Workforce management (WFM) is not an option anymore for contact centers. It is a need that business owners need to fulfill, if not now, then definitely in the near future. 

WFM requires a thorough understanding before its implementation. Most customer service managers and business owners fail in WFM because they focus on the wrong metrics. As a leader, they should be aware of the workforce management trends. We will discuss where the managers usually go wrong and how they can correct their mistakes. Besides, you will also learn more about WFM software and the five best ways to use it efficiently.

What is contact center workforce management?

In general, workforce management (WFM) refers to designing systems and processes that improve employee productivity. WFM also aims to improve the overall customer experience.

Concerning the contact centers, WFM refers to ensuring that agents with the right skills are available at the right time to resolve customers’ queries.

But how do managers evaluate their customer service agents’ skills? Do they do it the right way? Let us find out now.

Where contact center managers are going wrong in a WFM strategy

A WFM strategy can only work when you set the right metrics and have realistic expectations from employees. Managers tend to focus more on the quantitative metrics, and quality takes a backseat.  

Let us understand what quantitative metrics and qualitative standards mean for contact center managers.

Quantitative metrics of contact center

AHT: Average Handling Time

The numbers listed in the table are an example and not industry averages.

Most contact centers direct their attention to quantitative performance measures. They do so because quantitative metrics are easy to obtain compared to quality. However, what matters is how well the agent handles the call, and it leads us to define qualitative measures of performance.

Quality does not mean numbers; it has more to do with expecting a specific response during a given situation. For example, we can explore two different scenarios and the expected behaviors of agents in the following tables:

Example 1:

Manage workforce in contact center Example 1

Example 2:

Manage workforce in contact center Example 2

[The above tables are a part of NAQC’s (North American Quitline Consortium) Issue Paper on Call Center Metrics: Fundamentals of Call Center Staffing and Technologies.]

As a manager, you should define positive and negative behaviors for your contact center employees. It should be a part of your WFM strategy. In the next section, we will highlight the three components of a successful WFM strategy.

3 components of a successful WFM strategy

1. Data consolidation and forecasting

Call centers deal with a lot of data every day. A good workforce management strategy reveals valuable insights from the available data. These insights help in decision making, scheduling, budgeting, etc. Companies can also use the insights to predict staffing requirements accurately. For example, managers can estimate call center shrinkage and its impact on staff availability.

2. Field service management

Organizations having large mobile or field operations should have real-time information on available company resources. It includes field employees, delivery vehicles, and equipment. It helps to forecast job completion time. The contact center executive can assign field calls to technicians based on their availability, expertise, and location.

3. Performance management

Contact center owners should ensure that employee performance and productivity goals are qualitative. Some quantitative metrics are also necessary, but the overall approach should be holistic. When there are different departments within a contact center, the goals should be as specific as possible for each department. 

Performance Management in contact center

Managers need to understand that they cannot achieve top performance without providing feedback. They should give valuable feedback and suggestions to their respective teams. For example, they can use call whispering to train new agents in the contact center without making them feel uncomfortable. 

It is a challenge to take care of all three components simultaneously. So it is a good idea to use software for the same. Read on to find out how a WFM system or software can make your life easier.

What is a workforce management system?

A workforce management (WFM) system, or software, combines various components of WFM discussed above. It automates routine manual processes and measures data needed to make better decisions. It is a better option than the outdated, inefficient spreadsheet processes. C-level executives can plan and schedule everything from start to finish using contact center software.

Benefits of a workforce management system

The benefits of an omnichannel workforce management software justify the investment. After going through the points listed below, you will understand how the software makes a difference.

  • Automatic tracking: You can track the time spent on chats, tickets, and calls. It means lesser paperwork for your agents, and they can focus more on providing a better customer experience.
  • Scheduling: Create complex intraday schedules and get a detailed overview of staffing across all channels. It helps you schedule tickets, client calls, refreshment breaks, and also to plan shifts easily.
  • Regulatory compliance: Contact centers must comply with regulatory requirements, and agents should complete the requisite training annually. Modern WFM solutions provide automated triggers to protect sensitive data as specified by the Payment Card Industry-Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).
  • Approvals: Service managers can approve shift swaps, time-off requests, and emergency leaves through the software’s dashboard.
  • Reporting: Monitor and track agent productivity and efficiency. You can view the ticket status, service level, and how much time agents spend on a particular ticket.
  • Forecasting: Accurately predict your contact volumes and employee headcount up to a year in advance.

How to identify the right WFM software for your contact center

As a contact center leader, you are under pressure to drive employee efficiency and maintain customer satisfaction. You can deal with such pressures only if your contact center has the latest WFM software.

But how do you identify the right solution in a crowded WFM market offering many similar products? 

Ordinary WFM solutions help you with scheduling functionality to keep your contact center running smoothly. But leading WFM partners can add value to your contact center operation through advanced capabilities. We will discuss these capabilities in this section.

Capabilities of a leading contact center WFM solution

  • Easy and fast deployment: The system should be up and running within weeks and not months. The deployment contract should also include implementation, or you will end up paying extra for the same.
  • Self-service customization: Customization is inevitable in any software because no two contact centers are the same. But the customization process should be easy for your in-house team. You need not depend on the vendor for simple tweaks in the software.
  • Cloud-based solutions: It provides you with true flexibility and scalability along with data security. Even if you want an on-premise deployment, the scalability should remain the same as that of a cloud model. You can discuss this point with your vendor.
  • Shorter learning curve: Complex systems require long training periods and amplify the associated costs. It will affect your turnover. A leading WFM system should be user-friendly and intuitive for your contact center agents.
  • Easy updates and upgrades: Customers’ expectations are evolving continuously, and the WFM system should adapt to such changes. Your WFM system should get the latest features and security patches as soon as they are available. Also, your vendor should provide training on new features.

5 best ways to manage the workforce in your contact center

1. Use predictive forecasting for long-term planning

WFM analysts take time to learn the unique patterns in contact volume. These patterns tend to evolve every day due to new trends in the market. Modern WFM solutions use Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to predict the shifting patterns and emerging trends in advance. The algorithms pull data from different sources and help you predict seasonal demands accurately. Your team will always be prepared to handle intra-month surges in customer queries.

2. Connect with agents who are working from home

contact center agents working from home

As per the stats of remote working even before the pandemic struck our lives, millennial workers preferred to work from home. But working from home can make your agents feel disconnected from their workplace sometimes. So ask your team managers to establish connections with their respective members. Just as an example, one-on-one virtual meetings can help connect with employees working remotely. You may discuss relevant topics, such as 30, 60, 90-days goals, and career growth in such interactions.

3. Enable agent-empowered scheduling

It is okay to break the corporate hierarchy sometimes. Ask your managers to give agents greater flexibility and control. Modern contact centers use the latest WFM tools to help agents select their schedules. The WFM system can automatically consider agent availability while creating a complete plan. Dynamic scheduling tools allow agents to work overtime hours and earn extra money. Taking it a step further, leading WFM solutions can provide all of these features in a user-friendly mobile app. It helps agents plan their schedules from anywhere.

4. Generate ideal schedules using rapid custom scheduling

Leading contact centers use their WFM system’s rapid scheduling capabilities to plan ideal schedules and accommodate changes. It enables you to generate custom schedule requests consisting of multiple custom parameters in a few seconds. A rapid custom scheduling frees up the time of WFM analysts so that they can focus on other important parameters. It further optimizes the schedules and drives WFM operations efficiently.

5. Simplify approvals through automation

The conventional method of approvals is time-consuming and creates bottlenecks when building long-term schedules. A WFM system automates the approval process for your contact center. You can design user-generated auto-approval workflows. You can also link multiple criteria in a single, end-to-end workflow. It helps in developing best practices for call center quality assurance (QA) protocols where you require many approvals at different checkpoints. Thus, automation reduces the daily burden of monitoring approval processes for your employees. It helps them contribute to other complex activities in the call center.

Summing it up

You saw the potential of a workforce management system in contact centers. But you can do much more with a WFM than what we discussed in this blog. It all depends on your long-term goals and vision. Even if you already have a WFM system in place, try to look at its capabilities. Are they enough to sustain your contact center? You can also consult with WFM experts to analyze your existing WFM solution and improve it. Remember, it is never too late to make a change in your business.

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Updated : September 6, 2021


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