Customer Dynamics: Moving Beyond Workforce Optimization

| July 26th, 2010
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Everyone in the call center industry has heard of workforce optimization (WFO). So, what is it, exactly? From an operational perspective, WFO is about managing agents in a way that increases their productivity and ensures they comply with all relevant policies and procedures. From a technology perspective, WFO refers to a category of software designed to bring contact center agent performance to optimal level. WFO suites usually include solutions for workforce management, quality monitoring, call recording, performance management and agent coaching, depending on the vendor.

The customer service environment has changed dramatically since WFO categorization was introduced. We have seen a proliferation of communication channels, large-scale growth in the volume of customer interactions, intensifying regulations and rising customer expectations. WFO must change, too. Another kind of optimization is now required: Customer Dynamics optimization. Customer Dynamics is a powerful new way to look at the interactions between a business and its customers across all contact channels. If you’re not familiar with it, I recommend these previous posts for getting up to speed: Customer Intent to Insight to Impact: Customer Dynamics in Action and It’s Not Chaos—It’s Customer Dynamics.
Both operationally and technologically, Customer Dynamics optimization (CDO) goes beyond WFO in some significant ways:
Internal vs. External Focus: WFO primarily focuses on agent performance, which is internal to the contact center. CDO, on the other hand – takes a broader look, focusing on both sides of interactions: agent (internal) and customer (external). In addition to evaluating whether agents follow their scripts correctly or achieve the recommended handling time, CDO looks at the reasons why customers initiate contact with the business in the first place--their intent--and whether their intent is successfully accommodated.
Efficiency vs. Effectiveness: WFO seeks to maximize the efficiency of call center agents primarily by accurately forecasting demand and ensuring agents are scheduled to support demand; monitoring quality of service and coaching agents according to the results. CDO also promotes efficiency, but the primary goal is to employ resources where they most effectively ensure that interactions result in a successful outcome, both for the customer and for the organization. CDO promotes effectiveness by ensuring adherence to processes, extending best practices across all agents and all customer touch points, and providing next-best-action agent guidance in real time. In other words, WFO optimizes resources for enhanced productivity, while CDO optimizes resources for enhanced productivity and customer satisfaction.
Individual vs. Business Performance: WFO focuses on managing individual agent performance. Are agents adhering to their schedules? Are they correctly following established procedures? CDO makes sure that agents perform their jobs correctly, but it also ensures that the entire business competently satisfies customer intent. CDO measures and improves business performance by assessing customer interactions in three ways: across contact channels, across agent groups and across contact types. Looking through these three lenses, businesses can address customer experience comprehensively and drive revenue through enhanced sales effectiveness, cross-sell/up-sell optimization and more insightful marketing campaigns.
Offline vs. Real-Time Impact: The final difference between WFO and CDO centers on the time of impact. WFO analyzes past problems in order to correct future performance. It helps improve planning and service quality, but it doesn’t affect interactions as they unfold. CDO offers the opportunity to impact customer interactions as they occur to meet business objectives. Analyzing the call context and leveraging insights from cross-channel interactions in real time enables CDO to guide agents on “next best actions” while they work with customers, thereby improving operational efficiency, customer experience and sales effectiveness. Positively impacting interactions while they happen is a unique and powerful capacity of CDO.
Workforce optimization expanded on the concept of workforce management. Now, Customer Dynamics optimization significantly expands on the principles of Workforce Optimization, creating new dimensions for improvement within the call center, and across the enterprise overall.
For at least one—and we think, very compelling—example of Customer Dynamics optimization software, check out NICE SmartCenter.
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