Workforce Planning Survey Results Reveal Changing Mix of Customer Channels

A few years ago, if I went into a room full of workforce management (WFM) professionals and asked how many people were responsible for forecasting and scheduling for channels other than phone, only a few hands would be raised. When I ask the same question nowadays, it seems that almost every hand in the room is raised.

WFM professionals are now being asked to expand their capabilities beyond the call center. The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) surveys the WFM community each quarter on topics of interest, and not just restricted to the contact center. We found some interesting data from a quarterly survey conducted on multi-channel contacts. The most recent survey garnered more than 200 responses from workforce management professionals, the majority of which came from the financial and insurance industries.

Customer Contact Channels Used Other than Inbound Phone Calls

We asked respondents what communication channels they have available to communicate with customers, beyond inbound customer phone calls. There were some interesting results:

  • 85% of respondents report using email as a customer communication channel
  • 69% of respondents perform outbound calling
  • 62% process regular snail mail
  • 61% process faxes
  • 37% have web chat capabilities, 23% can communicate through Facebook, 15% through Twitter
  • Only 1% process communications just through inbound phone calls

While sophisticated scheduling tools have long been a staple of contact centers, most companies do not extend their workforce management system to other areas of the business, such as the back office. Since your customers are using non-phone channels, so must your organization! When you keep in mind your customer’s expectation of a seamless experience, it’s clear that multi-channel customer communications is a major challenge to companies today.

Forecasting and Scheduling For Non-Phone Channels

More than half of the respondents (53%) reported that forecasting is done manually for non- phone channels, while 32% indicated forecasting is done with an automated WFM system.

Forty-nine percent of the respondents use an automated WFM system for scheduling, while 43% schedule manually.

Extending your workforce management tools throughout the organization represents an opportunity to save money and time, allowing you to provide the best customer experience possible.

There are many things to consider as you go down the path of applying WFM to non-phone associates. Some issues include:

  • Your WFM tool should adapt to a multi-channel environment.
  • WFM teams will need specific benchmark information about handle time and service level goals before they begin participating in multi-channel forecasting and scheduling. The specific metrics measured are driven by what is important to your particular organization.
  • You need to consider how you will schedule time differently for back office associates, who may have a standard “business hours” 8-5 schedule, rather than the shift schedules more common in the contact center.
  • You should decide if you want to create "universal” agents to cover multi-channel contacts. Universal associates are more difficult to train and you may find you can provide a better customer experience with specialized employees.

In the digital age, customers want to reach their service providers in the manner most convenient to them. Your organization needs to be ready to respond appropriately, with the information the customer requires, as well as the knowledge of all interactions with that customer. Using your workforce management tools to forecast and schedule your multi-channel environment will allow you to realize significant savings in time and resources.

Vicki Herrell is the Executive Director of SWPP. She can be reached at

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