Managing a large labor force, of any kind, brings a slew of challenges. One of those challenges in the contact center is how to manage and maintain schedules to ensure all demand is handled efficiently for the customer and the business. Workforce Management (WFM) is one of the key components in meeting these objectives. But not all WFM solutions are created equal and many of them rely on technology that is outdated and proven to be inaccurate and inefficient.
If you have an exciting WFO software product, first ask yourself if it was designed with the current (and future) type of contact center worker in mind. The generation of contact center agents that was working in the ’90s have very different needs and expectations than contact center workers born in the ’90s (or later). If you have a legacy solution, fear not! Fresh innovation is at hand.
Regardless of what your current WFM solution (or lack thereof) might be, a good starting point is to identify and fully understand your business needs and then begin the search for potential solutions. Here are a few tips on areas you should investigate in any potential WFM product.
Most WFM solutions use antiquated algorithms and models to create the forecast. These outdated systems can still work in certain environments, however, they are subject to significant error for contact centers with fewer than a few thousand agents. Now, some of you may be reading this and thinking, “Well, we only have 20 agents, so we don’t need to forecast.” This is not true at all. Forecasting is appropriate in any business, and the right WFM technology can still deliver efficiency improvements that save money or aid in ensuring all service level objectives are achieved.
The advanced WFM tools leverage multiple forecasting algorithms with the goal of delivering the most accurate forecasts in the industry. The right solution will flex and support you as your operation grows, and evolve as your business needs and priorities change. Additionally, if a WFM solution doesn’t automatically provide its forecast accuracy score, you should be suspicious. How can you really trust your forecast if the tool isn’t providing you with the necessary access to highlight this most critical measure?
Workforce Management can be a complex piece of software. If a solution doesn’t have any level of intelligence, you’ll be in for a lot of manual, administrative responsibilities. A modern WFM product should be able to learn and understand the relevant patterns of volume and labor details so that it can improve on its own over time. Additionally, a truly advanced WFM solution should be augmenting human efforts with intelligent suggestions that are presented automatically and based on the defined performance metrics. For example, if Service Level is trending better or worse than expected, your WFM tool should recognize this and suggest the best action to correct the trend. Once you trust these suggestions, you should be able to set certain parameters for some, if not all, of these suggested actions to be on auto-pilot and self-manage.
You need to think beyond your over/under reporting abilities and focus more on your agility to react accurately to real-time volume impacts that require adjustments. Not only should you have real-time or near real-time updates, but to ease your effort in identifying areas needing attention, everything should have the option to be viewed in a standard chart or graphically. In other words, if a WFM product still requires manual identification, analysis and correction, it’s basically stone-age technology. Look for something that’s intelligent enough to suggest actions to meet or exceed objectives without any time wasted from manual efforts.
This comes down to one thing – ease of use. The sophistication of a solution doesn’t mean it has to be complex, as you need it to match your business goals and objectives. If your WFM component takes four weeks of training, that should be a red flag. A good solution should only take a couple of hours to learn and should require less than a few weeks to become proficient.
Reading articles like this is a great starting point in learning about WFM solutions. Next, start shopping for a solution that meets your business needs. Shop around and ask questions derived from articles like this one when working through your prospective vendor list.
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