Mobile Apps for Agents

FROM THE MAY 2018 ISSUE

Contact Center Pipeline Magazine: Inside Our May 2018 Issue
Illustration by David Grey

Some things just go together like chips and salsa, Frick and Frack… millennials and smartphones.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that managers were contemplating whether Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies made sense for the workplace. In fact, a 2016 poll conducted by Service Agility and Contact Center Pipeline found that 42% of contact centers did not allow agents to use their mobile phones at their desks; understandably, though, contact centers must proceed cautiously due to customer privacy and data security concerns.

Obviously, millennials are not the only generation harboring a love of mobile devices, but as the most prominent generation in the workforce, they have the power to effect change simply through their willingness to switch jobs to get what they want. What do they want? Millennials consider their smartphones to be integral for managing their daily personal lives and they want to be able to use the same device to manage their work lives.

Certain functions have led the mobility transformation within the enterprise, such as sales and HR, where the ability to interact with employees and coworkers faster and more effectively has paved the way for increased adoption in other areas of the company. Organizations are finding that providing employees with communications and productivity apps for their mobile devices leads to increased engagement, which is critical since millennials are acknowledged to be the least-engaged generation in the workforce (71% are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work, according to Gallup).

So how can contact centers leverage mobile devices to improve employee engagement?

Last month, I had an opportunity to speak with a few WFM experts about the rising expectations among contact center employees for better work-life balance. They offered lots of practical ideas for injecting more flexibility into scheduling shifts, lunches and breaks. Allowing agents to self-manage parts of the scheduling process via mobile apps not only makes their lives easier, it bolsters engagement by giving them the control to make changes where and when it’s most convenient, and provides a consumer-style experience that they’ve come to expect from the apps they use in their personal lives.

Let’s take a look at a few mobile apps from industry solutions providers that are providing agents with on-the-go access to schedules, company news, news alerts, knowledge sharing, gamification, interactive feedback and more.

Self-Scheduling Apps Provide Self-Empowerment

The most effective way to improve engagement is to give agents the thing they want the most—scheduling flexibility, says Larry Schwartz, a strategic business consultant with NICE. Unplanned absenteeism is a problem that contact centers struggle with—and yet most managers admit that it’s easier for an agent to just not show up than to request time off, Schwartz says, adding that: “If you can make it easier for agents to see opportunities to take time off and make it up later, or offer other alternatives, you can transform your agents into active workforce management partners who can help your WFM team solve scheduling problems.”

The WorkFlex Agent Suite mobile app from WorkFlex Solutions, A NICE Company, allows agents to view their own schedules, see availability in the center’s schedule before requesting a change, define the time periods when they’d like to work extra hours or take time off, and alerts them of opportunities for extra hours during their specified time periods, along with many other functions.

A successful approach for using the app is to schedule a set number of base hours and then allow agents to self-schedule the rest. For instance, instead of scheduling all FTEs for a 40-hour workweek, centers can preschedule agents for 30 hours; those who want to work more can use the app to grab extra hours. This approach has led to more accurate forecasts, less staffing variances and higher agent satisfaction, Schwartz says.

Contact centers can also ensure that the less-desirable shifts are covered by adopting a gamified model in which agents can earn extra points for agreeing to work harder-to-fill timeslots, he explains. Agents can then use the points as a form of currency to negotiate shift swaps within their teams.

Build in Policies That Allow Agents to Self-Manage

Providing agents with the ability to conduct simple schedule-related tasks on their own demonstrates a level of trust that has a positive impact on employee satisfaction and engagement, says Jenni Palocsik, Senior Director, Content Marketing at Verint. But, she adds, “when offering flexible options, make sure that requests are easy to approve to avoid increasing the administrative burden on your management.” More importantly, make sure that you’re enabling employees to manage their time in a way that doesn’t negatively impact service level.

Verint WorkView mobile app, www.verint.com

Fortunately, WFO apps incorporate preset rules to ensure that the appropriate skill sets are scheduled, number of hours aren’t exceeded and other internal parameters are adhered to, such as how often agents can request shift swaps or flex time. “Being able to build in policy so that employee requests can be automatically approved if they meet those guidelines helps to modernize your contact center and differentiate you from the competition,” Palocsik says. For agents, “being able to see your schedule on your phone and see how you’re performing as an employee—that is the expectation today.”

For an even more consumer-like experience, WorkView, the mobile app interface for the Verint Workforce Optimization suite, provides agents with AI-enabled schedule access through voice-activated digital assistants that can tell agents what time their shift starts on any particular day, when their breaks are and other scheduling information.

Palocsik points out that improving employee engagement goes beyond scheduling-related tasks. It’s also critical to provide access to:

  • Content and knowledge management to answer questions quickly, easily and accurately;
  • Dashboards and scorecards so agents can see how they’re performing against goals; and
  • E-learning capabilities.

“Our intelligent virtual assistant is a chatbot that can answer not only consumers’ questions through a website, but also questions for employees. For instance, if there is a question that doesn’t come up very often, agents can use the same chatbot to get quick and relevant answers,” she explains. “We also have internal communications where employees can share best practices and advice, and mentor each other. That helps to build a strong community even if they aren’t all in the same location.”

Connecting Distributed and Remote Staff

For contact centers with work-at-home programs, helping remote agents to feel connected to teammates and the company culture has long been a top challenge for supervisors. Work-at-home staff often can feel isolated and left out of workplace conversations, celebrations and team-building events.

Engaging distributed workforces is a key goal of StaffConnect’s next generation mobile app platform. Its customer-branded mobile app allows companies to connect and communicate with their entire workforce, regardless of location, and gives remote employees a voice within the organization.

StaffConnect Mobile App, www.staffconnectapp.com

“The mobile app keeps employees connected to goals, policy and culture—all those important aspects of a company that you sometimes don’t get to participate in when you work from home,” says StaffConnect CMO Geraldine Osman.

Importantly, the app was not designed solely for management to push content out to employees. It includes a secure chat function, peer-to-peer content sharing and other employee feedback modules.

StaffConnect provides three packages. The entry-level out-of-the-box solution includes five modules: news, company directory, events, library and tickertape. The Professional Edition adds collaboration features like communities, chat and voice of the employee surveys. And a Professional Plus Edition is custom-configured, integrated solution. It includes Professional Edition modules plus quizzes, questions (which provides employees the opportunity to post questions for company leaders), open jobs, feeds, API integration and an active directory plugin.

Osman notes that the app is particularly useful when onboarding new employees or rolling out new policies. “Companies are able to give a new employee instant access to all the people who are responsible for their onboarding, and provide them with all of the other elements of that process, such as documentation and events, ahead of time and in one place,” she explains.

For instance, when employees are required to read a health and safety policy, they can do so in the library module and acknowledge that they have read the document. Managers can then track which employees have received the policy and which ones have read it.

Some of StaffConnect’s clients discovered an unexpected crisis management benefit of the mobile app during last year’s London Bridge attack and Hurricane Irma. During both events, clients were able to reach their staff in the affected areas—despite disruptions to other communication channels—to ensure that all employees were safe and accounted for, and to provide staff with updates on transportation systems, areas to avoid and emergency procedures.

“There are myriad examples of how companies can engage their employees through the mobile app,” Osman says. “It all rolls up into designing and creating a digital workplace for the modern workforce.”

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