Martin Taylor, deputy CEO and co-founder at Content Guru, explains how to identify which workforce optimisation approach is best for your contact centre.
The homeworking revolution has seen contact centres transform themselves from the closely monitored and controlled factories of the past. Long-held certainties have been cast aside as a new-style distributed workplace emerges from the furnace of the pandemic. This workers’ paradise is staffed by a reinvigorated labour force that has eagerly embraced the pleasures of work-life balance, flexible scheduling and previously unimagined levels of trust and empowerment.
With face-to-face consumer and citizen contact being increasingly replaced by online, digital and phone-based communications, delivering exceptional customer experience from the contact centre has never been so important. There is no going back.
This rapid shift in working practices has made it increasingly difficult for organisations to manage their contact centre personnel effectively, especially when disparate legacy HR systems, or even spreadsheets, are the ways of keeping track. Delivering the best possible customer service at the highest rate of efficiency depends on ensuring all agents are trained, supported, monitored, motivated and organised, wherever they happen to be.
The concept of contact centre workforce optimisation (WFO) isn’t a new one. In recent years, contact centres have deployed a variety of technology solutions, including workforce and performance management, quality monitoring, call recording and CRM, to optimise workforce performance and ensure customer demands are met in the most efficient way possible.
However, with the recent systemic shift to remote and hybrid working now set to become a permanent fixture, contact centre leaders need to ensure the workforce optimisation approach they implement is appropriate for the long term.
New workforce realities
Massively accelerated by the pandemic, remote working models look set to stay as agents elect not to return to physical workplace settings on a full time basis – or at all. According to a recent survey, 86 per cent of UK workers say that in the future they want enhanced freedom over how, when and where they work.
Similarly, many contact centre leaders are eager to reap the benefits of a more flexible workforce that can work virtually, anywhere and at any time. For them, hybrid homeworking or fully virtualised workforce models not only boost their credentials as an employer of choice – they also mean these vanguard employers can expand their recruitment pool and tap into new cohorts of skilled workers.
Consequently, the ability to manage efficiently all types of workers – full time, part time or freelance – regardless of where they are located will be paramount. Aligning people to tasks and performance goals is just the start of the challenge. Contact centres also need to be able to assure compliance, evaluate productivity, and know they can enable and motivate workers to sustain and evolve their performance in line with fast changing consumer demands.
In the past, contact centres typically took a ‘bolt on’ best-of-breed approach to building a complete WFO framework. Good integration still works well. However, in today’s fast-paced and data driven contact centre environments, deploying a ‘full stack’ WFO solution within a single, vertically-integrated CCaaS solution will, for many, provide the most effective route for delivering a better and more engaging experience for agents, supervisors, and customers.
A unified approach
The scope and scale of future work from home models changes the rules of the game where agent enablement and performance management are concerned. Monitoring agent interactions, adherence to scripts, and caller sentiment in real-time will be essential for meeting quality goals, demonstrating compliance, and creating individually-tailored development plans for agents, as well as the best customer experience.
Integrated knowledge management and support tools will also be essential to serving up proactively the right information and responses to agents, so they can deliver best-in-class customer service. That includes real-time access to customer histories and contextual data, together with baked-in supervision that supplies ‘whisper’ prompts to help agents when handling difficult or complex scenarios.
Motivating and supporting agents doesn’t just begin and end with the provision of in-contact tools, information screens, or training specifically tailored to their needs. For motivation to remain high, contact centres need to be certain their systems schedule contacts to agents based on their skill sets so no agent is asked to perform beyond their capabilities. Similarly, agents need to know that supervisors can monitor every customer interaction, regardless of channel, and intervene or provide guidance the moment it’s needed. Plus, utilising AI chatbots can help pick off high-volume repetitive tasks and queries, of the sort that typically demotivate agents – leaving them to focus on less mundane and more value-add and rewarding activities.
Finally, achieving a centralised and fully integrated visibility of everything that’s happening everywhere will be crucial for maintaining and improving operational efficiency and performance. That’s especially true when it comes to having the skills visibility that is crucial for matching scheduling to known demand patterns and optimising successful contact resolution rates.
Today’s data-driven contact centres need easy-to-manage integrated systems that uncover key insights accurately and with ease, automatically capture and aggregate customer data with CRM and other systems, and support and motivate agents in real time, wherever those agents are located.
Today’s contact centre leaders know that an improved agent experience directly translates to an improved customer experience, so finding an effective and streamlined way to manage remote contact centre agents will be key to achieving enduring success.
Deploying a unified solution not only delivers all the integrated automation, functionality and visibility that help amplify agent performance and engagement and streamline operations. It will also simplify the centralised generation of easy-to-consume, actionable data that is essential for driving measurable improvements in the experiences that agents – and customers – encounter.