WFM is Mission-Critical for Multi-Skill Contact Centers

Co-authored by Donna Fluss President, DMG Consulting LLC and Paul Chance, Senior Product Marketing Manager, NICE

When everyone in a contact center has the same skill set and handles the same types of interactions and inquiries, it’s relatively easy to schedule agents. Keeping it simple is one of the reasons why many contact centers like the idea of having everyone trained on all activities. However, as business becomes more complex and the contact center takes on additional channels and activities, or acquisitions expand the department’s responsibilities, it’s likely that agents will need to specialize and handle different tasks, as it will be too much for every person to know everything and too costly to train them.

Once a contact center reaches this level of complexity, a common approach is to train all agents to handle the most common inquiries – typically 80% of the interactions – and to have them route more complex issues to specialists. On the positive side, this approach allows a company to limit the amount of training needed by the majority of agents. The downside is that it reduces the first contact resolution (FCR) rate, which does not please customers, as it makes it more difficult and time-consuming to get issues resolved. The two things that customers dislike the most is being transferred and put on hold.

While not ideal, choosing this approach is understandable, particularly when a contact center is understaffed and struggling to hire and train the resources they need. But today, given the sophistication of the technology available for contact centers, there is a good alternative called personalization. Here’s how it works. When an interaction comes into the contact center via any channel, the automatic call distributor (ACD) looks up the customer in the customer relationship management (CRM) or problem-tracking system to identify the topic. If the person has an open record – an issue is being addressed – the ACD assumes that the person is reaching out about the same item and automatically routes this person back to the last agent who helped them (called bullseye routing) or to someone else with the same skills. This is not simple, but is the easy part of the process. The hard part is forecasting and scheduling the number of resources with the skills needed to allow interactions to be delivered to the right people within the specified service level.

WFM Solution for Multi-Skill Environments

Accomplishing personalized routing requires a workforce management (WFM) solution that handles multi-skill environments. While the primary purpose of a WFM solution is to optimize staff resources, a secondary purpose is to enable the contact center to deliver a consistently outstanding customer experience. WFM solutions increase in importance as contact centers become more complex. Any contact center that utilizes lots of skills, supports a variety of channels and has resources in many sites (including work-at-home employees) should invest in a WFM solution, whether they have 20, hundreds or thousands of agents. This is an even more viable option now that WFM solutions are available in the cloud, which significantly reduces the difficulty and time to implement one of these mission-critical applications.

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