Since the pandemic’s onset, the business market has been going through major transformations. We can now say with confidence that homeworking is here to stay, and there are substantial consequences to this – especially when it comes to companies’ ability to manage their employees remotely.
The new work environment brings along unfamiliar challenges:
How does a company continue to make sure its employees remain productive when access to face-to-face management is lost? And no less important, how does it help its workers maintain their mental health and stay motivated as boundaries between professional and personal life blur?
Contact centres, whose success is inherently-linked to adherence to schedules and agent motivation, are particularly affected by this. New methods of optimising scheduling and agent productivity must therefore be implemented.
This is where Workforce Management (WFM) tools come in. These tools allow contact centres to build flexible forecasts that serve a double functionality in the current climate: On the one hand, they help monitor agents, ensure productivity and meet SLAs (Service Level Agreements). On the other hand, they help make sure agents’ wellbeing is kept intact.
I had an interesting chat with Shameem Smillie, UKISA Contact Center Sales Manager at Mitel, and Nick Smith, VP of Strategic Partnerships, International at Calabrio, who walked me through the current challenges contact centre and operational managers face and explained how WFM can help resolve those challenges quickly.
What is Workforce Management, anyway?
In short: WFM is a part of an umbrella of applications called Workforce Optimization (WFO), meant to, well, optimise workforce performances.
“Workforce Management is the process contact centres use to ensure they have the right people, in the right place, at the right time, to avoid understaffing or overstaffing,” says Nick Smith. “This effectively means creating a forecast, and then building and publishing agent schedules accordingly. Forecast accuracy is key to ensure cost optimisation and SLA management.”
In fact, Workforce Management tools help contact centres set goals on how quickly they want to respond to customer needs, monitor and resolve queries; then ensure they manage and control the fulfilment of these goals.
Why Does Your Contact Center Need It?
For all the reasons mentioned above, and much more.
“When we speak with customers, we find that the solution they require encompasses more than just a contact centre,” says Shameem Smillie.
“They are often trying to drive an enhanced customer experience and operational efficiencies, and this is where the integrations we have with Calabrio come into effect, as Workforce Management is key to this”
What makes WFM key to running a successful contact centre?
“When customers contact an organisation, they want the same level of service regardless of the channel they have contacted the organisation on,” says Smillie. “They also expect to be helped quickly, without long hold or wait times.”
In order to be able to provide customers with what they expect, when they expect it – it is essential to have a proper forecast for your contact centre. However, building one on your own is not a simple as it sounds in today’s omni-channel reality, and traditional tools are no longer enough.
“For contact centres embracing an omni-channel approach to customer engagement, manually forecasting contact volumes and creating schedules for numerous channels is especially time-consuming,” says Smith. “When using spreadsheets, fulfilling agent scheduling preferences adds yet another layer of complexity to the process.”
Using designated Workforce Management software in fact automates these types of tasks, which in turn significantly reduces the amount of time contact centres spend on completing them. Once the forecast is complete, WFM also provides tools for team leaders to manage daily tasks and goals.
“You can see the staffing levels aligned to the forecast demand for the day, which allows you to ensure you have sufficient agent coverage to meet your SLAs,” explains Smith.
You can also make on-the-spot changes to your agents’ schedule accordingly.
For example, if a team member calls in sick, you can immediately input that information, see its effect across the team, and adjust shifts. These critical capabilities provide much-needed operational insight for team leaders.
Why is WFM Especially Important Right Now?
Now more than ever, it’s important for contact centres to be able to monitor not only their employees’ productivity and adherence to schedule but also their personal wellbeing. As people everywhere are still trying to adjust to the new situation, mental challenges often arise in the attempt to balance life and work. These challenges compromise not only agents’ wellbeing, but also their work motivation. WFM tools can help tackle those challenges successfully.
“WFO should extend beyond efficiency,” says Smith. “It should also help in the consideration of the wellbeing of frontline employees, which has a dramatic effect on how they treat customers.”
Calabrio and Mitel have found creative ways of doing that.
“We incorporate gamification options and self-reporting options that are designed to give agents insight into their performance and introduce an element of ‘fun competition’.
“Our solution allows organisations to find the balance between meeting customer demand and giving employees a good work-life balance, which ultimately preserves agents and makes for better customer service”
Companies utilising WFM tools can stay on top of their professional game while taking care of their workers, which is incredibly important in 2020. You can go here to learn more about Mitel’s latest insights on this.