When agent engagement is low and productivity stutters, dusting off the contact center WFO playbook is a tried-and-tested play.
Service leaders may introduce a new schedule flexibility lever, assess and address agent performance trends, or perhaps kickstart a gamification initiative.
Such actions often drive employee experience gains. Yet, many operations may require a more drastic approach – a revolution of WFO, not a sluggish evolution.
Our experts explore their options, casting an eye over the biggest trends touching the CX space.
This month, our roundtable panelists include:
- Andrea Matsuda, Manager of Product Marketing, & Lilach Zemach, Director of Product Management at NICE
- Rakesh Tailor, VP of Product Management at Genesys
- Dave Hoekstra, WFO Product Evangelist at Calabrio
Below, they paint of picture of how forward-thinking contact centers are taking the WFO bull by its horns and achieving better agent outcomes.
What Is the Biggest Trend You’re Seeing in Workforce Management Right Now?
Matsuda: As digital channels have multiplied, so has the demand for multi-skilled contact center agents. Indeed, 95 percent of agents handle both digital and voice concurrently, at least some of the time. Moreover, agents – on average – may work across 3.2 channels simultaneously.
During peak periods, these agents provide flexibility and capacity when needed most.
Nevertheless, this has created a pressurized KPI-driven environment where burnout amongst agents is high. As such, businesses must urgently consider how they mitigate this problem and support reps in doing so.
AI and machine learning are bridging this gap. The tech is helping to pair contact center workers with the tasks their skills best align with, automate mundane tasks, and manage less-desirable shifts.
Employees want the flexibility to dictate their schedules in a way that best fits their life, and companies are becoming more open to this style of work.
As a result, more organizations must consider solutions that work for agents both in a more rigid environment – with fixed schedules – but also in more fluid settings.
After all, engaged agents drive excellent customer outcomes, so ensuring they have the autonomy to manage their own schedules while meeting their commitments to the company is where the workforce is heading.
Hoekstra: WFM addresses two of the top contact center workplace challenges: the operational difficulty of hybrid working and high agent attrition.
How? Well, the latest WFM solutions can wrap schedules around new agent preferences in complex hybrid-working, multi-channel environments.
Moreover, hybrid reporting allows planners to fully analyze their hybrid/remote situation and see who works best where rather than trying to remember as they assess performance.
Meanwhile, app-based self-service scheduling empowers agents with flexibility and control. They can quickly add days of work, move breaks or lunches, and trade partial-day shifts anytime, anywhere, using their mobile devices, without needing to run through a complicated approval process.
All this happens within seconds, making the process more efficient and agent-friendly.
Conversations with Calabrio’s customers indicate that agent-self-scheduling usage has skyrocketed – up 200 percent – in the last 12 months.
What Is the Biggest Trend You’re Seeing in Quality Assurance Right Now?
Zemach: The use of digital channels for customer support is surging, and – generally speaking – this has brought many benefits.
Respondents in a recent NICE survey suggest that efficiency (84 percent), agent quality (63 percent), and customer satisfaction (62 percent) have improved as a result of adopting new support channels.
However, there is a disconnect in the way this is measured.
While 73 percent of agents believe their performance is measured by channel-specific KPIs, only 31 percent of managers agree.
These statistics suggest that agents don’t recognize that the contact center is not measuring their performance accurately.
As such, while digital is the way forward, QA leaders seemingly still track performance with traditional telemetry-based metrics, likely measuring agents on speed and quantity.
Unfortunately, these are often incompatible with digital interactions – specifically asynchronous ones. These may occur over several days and at the customer’s pace, regardless of the agent’s efficiency.
Tailor: Through conversational intelligence and modern advancements in machine learning – i.e., embedding, conformers, large language models, etc. – organizations can gain a more holistic view of customer experience and agent performance.
Indeed, contact centers can leverage new insights that feed quality management programs and more advanced gamification initiatives to inspire agent development, engagement, and motivation.
Much of this insight stems from automatic QA, which allows businesses to score every contact center conversation against present criteria.
These allow businesses to focus on extensive data sets the shift QA to forward-looking goals rather than fixating on historical anomalies.
Hoekstra: Many organizations analyze as little as two percent of customer interactions.
Indeed, what often happens is QA team selects a handful of interactions a month to evaluate, and then they try to make firm business decisions based on that small amount of data.
Meanwhile, the remaining 98 percent of interactions – potentially filled with valuable unfiltered, unbiased customer information – sit on the shelf.
As a result, finding a systemic issue becomes a matter of luck.
Offering the ability to capture 100 percent of interactions, conversational analytics tools within specialist WFO platforms play a vital part in advanced QA programs.
Sifting through all this conversational data, the solution interprets consumers’ thoughts and how agents measure up.
Moreover, AI-driven solutions quickly highlight the personalized training agents need to become brand ambassadors.
If acted upon, agents are more likely to deliver stellar customer experiences that influence corporate perception, enhance loyalty, and boost profits.
How Can Contact Centers Blur the Line Between WFM and QA to Improve Performance?
Zemach: 71 percent of managers agreed it’s harder and more expensive to retain hybrid agents in comparison with voice-only agents.
Yet, contact centers can challenge the status quo by tying WFM and QA together. Here are three guidelines for doing so:
- With hybrid work and more channels, managers must measure digital-first KPIs, ensuring hybrid employees have KPIs that match their channels and output.
- To keep hybrid employees empowered, businesses need a targeted coaching program that considers where agents are struggling, identifying who needs coaching and in which areas, whether it’s voice specific, digital, or both.
- Consider when, in the day and week, agent performance peaks and dips. Use this research to inform their schedules and optimize performance.
Tailor: Modern WFO solutions blur the line between these two key contact center pillars.
Nowadays, they combine a mix of contact center metrics, adherence, conformance, and punctuality metrics, evaluation metrics, conversational intelligence metrics, and others into a single scorecard with “points”.
Moreover, contact centers can reward consistently positive performances with added flexibility, such as preferred shifts, extra time off, or more scheduling autonomy.
For agents needing more help, WFO platforms help supervisors find the best time to meet and coach their team members based on staffing levels.
In addition, planners can schedule virtual learning sessions for employees to improve their skills at times that don’t impact service levels.
With these tools, many opportunities exist to simplify workflows and create less friction for agents, supervisors, quality analysts, and planners within the contact center.
Hoekstra: Knitting together workforce and quality management data provides an extra layer of value that optimizes contact center performance.
For example, WFM self-scheduling solutions encourage high levels of self-awareness, so if an agent knows they aren’t at their best first thing in the morning, they can volunteer for more afternoon or evening shifts.
In addition, analytics-powered dashboards give agents all the visibility they need to form such self-assessments and personal development plans while harnessing WFM to automatically plan their training at a time to suit their WFH and hybrid lifestyles.
The best contact centers think differently, perhaps using quality scores to impact schedules rather than creating schedules based purely on agent skills.
These operations blend WFM and QM systems with automated performance coaching to develop a robust QA framework that continuously identifies skill gaps, improves training, and monitors agent performance over time.
Miss out on our previous CX Today roundtable? Check it out here: CCaaS in the Hybrid Workplace