Our workforce management (WFM) landscape is changing at breakneck speed. Many organizations are now 100% work-from-home or have a workforce divided between brick-and-mortar and virtual agents (82% are WFH since July 2020—Gartner). This presents entirely new challenges and opportunity for workforce managers.
Workforce management professionals are still grappling with this epic change. We have seen shifts in demand curves, different lifestyle requirements from agents and new challenges to communications, trying to stay connected with key resources and our WFH (work-from-home) agents.
There is clearly a need for new technologies and strategies for managing a divided and isolated workforce. Crucial decisions are being made for upgrading legacy technology to leverage more modern and resilient cloud infrastructure solutions, telephony platforms and the entire workforce optimization suite of products, including WFM.
If this sounds familiar, there are a few considerations that will enable your center to not only adapt to the new conditions but leverage the opportunity to increase service level and consistency, and improve agent satisfaction in the process.
Do you have a complete solution today in support of your WFH strategy? Does it include a mobile strategy? Cloud-hosted contact center solutions not only enable WFH agents with reliable and fast access to all types of interactions (web, voice, text), they dramatically reduce costs associated with on-premise solutions.
Approximately 60% of contact centers using premise-based equipment are evaluating plans to move to a hosted or hybrid platform. Cloud-based solutions provide a lower TCO, are easy to implement, improve reliability and disaster recovery, offer flexible agent staffing, and can provide a competitive edge in the form of distinctive customer service.
WFM has likely resulted in a whole host of new guidelines and policies from an HR perspective. Leveraging mobile technology in this paradigm requires careful collaboration. Without a mobile strategy, you are missing the best opportunity for your company to keep pace with the escalating demands of your customers and agents. Having a sound business case for mobile WFM technology enables the center to respond quicker to the dynamics of unexpected customer and agent behaviors.
There are key considerations for adopting a mobile WFM plan. Partner with HR to ensure that you are working within the corporate mobile phone guidelines. What about policies relative to smartphones as a means of communications and smart apps? Who pays for the device? Are agents eligible to be paid when interacting with that device, even if it’s outside of their shift? All these questions need to be understood, documented and socialized, and new processes implemented and trained.
Consider Alternative Scheduling Methodologies That Support the Business
The explosion of WFH agents has opened a new window of opportunity for flexible agent scheduling that best suits your company and agents. Socialize new flex-scheduling options with agents. Even though peak periods must be covered, agents may be open to different shift patterns if it means they can have more personal time off while working from home. Scheduling options to consider that may benefit both agent and center:
- 4×10 shifts
- Split shifts
- Shift bidding
Communicate your plans with agents before implementing, and ask them for their schedule preferences. Not only do you want to get their buy-in, the new schedule plans must meet your business needs and be cost-efficient. Run multiple schedule scenarios with your WFM platform. You might be surprised at just how flexible involved agents are and the resulting direct impact on improved customer service.
Crucial Communications Features in an Isolated World
Intraday management is a key discipline in running a contact center at peak efficiency. Customer demand may be influenced by a wide variety of factors outside the center’s control. Weather, competitive pressures, world events, even poor interdepartmental communications can result in unanticipated customer demand, which can produce both understaffed as well as overstaffed conditions.
Now that you are managing a dispersed workforce and can’t look around the room and immediately communicate with your staff, how do you execute time-off/on schedule changes in response to these altered conditions? A WFM platform with cloud-enabled communication options and quick access to staff using email, text messaging, mobile apps, internal memos, pop-up alerts and streaming messages becomes essential so that employees and supervisors can stayed connected.
When schedule adjustments are necessary, such as soliciting overtime or offering voluntary time off, two-way communication allows agents to directly respond to offers of schedule changes. For example, using built-in notification channels, all users could receive a text message and/or an email alerting them to a business disruption due to a new marketing initiative.
Modern, adaptive intraday management features, when coupled with an integrated communications framework, enable centers to quickly realign their resources to respond to the dynamics of unanticipated customer, as well as agent behaviors, and still deliver consistent customer service.
Rapidly Changing Environment
The world of workforce management is changing more rapidly than at any other time in our history. Customers are interacting across multiple interaction channels throughout the day. The gig economy has changed the workforce and the expectations of the workers. The WFH paradigm has forever altered the way we manage and need to engage with our workforce. Complementary communications technologies are available and are being integrated into our WFM platforms.
There is plenty coming at workforce managers today, and it is an incredibly exciting profession and technology. We must continue to evaluate solutions and approaches to meet our customers’ needs and balance the needs of our agents. The one thing we know for sure is that more changes are coming.