Having the right people, in the right place, at the right time is vital to delivering personalized customer experiences and achieving contact center efficiency. However, managing staffing requirements efficiently is a common business challenge, but one that a well-crafted Workforce Management (WFM) solution can help resolve. With 64% of contact centers using WFM technology today, and 15% looking to replace, or buy new, within the next year, how do organizations decide on the best solution and vendor for their contact centers? Know what to look for in a WFM solution with this handy guide to the key features.
There are multiple factors contact centers must consider to have the most effective workforce at any given time. For instance, how many agents will they require, and are there certain Service Level Agreements (SLAs) they must comply with? Schedule too few agents for the actual volume of interactions, and contact centers risk not meeting SLAs, negatively impacting the customer experience. Alternatively, schedule too many agents and the contact center is not cost-effective. Just what is the secret to great scheduling?
Put simply, good scheduling relies primarily on good forecasting. A forecast shows the recommended number of agents for a specific volume of demand, taking into account SLAs and other factors. This can be broken down on a per-queue basis, or combined in order to gain a holistic view of the contact center.
In essence, forecasting the predicted volume of interactions based on analyses of historic interaction levels provides the basis for accurate scheduling.
There is more to scheduling than figuring out the correct numbers of staff needed, and determining which shifts will need coverage. What about the agent’s preferences? Moreover, are there enough agents with the necessary skillset for each service type? There is a definite link between the agent experience and the customer experience. Therefore, when assigning shifts, contact centers that prioritize customer satisfaction, should also focus on agent satisfaction.
Scheduling should take agent working preferences into account, such as the days they could work, if they are wanting extra shifts, or to take time off. Agents should be able to make requests and changes to their preferences easily. This gives agents control over their schedule, which is crucial to boosting productivity and reducing churn. Scheduling should also factor in agent skills, enabling contact centers to provide customers with the best possible agent for their query. As a result, this allows contact centers to build optimal agent schedules that have both the agent and customer experiences at heart.
Another feature to look for in a WFM solution is the ability to schedule both human and artificial intelligence-backed ‘Machine Agents’ together. This ensures simpler requests are handled by machine agents, and the more complex requests by human agents, again impacting positively on both agent and customer experiences.
Intraday and historical reporting
It is vital for contact centers to know if they are meeting service levels and their customers’ expectations – and where they are falling short. To do this contact center administrators need the ability to monitor, and receive alerts on, the current day’s volumes and trends. Then, if there is an issue, they can take immediate action, and make the necessary changes to schedules. Similarly, they need a historical view to identify trends, and plan for the future.
Having highly-accurate schedules is imperative for effective resource planning. For this reason, intraday and historical reporting are core components to look for in a WFM solution.
Real-time, intraday reporting provides administrators with data for that day, allowing them to compare actual demand levels against the forecast, and crucial statistics for each service. For example, the percentages of interactions answered within the SLA. Alerts can be set to notify supervisors of potential issues, such as shortfall and surplus. This helps to lower the risk of over or under staffing, reduce shrinkage, and meet SLAs. Meanwhile, historical reports show past performance across all monitored services. These reports must provide comprehensive, granular data in a way that is easy for all users to understand.
Business conditions can change overnight, requiring contact centers to make rapid changes to staffing. How can organizations ensure that their contact center is set to handle unexpected changes to business? With a cloud-based WFM solution, contact centers are agile, making it much easier to respond to unforeseen circumstances.
A WFM solution supported in the cloud provides significant advantages over premise-based alternatives. Firstly, they can be set up in mere days, and scaled up, or down, quickly. This gives critical flexibility to contact center operations. Secondly, there is no large upfront hardware investment, as any costs are wrapped up into a monthly subscription fee and upgrades are made automatically. Lastly, cloud-based WFM solutions can be accessed remotely, allowing contact centers to make changes from anywhere.
WFM solutions with a mobile interface allow contact centers to respond immediately to changing conditions, meaning they will never miss out on opportunities to meet agent and customer demands.
The sheer volume of data needed in order to build accurate forecasts across multiple channels means the task of workforce management could easily become overwhelming, especially if using manual spreadsheets to compile this data. Therefore, being omni-channel by design is an essential feature to look for in a WFM solution.
A WFM solution that incorporates data from multiple channels automatically allows for accurate forecasting across every channel including email, voice, web chat, SMS, and social media. This enables contact centers to ensure that the resources needed to fulfil these functions are available in sufficient quantities.
“What if…” At some point, everyone has wondered what would happen if they did or said something different. This is exactly what a ‘what-if’ analysis allows contact centers to do.
Contact centers can generate forecasts based on different assumptions, such as “What if there was a sudden increase in demand?” This feature allows contact centers to plan and schedule for the future, and to understand the impact of different actions on the contact center. From there, contact centers can spot areas for improvement, such as investing in multi-skilling agents, to make capacity planning more flexible.
An easy-to-use interface
An intuitive design is an important thing to look for in a WFM solution. All features, from forecasting to scheduling, must be easily accessible and usable, with smooth drag-and-drop mechanics. An easy-to-use interface makes managing large-scale staffing operations simple, especially when administrators may need to make changes to schedules on a daily basis. With everything administrators need in one place, staying on top of workforce engagement and management is straightforward.
To be most effective, a WFM solution needs to seamlessly integrate with a contact center’s operations. This is because a WFM solution needs to take data from, and supply information to, other systems if it is to forecast, schedule, and report accurately. Any disconnect between a WFM system and a contact center solution will disrupt operations and therefore the customer experience.
A WFM solution deployed as part of a Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solution will inherit queues, agent settings, ACD and other parameters, ensuring a timely transfer of information. A bolted-on WFM solution might result in unavoidable oversights in the hand-off from the contact centre environment to the WFM. As such, organizations should look for a single-stack CCaaS solution with WFM pre-integrated.
Implement efficient and skilled workforce planning with storm® WFM™
Implement efficient and skilled workforce planning with storm® WFM™ (Workforce Management) from Content Guru. Part of the storm CCaaS solution, storm WFM is a browser-based tool that delivers powerful workforce management functionality through a simple, intuitive interface. storm WFM enables contact center supervisors and administrators to access and understand information at-a-glance, as well as to rapidly implement changes and improvements.
A WFM solution is a core part of contact center operations, which is why it’s important to make an informed decision to ensure success. Learn more about storm WFM today.
 ContactBabel, UK Contact Centres 2021-25: The State of the Industry & Technology Penetration (18th edition), 2021