WFO: CX Today Expert Round Table

Sandra Radlovački

Experts share their thoughts on the significance of workforce optimisation and the post-pandemic trends that will come about in future

Verint Genesys NICE Analysis
WFO: CX Today Expert Round Table

As we move into an era where the expectations of customer satisfaction, service delivery, and excellence continuously rise, optimising your workforce to meet these expectations can be a challenging but rewarding task. Whether through enterprise recording or quality management, perfecting the employee experience can not only prove to be cost-effective but also ensure that organisations continue delighting their customers.

In this edition of the CX Today round table, we welcome:

  • David Singer, Vice President, Product Strategy, Verint
  • Omri Hayner, General Manager, Portfolio and Workforce Engagement Management, NICE
  • Natalia Abad, Product Marketing Management Manager, Genesys
  • Magnus Geverts, VP, Product Marketing, Calabrio
  • Jim Fleming, WFM Solutions Consultant, Sabio Group

Our panellists will discuss where major value centres sit in the WFO space, how WFO can eliminate the challenges businesses faced during the pandemic, and how WFO will develop in the next few years.

Where do the major value centres sit in the WFO space?

Singer: “As the contact center and the customer engagement landscape has shifted, organizations need WFO solutions with new capabilities to sustain the future of remote work. WFO tools, such as workforce management, automated quality management, enterprise recording, performance management, coaching, eLearning, and more, help to ensure organizations optimize their workforce to deliver a better customer experience while promoting employee engagement in the post-pandemic remote work era.

We have seen a significant rise in the use of digital channels; as digital channels continue to proliferate, the total volume of customer interactions also increases to fill these channels. Organizations must understand and act on this exponential growth in customer data to drive CX. This means WFO solutions need to handle the many different ways customers want to engage, and they need to understand that customers will engage differently in each channel. Recognizing these differences is critical to support accurate forecasting and scheduling and even quality management programs. For example, when is the right time to assess the quality of the customer/agent interaction in an asynchronous social messaging exchange that may span several days? There is a tremendous opportunity to provide agent coaching between each interaction to improve customer service and WFO can help.”

Omri Hayner, NICE

Omri Hayner

Hayner: “Flexibility and agility are critical to organizational success in today’s age. Employees require flexibility in determining their schedules while consumers demand flexibility on how they communicate with organizations and are choosing digital channels as their mode of choice. This massive increase in digital channel adoption has added significant complexity to workforce management forecasting and scheduling.

Businesses must balance adapting to constant shifts in customers’ communication channel preferences with optimising agent utilisation rates and productivity, all while delivering exceptional service.

Rethinking core WFM attributes in ways that incorporate the agility digital channels necessitate is critical for businesses to create incredible CX and boost agent productivity whilst meeting key business metrics.

According to one Aberdeen Strategy & Research report: ‘Improving agent productivity, optimizing agent utilization rates and reducing costs are among the top objectives driving WFM programs. Our experience is that firms with digital-led WFM programs achieve far greater year-over-year growth in productivity and utilisation rates. Both of which provide clear value centres for the business.”

Abad: “Being able to create exceptional experiences for customers drives our industry forward, and it’s closely tied to the employee experience. One of the main factors in making that dream a reality is understanding employee needs, helping them grow and developing a sense of belonging by delivering empathy.

That is why the value of WEM tools has increased. Tools that allow companies to adapt and be flexible, responding to the needs of where and when employees work, like AI-Powered forecasting and scheduling that can adapt to changes and employee’s new realities. We also need tools to provide insights that live in every interaction with AI-powered services like voice transcription, topic spotting, and sentiment analysis, that provide a holistic view of quality and performance – not just a valuation/evaluation process.

As the need for more empathic communications rises for customers, the need to foster this skill in employees rises. At Genesys, we responded by developing an interactive, Netflix-style video training program called “BeyondCX”. To help contact center employees learn how to develop the soft skills that are increasingly becoming table stakes, including how to build trust, show empathy, and build loyalty, better communications inside and outside the companies ergo better connections.”

Magnus Geverts, Calabrio

Magnus Geverts, Calabrio

Geverts: “Cloud is synonymous with agility, which is exactly what organisations need in these changing times with high contact volumes and increasing customer expectations.  Transitioning to the cloud while maintaining business as usual is quick and easy without having to hire additional IT staff or invest in expensive hardware. Calabrio has seen an incredible acceleration in cloud in new business, especially with prospects wanting to move from other legacy, on-premise vendors to Calabrio cloud WEM suite. Scalability of the cloud is far more supportive for companies that face rapid growth, or peak-and-trough periods.

Contact centres are complex operations at the best of times, therefore removing data silos and multiple technology systems is a winning formula. Contact centre leaders are looking for a seamless solution that combines a fully integrated workforce engagement suite with robust voice-of-the customer analytics and business intelligence.

This integration is vital as insufficient data, a lack of tools and disparate systems are all issues that contact centres continuously grapple with.  Recent Calabrio research asked advisors what the most common reason was preventing them solving customer queries and 43% said the lack of available data and another 40% pinpointed the lack of tools at their disposal.

Integrating WFM, call recording, VOC analytics and quality management within one WFO suite can transform data into valuable insights to support agents. Dashboards also provide visibility of performance to agents to maximise engagement.”

Fleming: “For me, there are three areas that – if managed and maintained properly – are value centres in the WFO space. The first is workforce management. Staffing accounts for 70% of all operational costs. It is critical we balance hitting service goals with minimising operation overhead. Too often companies invest in WFO technology yet don’t invest in resource on an ongoing basis to drive the benefits of their technology. When conducting our own health checks recently, we found the majority of organisations weren’t driving the full benefits of their WFM investment.

The second is ongoing development & training. Most enterprise operations have invested in WFO technology, many are not harnessing the capabilities. As WFM tools have evolved over time, new & advanced features are not being taken advantage of by Planning teams. As well as this, many operations don’t have robust processes in place or, if they did, haven’t evolved them in alignment with the business and the system itself. Finally, people come and go, and with companies dedicating WFM management to teams and sometimes single individuals, this can become a problem.

The third is employee engagement. Workforces have become more demanding – switching to remote working has led to new, more complex employee requirements. Contact centres should be making use of the WFO tools available to develop employees’ skills, empowering them to be in control of their time. Increased employee engagement has a positive impact in a number of ways – improvement in employee wellbeing, decreased sickness, decreased attrition, improved customer experience. Attrition rates, absenteeism and presenteeism is the #1 megatrend in the CC world at the moment.

How can WFO eliminate current challenges businesses have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Singer: “As companies continue to adjust to working remotely, embracing new flexible work models is crucial. Micro shifts and shift splits are exploding in popularity, and organizations need WFO solutions that can meet scheduling requirements and promote employee work/life balance. With the shift to digital, employees are no longer required to work the typical “9 to 5.” Instead, people can split the workday into two or more parts during the hours that best fit their needs and maximize their earnings.

WFO also helps support post-pandemic recruitment strategies. In today’s challenging job market, organizations must attract, nurture and retain quality talent. Intelligent interviewing solutions using voice, advanced AI, and analytics help to pre-assess a candidate’s job-related performance – with tools for virtual pre-interviews, job simulation, language assessment, usage of knowledge management systems, and more. Intelligent interviewing solutions also help provide a richer employee experience right from the start.

Support and guidance in the remote contact center world is crucial, and WFO has expanded to provide AI-powered real-time agent assist solutions. These solutions combine linguistic and acoustic insights analyzing what/how it’s being said with additional input from the agent’s desktop, CRM system, knowledge management, and more, providing real-time “next best action” guidance to agents.”

Hayner: “The pandemic has changed where and how employees work. Agility is a critical factor for enabling employees to work at home, at the office or in a hybrid environment. Additionally, digital channels are increasingly becoming the go-to choice for customer service. Consumers expect to continue using digitally enabled services that go far beyond voice, emails, and chat to also encompass the internet, apps and more and expect effortless experiences.

Contact centres need to ensure they implement sophisticated WFM with digital ready capabilities to deal with these increased demands. Scheduling engine innovations provide the added agility digital channels need for differentiation, fine-tuning unique customisation per channel and custom schedule generation to deliver greater flexibility and meet business goals.

Additionally, COVID-19 forced managers to appreciate that flexibility and agility needed to be more firmly wed into CX culture. Enhancements that put employees and supervisors at its core are vital. The ability to adapt breaks and intraday reports provides agents and managers with greater flexibility and enables them to focus on serving customers and meet demands without worrying about adherence and balancing schedules.”

Natalia Abad, Genesys

Natalia Abad

Abad: “The events of the past year forced operational and administrative teams to adapt quickly and face new challenges: many employees changed roles, or assumed more complex responsibilities. With social distancing and at-home everything, companies had to shift from traditional WFO metrics and processes, that were increasing turnover numbers, and disengagement, and in addition, we saw an increment of interactions being handled through self-service technologies, but leaving more complex queries in the hands of agents.

Looking ahead, the new normal will incorporate workers from anywhere, employees who value job flexibility, satisfaction, and work-life balance more than ever. Therefore, with Workforce Engagement Management (WEM) tools companies will ensure the provision of all the interactive and integrated systems, and resources to support employees in their roles, that motivates and helps create a work-life balance, WEM tools that support complex administrative and operational tasks integrating data, reducing technology fatigue, and empowering managers, planners, supervisors, evaluators, forecasters, et al. Because yes, with the pandemic, the general culture of the contact center workplace has changed and there’s a need to meet the demands of an industry that gravitates away from legacy systems as we move into 2022.”

Geverts: “When the health crisis first hit and contact centres employees were sent home everyone was happy to make sacrifices, working in make-shift home offices and putting in extra hours. However, months later, enthusiasm and energy levels can wane.

Calabrio’s State of the Contact Centre 2021 report highlighted one in three agents are considering leaving within a year and 50% plan to resign within the next two or three years. However, only 18% said higher pay was the reason for departure showing there is more than money to factor in.

Agent empowerment and flexibility are essential to eliminating current challenges. According to the report, agents cited self-service as the most impactful technology in the next 2 to 3 years. Not just in relation to customer self-service but in terms of employee self-scheduling i.e., the ability to change breaks/lunches and take time off when needed – giving increased control over work/life balance.

Recent Calabrio research into Agent Wellbeing saw 65% of agent respondents working either fully remote or a hybrid mix. The same report showed more agents believe monitoring tools will be impactful in comparison to the results of the 2017 report (20% in 2021 v 12% in 2017). That’s a 66.67% increase. We’ve seen a rise in acceptance of monitoring tools for remote/hybrid working as more contact centres realise managers can no longer understand/listen or coach by “walking the floor”.

Current challenges have highlighted the difficulty of driving improvements without data and insights into performance when teams are remote or hybrid. WFO is a way not just to optimise staffing but as an option for support, development and engagement driven by data. This can be via analytics to understand agent desktop stresses, individual training requirements and performance coaching, motivation gamification or more freedom to schedule using self-service tools.”

Fleming: “The switch to remote working during lockdown highlighted just how critical WFO is to contact centre operations. Working from home has introduced new challenges to planning teams and operations, not only have customer journeys become more complex, but employees’ priorities have also changed, they now have more challenging needs.

Businesses are now in a balancing act between maintaining and improving both customer service and employee engagement with most operations – those struggling to find that balance – experiencing increases in sickness and attrition as a result.

Many WFO vendors are rapidly adding new features to meet these new requirements – with a focus on employee engagement. Operations should continually be looking for new ways to empower their employees to be in control of their time, influence when they are scheduled to work, and when they can take time off.

Planning teams and operations need to think outside the box. Methods or tools that were previously discounted are now being rolled out – shift bidding, split shifts for example. ”

In what ways will the WFO space develop over the next few years?

Singer: “Looking ahead, we will see intra-engagement CX improvements driven by the significant rise in asynchronous messaging channels. Asynchronous messaging in texting and sending messaging through social channels such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will leapfrog traditional ways of contacting customer service such as phones, emails, and live chats.

As organizations optimize CX strategies around digital-first engagement, we’ll see widespread adoption of sentiment analysis tools in WFO to help organizations understand and better engage with customers on an empathic level.

As well, we are increasingly seeing the intersection of workforce engagement and employee wellness. With remote work here to stay, organizations are relying on WFO technology to raise employee engagement levels. For example, automated quality management (AQM) solutions help ensure employees get the coaching, training, and support needed. This process is critical to providing a supportive work environment, especially in the virtual world.

Finally, we will see the expansion of the “everyone serves” mantra within the organization thanks to advanced functionality in WFO solutions such as knowledge management, real-time agent assist (RTAA), and intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs). These tools ensure that anyone within the organization is empowered with the knowledge and support to engage with customers.”

Hayner: “In Forrester’s predictions for 2022, they estimate that eight in 10 consumers will see the world as ALL digital. With the pandemic ushering in an increase in technology adoption and usage, consumers will begin to have a higher expectation when it comes to digital experiences. Businesses will need to utilise sophisticated WFM to be able to meet these experiences.

Digital channels have changed the landscape of contact centres, giving workforce managers a lot to consider. Businesses will need to look at emerging technology and a WFM solution that is digital-ready, empowers agility in adapting to constantly changing consumer and employee needs and truly creates greater value for the business.

To stay competitive, businesses need an AI-based WFM solution that is capable of going beyond traditional interactions, focusing on the digital world and meeting the growing digital demand while providing previously unseen ability for the employee to set their own schedule.”

Abad: “We will continue to see a change in the understanding of the differences between WFO and WEM, we will go from talking about point solutions such as forecasting, recording, scheduling, quality management, or recording, as independent entities, to holistic WEM solutions, that combine different disciplines, and are designed and developed with humans at the center, and not only customers but also employees, understanding that they have different roles, journeys, and experiences.

A great example is Genesys Workforce Engagement platform — which brings out the full potential of employees and agents through technology that’s designed with their needs in mind, ushering in the future of work base on empathy and trust, where humanity and technology work hand in hand, A platform that is highly interactive and provides various opportunities for employees to grow and learn.”

Geverts: “Contact centres and WFO will play an even bigger role within the connected enterprise. Ever since “customer experience” became a priority for many organisations contact centres have become a central source of customer experience insight. This has led to connecting siloed data, channelling customer feedback and collaborating with other departments. The rise in business intelligence (BI) and voice-of-the-customer analytics became critical during the pandemic and working from home. This shift positions contact centres at the heart of enterprise intelligence about the customer.

WFO solutions can allow contact centres to connect to the wider enterprise and identify information to help them be more customer-centric, employee-centric and data-driven.

The WFO suites that will truly enable today’s connected-enterprise, need to have out-of-the-box tools in place to share contact centre insights more broadly and easily in a targeted, function specific manner. Calabrio’s Agent Wellbeing report showed that while 65% of agents are working fully remotely or hybrid working, “more flexibility” is the second highest thing that agents want from their employers – which shows that flexibility is not just about place but is also about time and work/life balance.

Leading WFO solutions will continue to develop technology that enables management teams to give better self-service experiences to agents, where they have more autonomy over their schedules.

Finally, the top things agents want from their training going forward are (1) more frequent (2) more personalised (3) more flexible. WFO solutions need to support analytics-driven training programmes that identify individual skills gaps and help deliver more targeted training and team development.”

Jim Fleming, Sabio

Jim Fleming, Sabio

Fleming: “I believe there will be more of a focus on employee engagement and further functionality to accommodate planning for remote working and hybrid working.

Analytics will play a much larger role in planning and operations as organisations move to an increasingly data-led approach to WFO – with a switch to cloud and mobile apps accelerated.

Now, more than ever, there are different ways to approach WFO and this will only expand as tech capabilities grow and the demand on the contact centre workforce increases – increasingly providing organisations with the resilience, security, scale and agility they need to support their customers and employees best in the form of full, on-premise deployments, private cloud instances as well as multi-tenant SaaS options.”

 

 


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