workforce optimizationEnterprise workforce management is a relatively new idea that can literally transform a customer service organization, and forward-thinking businesses must at least have it on their radar, if not their 2014 priorities list. But just as critical is workforce optimization (WFO), a more longstanding management concept that remains difficult for many companies to successfully achieve.

A Frost & Sullivan survey of more than 300 contact center decision makers reveals that 46 percent of respondents with mid-size contact centers use workforce management tools, and 36 percent plan to make new or additional investments in the technology in the future. Workforce optimization ensures that contact center agents are able to work at their productive best by routing contacts to them based on their expertise, experience and availability, and by giving them access to the right people and information to resolve issues as quickly and effectively as possible.

As companies look to implement a WFO strategy that will positively impact productivity, keep customer effort low and loyalty high, and maximize issue resolution, they must keep three key tenets in mind:

1. Embrace skills-based routing—and empower decision makers – In today’s organizations, it’s not enough to expect all your agents to be effective generalists. As customers look for fast resolution and personalized service, they expect to speak with agents who know something about their particular situation—and who can take action and make decisions as needed. As calls, emails and other contacts come in, it’s important to route each one to the best person to handle to job, based on his experience, knowledge and skills. Adding presence information allows you to make routing decisions based on availability, too. Once the contact is in an agent’s hand, policies should allow him to resolve the issue in the best way he sees fit. Leveraging back-end data to get a 360-degree view of the customer will help the agent make immediate decisions about how to solve a customer’s problem in the best way possible—one that improves the overall relationship and keeps the caller loyal and primed for up-selling and cross-selling opportunities.

2. Recognize the differences among contact points – In a modern contact center, multi-channel is the norm: Customers can contact the organization through traditional mechanisms, including voice and web, using traditional applications like CTI and IVR; and they can connect via more modern channels, such as chat and social media. But not all agents will be able to support all channels; training is important, so that contact center employees learn and understand the differences that come up between handling, say, a phone call and a web chat. Language, nuance, personality, and delay—all of these will vary depending on the mode of contact in use. For instance, people who use web-based chat are likely to be multi-tasking while they wait for support; patience is required when asking for information or response. Likewise, social media is, for many agents, a brand-new world. Most will need to be taught how to respond, on behalf of the organization, to tweets and status updates in ways that feel natural to the medium without undermining the corporate brand. Finally, most agents cannot typically handle cross-channel exchanges with ease; while it is reasonable to ask a contact center employee to juggle several chat sessions at once, very few will be able to manage phone calls and chat sessions at the same time. Similarly, it is worth dedicating agents to monitor and react to social media posts, rather than asking them to pop into social sites as gaps in their time allows.

3. Leverage knowledge workers in the back office – Today’s contact center is not constrained by business boundaries. Not only are more agents working remotely and/or from home, they are increasingly tapping knowledge workers to get the information and answers they need as soon as they need them. But effectively deploying back-office employees in the front office requires careful time management and control. A good WFO system will allow knowledge workers to show their availability for servicing the contact center; identify them based on skills and experience; and capture their contact center interactions, for compliance and training purposes.

For more on workforce optimization, view the on-demand webinar Unleash Contact Center Operational Excellence with Continuous Workforce Optimization. This on-demand webinar discusses how to reach contact center operational excellence by managing expenditures while fostering good customer experiences with a comprehensive Workforce Optimization solution, including:

  • Reducing operational cost
  • Optimizing your key performance indicators through automation and actionable analytics
  • Keeping a pulse on the efficiency of your operations team with increased business visibility

Watch it now!

Melanie Turek

Melanie Turek

As the VP of Research for Enterprise Communications & Collaboration at Frost & Sullivan, Melanie covers a broad range of markets, leveraging long-standing relationships with leading industry participants’ senior executives and customer organizations. Melanie has more than 20 years' experience...