Organizations are now well in their third year of operation in the remote or at-home/work-from-home (WFH) contact center environment. And they are working to devise sustainable workforce management (WFM) strategies.
In today’s challenging job market, it’s crucial for organizations to attract, nurture, and retain quality talent.
Paul Stockford of Saddletree Research had stated: “The effective management of any contact center workforce, and the greatest chance of providing the customer with an optimal service experience, requires the contact center to have the best possible employees in agent seats at any given time.”
New artificial intelligence (AI)-infused technology solutions are becoming fundamental to help secure and onboard the best talent and ensure their ongoing development and engagement in the WFH contact center. Particularly when these employees may never set foot in a brick-and-mortar office to meet face-to-face with recruiting and training personnel, supervisors, and managers.
Start with Streamlined and Sophisticated Hiring
In developing effective workforce strategies, a logical place to start is the hiring and agent onboarding process.
The cost and effort to hire and onboard new contact center agents is not insignificant: especially when the industry’s historically high turnover rates are taken into account.
The National Association of Call Centers estimated the cost of agent replacement to be $6,500 including sourcing, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training. With annual contact center attrition rates ranging from 50% to 120% the ability to identify and hire candidates who will perform well and stay on with an organization is paramount.
For a typical contact center, it takes on average 10 on-site interviews per hire, and, between five to seven weeks to recruit, hire, onboard, and train a new agent. You can imagine the additional challenges this presents for organizations with large contact centers that require high volume hiring, such as seasonal retail businesses and large financial institutions with significant back-office operations.
Contact centers are competing for the same employee base as other businesses…
The WFH workplace can be an advantage from a hiring perspective. Now organizations can look beyond geographic boundaries to attract and hire qualified candidates. However, it also necessitates new tools to interview, assess, and onboard candidates virtually.
Intelligent interviewing solutions using voice, advanced predictive modeling, and analytics are coming to the aid of contact centers in helping pre-assess a candidate’s job-related performance. These applications enable virtual pre-interviews, job simulation, language assessment, usage of knowledge management systems, and more.
What’s more, studies show that use of these intelligent interviewing tools can reduce the interview process to a nominal two to three interviews.
Not only do intelligent interviewing solutions make it easier and faster to engage and evaluate candidates, but they also help hire employees who are most likely to succeed in the jobs. Statistics show that candidates who perform well on the pre-employment assessment tests are employed longer and perform better at their jobs.
Intelligent interviewing solutions also help provide a richer employee experience (EX) right from the start that can be a winning strategy and a competitive advantage in the tight labor market.
Today, many businesses are still short-staffed as a result of the Great Resignation. Contact centers are competing for the same employee base as other businesses and must give candidates a better perception of their workforce cultures upfront.
As candidates become more selective to find a well-suited job where they can succeed in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era, organizations need to put their best foot forward to win the talent war.
Intelligent hiring solutions manifest employee engagement earlier in the hiring process to leverage company culture as a key recruiting tool.
Guiding Agents in the WFH Contact Center
In the past, agents were able to get feedback, coaching, and support from peers or supervisors on the floor. Since the transition to WFH, contact centers the world over have been looking for ways to support agents virtually in this capacity.
WFM applications such as automated quality management (AQM) solutions help ensure new agents get the coaching, training, and support needed to avoid struggling and resigning.
While quality management is traditionally a manual and ad hoc process, AQM ensures automated call review and scoring for agent performance, customer satisfaction, and compliance for every single customer service call.
A performance score with feedback is provided in real-time to the agent and supervisor and kicks off a workflow. If an issue is detected, training and/or one-to-one coaching is automatically scheduled, and a copy of the customer interaction is sent to the agent’s supervisor.
This process ensures agents receive the training and support they need to become top agents, and management can support continuous improvement.
Another way organizations are providing support for agents in the WFH contact center is through AI-powered real-time agent assist solutions. These solutions combine linguistic and acoustic insights that analyze what and how it’s being said with additional real-time input from the agents’ desktops, CRM systems, knowledge management, and more.
Real-time agent assist can trigger guidance to the agents and alert supervisors where necessary to improve the interaction outcomes, thereby reducing the cost to serve, increasing customer satisfaction, and growing the overall value of the interactions to the customers and the organization.
And when agents feel supported and empowered to care for their customers, it adds tremendous value to the EX.
Intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) also have a role to play in empowering agents and improving the EX. While IVAs and chatbots become more widely adopted as customer self-service channels, the need for live agent interactions isn’t going away.
IVAs can free up time for agents to spend on more challenging customer concerns that require a human interface. These tools direct agent time and talents to more meaningful interactions that are more stimulating and rewarding. And IVAs, when used internally by agents, provide access to a wealth of information to support fast, accurate responses to customers.
Online communities also support employee engagement, teamwork, and camaraderie. They serve as depots for vital information. When used internally for agents, communities provide a centralized location to access the information they need to fulfil their responsibilities and ultimately better serve customers. Functionality such as forums, gamification, articles, and access to HR and IT information keeps agents connected to the organization and their peers.
Supporting the Agent Lifecycle
As life in the remote/WFH contact center marches on, agents must continue to evolve their skills, product and service knowledge.
Today, WFM tools are helping support the remote agent lifecycle: ensuring agents have the support and resources they need and are empowered to effectively engage with customers.
And when agents feel valued it also enables the recruiting and retention of other highly qualified future colleagues through their very powerful personal word-of-mouth and social recommendations. Thereby completing a virtuous sustaining loop of quality service provided by enthusiastic, loyal, and hardworking staff.