The Benefits of WFM for All Stakeholders

By Bob Moore, Aspect Software

Contact centers are the center of three stakeholders coming together for every customer interaction: the customer, the agent, and the enterprise. Each stakeholder has their own interests, priorities, and sense of urgency. Sometimes they’re aligned, sometimes they’re not. However, each has a unique perspective:

The Customer Point of View

Customers value their time. When they engage with a contact center, they want to complete their transaction quickly, with help from competent agents. They don’t want to wait in a call queue for longer than a few seconds. There’s a reason why first contact resolution (FCR) and average handle time (AHT) are some of the most fundamental contact center metrics.

Additionally, customers also want to be able to use the channel of their choice — voice or text — when they need service. Whether convenient for the enterprise or not, customers expect omnichannel customer communication on their terms.

The Agent Point of View

Agents find themselves in a challenging position. They’re paid for being representatives and brand ambassadors of the enterprise, yet their job is also to satisfy the customer. These two objectives are often at odds. Consider the following:

  1. An agent’s daily work is challenging enough in its own right, and they don’t want to have to use antiquated technology with poor user interfaces to perform their work.
  2. Each agent has strengths and weaknesses, and they don’t want to feel compelled to provide service on subject matters in which they are not skilled.
  3. Most agents don’t mind working hard, but there’s a reasonable limit to how continuously they can work before they burn out.
  4. Agents find themselves working elbow to elbow in a somewhat communal environment. They want to be valued as individuals and feel like their personal needs, such as work schedule preferences, are getting attention.

The Enterprise Point of View

Most enterprises have shareholders or owners that ultimately seek long-term profitability. The path to long-term profits in a competitive world means enterprises must be constantly innovating, stay agile and sensible in attention to their customers and employees. So, most enterprises are in a continuous state of balancing priorities. In a contact center, it’s a delicate balance on a grand scale. The enterprise pursues dozens of strategic objectives, potentially millions of customers want service, and hundreds or thousands of agents are serving those customers on behalf of the enterprise. No wonder a tool like workforce management is needed to help manage this complex environment.

WFM Software Benefits All Stakeholders Individually

Customers, agents, and the enterprise share the common goal of great customer service, but they also have other goals that are very different from each other. Workforce management optimizes the customer service environment for each stakeholder. For example:

  1. Customers are able to receive timely customer service from appropriately skilled agents because WFM has accurately predicted the volumes and types of customer inquiries that will arrive during each hour of the day and has scheduled the right number of agents with the appropriate skills.
  2. Agents should have used an intuitive UI in WFM to enter their preferred schedule and received back their official schedule in a format that’s convenient (perhaps using a mobile app) and easy to understand. Every day, they should be able to see on their dashboard how they are performing as compared to expectations and have easily understandable icons that link to all their commonly used WFM activities such as performing schedule trades or viewing group allowance balances. Simple self-service tools should be used to change schedules when necessary. WFM in this context helps improve the morale of the agent population.
  3. The enterprise is able to achieve target service levels because WFM has modeled future contact volumes and scheduled the right agents, so they are sitting in their chairs when the calls come in. When WFM did the scheduling, ideally it examined the thousands or millions of possible schedules and settled on the best one that should meet SLAs at minimal cost. WFM also monitors agent activities while they are working throughout the day and lets the supervisor know if agents are not adhering to their official schedule. All these capabilities, and many more, serve the interests of the enterprise.

WFM Software Benefits the Stakeholders Collectively

WFM also provides a means to “balance” stakeholder ability to achieve objectives given their own points of view. It allows contact center workforce planners to adjust the many “control levers” they have to tilt the scales toward one stakeholder or another. Therein lies the issue of balance.

For example, if the enterprise wants to raise customer satisfaction scores by reducing wait time, that can readily be accomplished by staffing more agents, naturally at higher labor cost. Customer satisfaction improves, but profitability suffers. Alternatively, if the enterprise wants to raise customer satisfaction scores by reducing wait time, it could drive up agent occupancy, so agents are more readily available to take calls. In the short term, wait time decreases and customer sat improves, but agent satisfaction suffers, and in the long term, agent attrition increases driving up labor cost with the hire of new agents. It’s a delicate balance indeed.

These workforce decisions can be finely tuned, but only because WFM provides such comprehensive insight into workforce operations and such granular control over agent scheduling and monitoring.

Aspect WFM

Aspect developed the first workforce management solution almost 40 years ago, and since that time, we’ve been a leader in the WFM industry. According to Pelorus Associates, Aspect sports the largest share of the North America market and the second largest share in the global WFM market. The Aspect WFM solution has remained successful over the years because Aspect has continued to make the investment in important enhancements that keep it current.
Five years ago, Aspect undertook a sweeping enhancement of its user interface with the assistance of a world leading UI design firm. The result was a radically simplified icon and widget-based user interface with dashboards that incorporate meaningful color and functions carefully considered to require the minimal number of keystrokes from agents, supervisors and other users.

One of the unique features in Aspect WFM is its ability to easily model “what-if” scenarios without having to make the schedule “official.” Since Aspect WFM can run trial schedules without affecting the actual schedules to which agents will adhere, workforce planners are free to experiment with alternative schedule runs that help assess the monetary and service level risk of unpredictable (but possible) events, meeting the needs and expectations of all stakeholders involved.
Aspect recently received a patent on the sophisticated software methodology we use for accurately forecasting and scheduling in a multi-skill, omnichannel environment. Aspect is able to achieve remarkable results in mixed voice and digital channels (chat, SMS, email, social and others), because this technology models the actual statistical characteristics of the digital channels and simulates what would actually transpire among available agents in the contact center. This technology sets a high bar for WFM solutions in contact centers that are increasingly digital.

Learn more about how Aspect can help you create an environment that benefits customers, agents and the enterprise

Bob Moore is Senior Manager, Product Marketing for Aspect Software and leads product marketing for the Workforce Optimization suite including Workforce Management, Quality Management, Performance Management and Analytics. With over 20 years of experience in strategic planning, product management and marketing for technology companies, Bob has helped large and small companies achieve their growth objectives.