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Workforce Management: Creating High-Performing, Cost-Effective Teams Through Adherence On-Demand

By Special Guest
Rick McFarland, VP Contact Center Solutions, CoreDial
June 23, 2020

Running a contact center is challenging even during the best of times. Constant pressures of juggling high customer expectations, ever-changing technology, and cost-efficiency metrics place extraordinary demands on the managers and agents measured by how quickly and effectively customer needs are addressed. Now imagine the difficulty of maintaining productivity and efficiency in a contact center where agents work remotely, especially when unaccustomed to a remote work dynamic. Work-from-home mandates are causing havoc for managers who rely on visually scanning the contact center floor to gauge activity and ensure processes and protocols are followed. In a COVID-19 centric environment, many businesses and supervisors must now rely on instinct and reporting tools (often clunky and prehistoric) to oversee staff and ensure organizational needs are met.

There is a better way. A much better, affordable, intelligent way for managers to affect efficiency and contribute to business goals.  A new generation of cloud-based Workforce Management (WFM) offerings give managers the tools to track adherence anytime, and anywhere — whether agents are in the office or working remotely. Taking advantage of the flexibility of cloud-based services, companies can use WFM and its real-time insights to better manage their teams and create efficient ‘adherence-on-demand’ work environments that empower contact centers to meet their performance and efficiency requirements.

Performance Powered by the Cloud

Cloud-based contact center solutions have already gained traction in the market, due to their low operating costs compared to legacy systems, and flexibility for adding agents and adjusting features as the business demands. And with increasing transitions from on-premise to remote-work policies, cloud infrastructure has never been more prominent.

Functionally, cloud technology offers the same feature set, whether working on-site or off. Once set up in their home or remote office, agents can receive inbound calls, SMS messages, Web chat, and emails from customers, just like they did in the physical contact center. They can access all the information available while working in the office — such as past transactions, customer habits, and previous disputes — giving them equal ability to address customer needs from wherever they’re working. Agents can still request supervisor assistance, or add knowledge workers into the conversation to properly resolve the customer’s needs. Cloud-based contact centers enable high performing agents, which lead to productive call resolutions. A customer’s experience with on-site and remote agents are indistinguishable, but until recently, the same was not true for a supervisor’s ability to track, measure and manage these agents. on-site ease with which supervisors oversee and manage their teams.

                 Rick McFarland 

From a managerial standpoint, on-premise and remote workforces pose drastically unique considerations and challenges.   While supervisors can easily listen in to remote agent interactions through a cloud-based contact center platform, they lack many of the staff management options afforded by traditional, onsite environments.. Typical practices relied upon to manage, measure, schedule and support agents aren’t conducive to remote workforces— face-to-face team discussions, walking around to observe agents, regularly spontaneous collaboration with colleagues or other departments to align staff and schedules with peak and off-peak requirements — and new, modern methods are are necessary to ensure off-site staff maintain strict adherence to company policies, procedures and standards.

Where Workforce Management Shines

Much like the simplicity and cost-efficiency of the cloud itself, web-based Workforce Management solutions are a compelling option for many organizations. These offerings are designed to work as modules within their CCaaS platforms and provide companies with all the tools and reporting required to efficiently manage agents and operate as cost-effectively and profitably as possible. These solutions can be simply activated, and no integration or development work is required.

Through Workforce Management (WFM) modules, contact center supervisors can access a comprehensive suite of tools to better address operational needs. Some of the most enticing  aspects of WFM are dynamic agent scheduling, forecasting peak activity with historical data, policy and process, adherence to policies and processes, as well as real-time and on-demand access to a treasure-trove of data that informs and optimizes all of the above.

Tightly integrated WFM solutions use the same data stream as the contact center platform. This mitigates the expense of aligning data between disparate systems, and actually lowers the operating cost of the entire contact center operation.

WFM automates processes and reduces manual effort, simplifying and adding efficiencies. For example, rather than relying on cumbersome spreadsheets, scheduling becomes intuitive. Managers can see the entire roster and open slots on a single screen, and through drag-and-drop technology, fill out an entire shift, day, week, or even month, while never leaving the contact center platform.

Advanced WFM solutions can analyze and predict demand utilizing historical data and key metrics, including wait times, the length of each interaction, and abandonment rates. Forecasting is both simplified and more reliable.  These analyses help management accurately determine the resource requirements for peak demands, such as the holiday rush, pre- and post-sale, and weekend hours. All of these insights lead to better decisions and better bottom-line business outcomes.

Adherence-on-Demand: The North Star of Managing Remote Workers

One of the most attractive features provided by WFM solutions is powerful Adherence-on-Demand capabilities, which give supervisors real-time analytical insights into contact center operations, and as a result, the ability to manage the workgroup based on data, not conjecture.

Most importantly, these tools provide visibility into agent activity that has historically been difficult, costly and even impossible to obtain in virtualized environments. Management can see precisely when agents log on and off the system, how many calls were serviced, and any prolonged or unauthorized breaks in activity. These data points are available in real-time and on-demand,  giving supervisors a current and comprehensive picture of agent activity. On-demand adherence helps management identify and address non-compliant agents, provide coaching where needed, and appropriately recognize or reward high performers. Adherence creates transparency and a culture of accountability, outcomes proven to improve agent morale and performance.

The Bolt-on Battle

There are some excellent stand-alone WFM solutions in the marketplace but many of these require complex integrations with contact center platforms. When external or “bolt-on” applications are in the mix, data is often shuttled back and forth between the core contact center platform and the WFM platform. Compatibility issues often arise, and the business has to deal with the expense and development time needed to rationalize all data formatting and translation across two disparate platforms.

In addition, many WFM solutions have hefty price tags, and are not really targeted to small- and medium-size businesses, making the bolt-on approach a deal-breakerfor a large portion of the market.

Cloud-based technology eliminates many of the issues associated with bolt-on solutions. The integration process is comparatively simple, and the price points are much more aligned with SME needs than standalone proprietary systems.

Conclusion

The challenge of managing a contact center has only intensified amidst the pandemic environment. Work-from-home mandates and other operational requirements are placing extraordinary stress on agents as well as supervisors who must maintain service standards and cost-efficiency while working in unfamiliar environments.

Affordable and highly flexible cloud contact center technology is a tremendous improvement to legacy, bolt-on and traditional contact center offerings. WFM is the cherry on top, scaling and expanding the output, performance, and capabilities of a cloud-based contact center solution and the people using it. Intuitive functionality, features and on-demand insights give managers everything they need to efficiently schedule, staff,  plan, and meet adherence standards,  And for a business landscape becoming defined by unprecedented flux, transition, restructuring and transformation, WFM capabilities transcend best practices by enabling mission-critical agility, on-demand data and reliable practices for managing three of an organization’s most vital assets - its people, customers and invaluable brand reputation.




Edited by Maurice Nagle


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