Workforce Analyst Enhancements
You Will Need by 2020
By Eric Hagaman, Senior Product Manager
Workforce management is an integral part of the agent’s work environment, but agents see only the end-result of a complex planning process managed by contact center workforce analysts. These experts are steeped in the nuances of forecasting models, workforce labor categories and expected labor shrinkage. Let’s look at WFM software features that are critical to the success of the workforce analyst.
We live in a world that operates at internet speed. Organizations are undergoing constant and rapid change to keep pace with emerging consumer demands and market forces. As a culture, we have embraced just-in-time delivery, Amazon Prime, the Gig Economy of part-time workers, new social media channels, pervasive consumer expectations of immediate customer service, always-on agents and consumers, and the list goes on. Businesses trying to survive in this highly dynamic environment must continually re-invent themselves with new products and services, new go-to-market strategies, new goals, new managers and new employee skills. Victory goes to the fleet of foot – to those businesses that are prepared for rapid change that is largely unpredictable.
How will organizations be able to deliver great customer service by the year 2020, when the pace of change will undoubtedly be even faster than it is today? Will their workforce tools be able to adapt to the new business goals that naturally result from new strategies? Can they adapt to the reprioritization of agent skills that come with new products and services? Consider the following advanced WFM features that will be necessary to manage your workforce in just a few years:
Flexible Service Quality Goals
It is crucial to focus on the service quality goals that actually drive business results, while balancing customer experience with cost, risk and other business objectives. As the business or product strategy changes, so must the relative importance of various service quality goals. For example, if a business starts to face significant competition, it might change its strategy from driving revenue to decreasing cost, and this would likely mean reducing the number of agents and sacrificing average speed of answer and other KPIs. Proper staffing for a large organization in a changing business environment is particularly difficult, because you need to answer staffing questions about an inter-connected network of contact centers, each with its own goals, operating in multiple channels. With 2020 on the horizon, your workforce management system must be able to easily change the goals upon which it optimizes whether they be service level percentage, average speed of answer, average customer reply time, balancing over/under staffing, staff cost, full coverage or other.
Agent Scheduling Agility
Companies are increasingly experimenting with more flexible scheduling options to attract high-caliber workers, while continuing to manage costs effectively. In this more agile world, you must build staffing schedules in interchangeable ways: for example, templates of business-approved patterns or employee preferences, factoring in union limitations, work rules, and accounting for equity. Then you must assign those schedules to employees or bid the schedules out in multiple ways or capture them in rosters with predictable repeating patterns from the employee perspective. You also want to create predictable schedules for senior staff and more flexible schedules for new and part-time staff while creating preferred shifts for your business and less desirable shifts for your outsourcing partners. It’s a complex problem, especially in a rapidly changing business environment, so a WFM system that truly stands up to the workforce dynamics in 2020 will need to be extremely flexible and capable when creating schedules.
It’s impossible to predict the future, but you can take steps to mitigate the risk of unexpected events having significant negative impact on your goals. A good WFM tool should easily run many “what if” scenarios to test the robustness of the labor plan under duress. What if a snowstorm prevents half of your agents from coming to work in the first week of January? What if a newly released mobile phone creates twice the customer service call volume you expected? What if you offered 10% of your shifts as part-time? What if you cancel coaching for the month of March? What if you reduce your service quality goals by 15%? The cost of poor planning can be immense in terms of profits and customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, many WFM systems on the market don’t allow unlimited “what if” testing of schedules without affecting the official schedule.
Rapid growth or a new business initiative often calls for new employees with new skills as well as their associated schedule preferences. When you create your contact center staffing plan, you may need to include “virtual people,” i.e., people whom you have not yet hired but will eventually support changing requirements. Less advanced WFM systems require the workforce analyst to actually enter dummy employees in the system in order to create a staffing plan. More advanced systems such as Aspect EQ Workforce Management allow you to complete the planning work without awkward workarounds, by helping you predict the number of staff with a particular skillset required to handle future workloads.
In today’s dynamic contact center environment, your WFM solution needs to be flexible enough to expand in any number of ways. Many organizations distribute contact centers around North America and internationally, but this requirement has significant repercussions on WFM system design. The network architecture must support potentially many users in many sites while keeping data in sync across these sites. Also, with a global footprint, the WFM solution must support multiple time zones and handling of daylight savings time in addition to multiple languages in multiple regions. With each center being unique, you need integration flexibility, so you need a rich set of APIs and an open system running on off-the-shelf non-proprietary components. Not all WFM solutions on the market include features that make WFM globally extensible.
In our increasingly unpredictable business environment, your workforce tools can severely limit your ability to offer quality customer service a reasonable cost. Ask the more challenging questions before considering a workforce management system that will likely be with you for years to come.