WFM - Workforce Management in an Omnichannel Contact Center World

In spite of the fact that nearly every “call center” is now a “contact center,” we observe little substance to the discussion—much less action—around multichannel workforce management (WFM). Contact center leaders “get it.” They want to move beyond Excel worksheets to common reporting, forecasting and scheduling that address all media needs. But omnichannel WFM is not all it’s cracked up to be in the marketing hype—operationally or technologically.

To do omnichannel WFM, you need multichannel data inputs. Two things account for workload—volume and handle time (or the equivalent in other media). WFM analysts need a fair amount of detail on these things—by interval, across time and with accuracy.

Vendors long ago solved the challenge of how to get data on voice contacts from many different ACD systems into many different WFM systems. They are now solving that for other media, with a wide range of sources, many of which provide not enough, or not good enough, data.

Here are a few examples of how vendors have responded to the omnichannel challenge:

  • Genesys | Interactive Intelligence uses “Focus” to accumulate direct handle time (talk and wrap) as well as “pause” time. Visual indicators help the agents characterize their interactions to enable the systems to track their time properly.
  • Verint uses the data from the ACD if they get it (and it’s accurate). In some cases, chat systems provide the data on handle time and number of chats. They also need information on the frequency with which agents manage concurrent sessions to adjust the data accordingly. In a pinch, time and motion studies help. But the preferred approach leverages core systems data or Desktop and Process Analytics output.
  • Genesys outlines three typical ways to get the needed data: from a system directly, enter manually if available, or estimate when not available. Clearly these are in descending order of ease and accuracy, but the good news is they see a distinct upward trend in getting good data from the multimedia routing engine.
  • Aspect knows that “universal input” is the goal, as they’ve achieved with voice, but that is a work in progress for other media. They can do manual data entry for proof of concept and then integrate with APIs to get specific data needed.

Once they get data, vendors use different algorithms for different work types. For example, chat is immediate (like phone), but its algorithm allows for multiple sessions. Email uses a deferred algorithm that addresses backlog as well as the longer service goal. They also emphasize the importance of channel prioritization and its impact on WFM.

While voice has been the predominant volume, expectations are it will change. Other media volumes are growing in total and as a percentage, especially as mobile devices play an increasingly dominant role in our communication lives. Unfortunately, other media have too often been the “invisible workload.” At best, centers use a work code to capture time spent on them. At worst, they’re treated like “project work” that agents get to when they have time. That approach hardly delivers the experience that customers have come to expect.

Key Enablers of Omnichannel Success

Omnichannel is not about everyone taking every media; it’s about managing all media effectively and creating a “seamless, integrated” customer experience as they use their channels of choice. Common routing, reporting and management, across channels (aka “Multimedia Routing and Reporting or MMRR), is critical to that vision. Carefully considered use of technology enables centers to create and use accurate data on all media.