging to find a solution that meets them all. At the same time, growing demand for multi-skill agents has added a new layer to the scheduling process.

To identify a workforce management solution able to engage your employees as effectively as it adapts to your contact center’s unique needs, evaluate how its capabilities in four key areas – forecasting, scheduling, intraday change management and data integration -- will support the evolving demands of your business:

Adaptable forecasting

Inaccurate forecasting can lead to expensive overstaffing or disastrous understaffing. You need the right number of employees for traffic levels across channels. Often, you need to understand required staffing levels days, weeks or months in advance. Think of it as a bucket of water: Modern contact centers always need to predict the perfect amount of water to pour into the bucket. Too much, and the bucket will overflow, wasting water. Too little, and the bucket could run dry. Conditions can change each day, affecting how much water you’ll need.

Look for a solution that can help you understand and anticipate the changes that impact your “water flow level,” or staffing needs. Traffic levels, staff skills and more can affect your contact center’s ability to respond to customer needs on each channel, so adaptability is key to driving value in modern workforce management solutions. Adaptable forecasting can also determine how successful employees are in their roles – those who are constantly overloaded or scheduled at times they might not be needed are less likely to have high performance.

An adaptable workforce management solution utilizes many different prediction algorithms and can identify which will deliver the most accurate forecast for a given situation. “What-if” scenario simulations help uncover potential pitfalls or unforeseen consequences.

An adaptable workforce management solution can also uncover how scheduling trends are evolving and then apply those learnings. It takes into account workers with multiple skills and skill levels, such as those who work on multiple channels, to generate an accurate forecast. Embedded technology such as automatic call distributors, virtual queues and cloud-based multimedia routers can enable your solution to more precisely account for potential real-world scenarios when generating a forecast.

Scheduling for multi-skill agents

Customers expect to interact with agents who are fluent in a channel, whether it be email, social media, chat or phone, and who can quickly meet their needs. But carefully crafted forecasts can be upset as traffic rises and falls, such as when one channel gets overloaded. It’s not always as simple as moving agents to the busy channel – someone who is new to social media, for example, is unlikely to be able to jump right in and provide high-quality service.

Many contact centers are combatting this challenge by training multi-skill agents to work across multiple platforms, but most aren’t fully tapping into the capabilities of their multi-skill workers. It’s likely you already have skills-based routing in place, but are you taking worker skills into account when scheduling them?

For most contact centers, skills-based scheduling is key to achieving the precise balance between over-and under-scheduling so that customers can be connected with agents who are best suited to meet their needs.

One of the most effective ways of achieving skills-based scheduling is through availability points.  With availability points, the workforce management solution assigns a point quota to employees, and employees use points to create their schedules. Every shift provides a certain number of points – for example, less desirable shifts could be allotted the most points, driving employees to make themselves available for those shifts. This practice ensures that agents with a variety of skillsets are always available and drives agents to make compromises in order to get the schedules they want.

When used in combination with workforce management solutions that assign schedules based on anticipated agent capacity and your own custom work rules, you can eliminate much of the complexity associated with multi-skill scheduling.

Proactive Intraday Change Management

Contact center conditions can change as quickly as the weather – one minute, it’s bright and sunny out, and the next you need an umbrella. Understanding how both front- and back-office employees are performing and spending their time can help your contact center better respond to the ups and downs. It ensures that you take full advantage of employees’ time, that customers get the service they need, and that employees feel they are making an impact by helping when and where they’re needed.

Look for a workforce management solution that empowers your contact center with insights into real-time adherence. This technology provides a deep dive into the activities being performed in the contact center each day and how long each is being performed. It can help you identify available blended agents who have capacity and can assist with demand peaks or agents who may need help to improve their performance on a particular process.

Integration with numerous data sources

If your organization is like most, you have a lot of data that could be used for scheduling and forecasting. Effectively using that data, however, can be a challenge if comes from different sources. Manual data entry or integration can introduce human error and be time consuming and costly, so choose a workforce management solution that connects to the other systems your organization uses. Tools that have APIs designed to implement and correlate data ensure that your contact center has high-quality scheduling insights all in one place.

Enable Greater Accuracy and Happier Employees

As modern contact centers grow more complex, workforce management will continue to have an outsized role in accelerating business growth by increasing schedule accuracy and driving agent engagement. Look for a solution that enables you to forecast with superior accuracy, schedule flexibly, manage change proactively and integrate with your existing systems. By choosing a solution that adapts to your business needs, you can unlock the competitive advantage needed to come out on top.