20 Contact Center Workforce Optimization (WFO) Best Practices

Unpack lots of quickfire ideas to improve contact center workforce management (WFM), quality assurance (QA), and more

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20 Contact Center Workforce Optimization (WFO) Best Practices - CX Today News
Contact CentreWFOInsights

Published: May 1, 2024

Charlie Mitchell

Contact center workforce optimization (WFO) is the art of enhancing customer service agents’ efficiency, effectiveness, and overall performance.

Traditionally, contact centers have achieved this by developing workforce management (WFM) and quality assurance (QA) strategies.

Yet, with agent-assist, gamification, learning management, and more focus areas, WFO has evolved significantly from the days of Excel schedules and decade-old quality scorecards.

Now, CX Today has teamed up with Daniel Lloyd, Channel Director at Cirrus Response, to uncover some of the latest best practices from the WFO space.

1. Create a Connected Learning Strategy

QA is best as a team sport, with quality analysts, coaches, and supervisors joined at the hip.

Together, they should develop shared performance standards, identify and close performance gaps, and reinforce coaching, tracking its impact.

2. Build a Comprehensive View of Agent Performance

Centralize agent performance data into a customizable dashboard that displays critical metrics, including adherence, quality scores, handling times, etc.

With modern reporting solutions, leaders can connect data streams and spotlight insights into agent performance – across intents, channels, and shifts – leveraging rich data visualizations.

Such insights help to personalize coaching interventions and enhance performance.

3. Routinely Test Quality Scorecards

Contact center quality scorecards often include stale criteria and assumptions about what matters most to customers.

Running an exercise that assesses the correlation between quality and customer satisfaction scores will test whether the scorecard is measuring what matters most to customers.

The contact center can then evaluate positive customer conversations to spot new best practices, build those into the scorecard criteria, test, and optimize.

4. Use Quality Scorecards to Reinforce Performance Expectations

A quality scorecard sets clear performance standards. By sharing completed scorecards with agents – alongside the related call and screen recording – they can spot where they hit or missed expectations.

Calibration sessions also enable clarity around performance standards. With a QA system, agents can request such sessions to resolve scoring disagreements. The coach and the agent may then reflect on the interaction, discussing and defining what “good” performance means.

5. Build an Agent Learning Center

Everyone learns best through different means, whether reading, writing, listening, or visualizing. As such, some agents will better respond to some training materials than others.

Yet, by making some of those materials not only available in documents but in audio and visual formats – such as “how to” podcasts and videos – businesses can build an interactive learning center that raises the performance bar.

6. Manually Assess Outliers In Average Handling Time (AHT)

Quality analysts sometimes swerve evaluating contacts with long handling times, as they are under time constraints. Yet, these typically contain the most enlightening performance insights.

After all, there is likely a coaching gap, broken process, or missing knowledge that prevented a swift resolution – which the contact center should look to snuff out.

7. Extend QA Beyond Agent Performance

There’s much more to a service experience than the agent-customer conversation. For instance, customers must search for the correct contact details, find the best-placed channel, endure the wait experience, and so on.

By building these into additional QA initiatives, the contact center can cover more bases and uncover new barriers to the ideal customer experience.

8. Utilize Screen Recordings in QA

Agents often fail to pick up new tech and employ workarounds, which can negatively impact their performance and increase handling times.

Quality analysts may miss these workarounds when they only have access to an audio recording. But, by utilizing screen recordings alongside call recordings, they can spot such workarounds and coach in a better approach while addressing agent concerns.

9. Monitor & Optimize Agent Proficiency

Agent proficiency measures how quickly new employees reach the expected performance level.

Actively monitoring this – with an Auto-QA system – helps supervisors to give additional support where most needed, level up performance, and increase early agent retention levels.

10. Make a Concerted Effort to Spot Agents Doing Good Things

In the contact center, one difficult conversation can knock an agent off their stride, hamper their motivation, and scupper their performance for the next few calls, hours, or even shifts.

Yet, with the latest Auto-QA platforms, supervisors can set up alerts when agents hit particular performance milestones, hot streaks, and objectives.

As such, they can continuously offer positive recognition to agents, which refills their desire to deliver excellent customer service.

11. Gather Customer Information Upfront

Agents spend much of their time asking a standard set of questions to resolve everyday customer queries. Now, with conversational AI, bots can gather that information before the live interaction, cutting handling times.

QA teams can support this exercise by isolating those standard questions across various intents, which a bot can ask the customer as they wait in the relevant queue.

12. Work with the Team to Spot Broken Processes

Service leaders often run extensive analytics-driven projects to spot broken processes within contact center journeys across various intents.

Yet, agents typically know where these processes lie within their workflows and the digital journeys customers tell them about daily.

As such, including them in running such projects – and developing the fixes after that – is a significant time-saver and essential in securing buy-in to the end-result.

13. Run Ongoing QA Analytics on the Knowledge Base

Run an analytics-based project on the knowledge base to surface the queries agents most often enter into the knowledge base and which articles they use.

In doing so, contact center leaders can spotlight improvement opportunities, the best-performing article, and the impact of content tweaks.

As such, they can uplevel the quality of the knowledge agents access – which is particularly crucial in the age of AI agent-assist solutions.

14. Encourage Collaboration Between QA and WFM

QA data helps WFM teams spot which channels and queries agents handle best, which allows them to optimize contact center schedules.

Moreover, WFM data – like schedule adherence figures – can help QA teams have a more rounded view of agent performance.

As such, QA and WFM teams should consider how they can cooperate to bolster agent performance – as in these examples and possibly others.

15. Consider Schedule Adherence Goals Closely

Setting an achievable, manageable, and practical schedule adherence goal is tricky.

To do so, contact centers should consider average handling time (AHT), the likelihood of an agent receiving a long query, and the barriers to adherence.

From there, involve agents in defining a reasonable minimum expectation to ensure the target is fair.

16. Align WFM with Operations

Engaging operations at every level of WFM, from budgeting and capacity planning to intraday management, requires careful coordination of goals and outcomes.

But, it’s worth it. After all, when operations understand how WFM metrics like occupancy connect to broader customer, employee, and business objectives, they are more likely to collaborate with the planning team.

As a result, WFM may achieve greater investment and a status boost.

17. Remember: Schedule Flex Is Give & Take

WFM teams should be frank with agents. Tell them they may be asked to say late – at particular points during the year – when the contact center receives a burst of unexpected interactions.

However, note that it’s give and take and that when the agent stays behind, they will win that time back and perhaps a little more as a thank you.

Encouraging agents to highlight when they can work extra hours, if necessary, is also an excellent idea, as WFM teams may offer overtime to the best-placed agent

18. Manage Annual Leave In Hours, Not Days

Taking an entire day off work for a bank, dental, or doctor’s appointment is often frustrating.

Yet, if the WFM team breaks annual leave into hours, not days, agents can fit such small life events into their daily routine and preserve their precious time off.

The practice is also likely to reduce absence rates and increase agent satisfaction as they see management making moves to enhance their work-life balance.

19. Make Multiple Forecasts

Uncertainty is an inherent part of forecasting. Creating high-,middle-, and low-level forecasts will help planners to manage that uncertainty.

20. Remember: No Two WFO Suites Are the Same

Many newer entrants to the CCaaS space offer “WFO suites” but lack cornerstone capabilities.

For instance, some claim to offer intraday reporting but only track schedule adherence in real-time – not service levels, occupancy, or other critical WFM metrics.

As such, it’s critical to avoid taking the WFO suite at face value and to include key stakeholders across WFM, QA, and coaching when selecting a solution.

Don’t have the tech to bring these use cases to life? Check out the Cirrus’ WFO suite and uplevel agent experiences and performance in your contact center.

CCaaSDigital TransformationWorkforce ManagementWorkforce Optimization

Brands mentioned in this article.

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