In the race to maximise productive agent time, contact centres increase the risk of employee burnout and diminished customer experience. Ben Willmott at Teleopti advocates the comfortable middle ground using automated Workforce Management to improve agent occupancy and reduce shrinkage.
Utilising agent time in the contact centre is rather like finding the right KPIs. Focus too heavily on what matters internally and you’ll lose sight of what really matters to agents, customers, and the overall business. Many contact centre leaders are obsessed with ‘productive time’ or occupancy. This is the amount of time that agents spend on call-related activities such as talk time, hold time and wrap-up time. The determination to boost occupancy levels can mean the same results are expected even when skills shortages or sickness play havoc with planned schedules.
Likewise, contact centres try to avoid anything that takes agents away from direct customer care, for example, extra coaching, team meetings, comfort breaks, helping other departments and system downtime. For some managers, these ‘shrinkage’ activities are the enemy within even though agents need regular training, team communication and collaboration to do their jobs properly and share CX best-practice across the organisation.
5 ways to strike the right balance with WFM
Either way, the sad fact is that many contact centres are experiencing an increase in agent turnover. It’s time to get the balance right to maintain a happy, healthy workforce that delivers outstanding levels of customer service efficiently and cost-effectively. Fortunately, WFM is at hand and here are five ways to get the balance right:
1. Flexibility that goes beyond simple scheduling
Agents want to work when they want and in the way they want. This makes flexible contracts a popular option and the latest WFM technology is designed to enable quick-build schedules to accommodate all types of work contracts. In particular, look out for WFM solutions with Real-Time Adherence (RTA) capabilities. These issue email or SMS notifications to people with the right skills to ascertain if they can work at short notice and so plug any gaps. They monitor agent adherence to schedules and compare them with the live ACD status. They also flag up when schedules are in danger of being breached and offer real-time data feed to enable fast decision-making and action.
2. Right-size the contact centre now and in the future
Help agents strike a work/life balance by using the latest forecasting technology to right-size the contact centre now and in the future. Features like ‘intraday schedules’ allow managers to reschedule their workforce during the day considering unplanned changes in customer demand and additional agent absences in a matter of minutes. Then run a series of ‘what if’ scenarios to predict staffing needs for regular seasonal fluctuations such as public holidays or special offers.
3. A whole new world of learning
The days of traditional classroom learning where the whole team sat conference-style listening to the trainer are a thing of the past. Thanks to WFM contact centre leaders can quickly identify quiet periods in the day when agents can be safely withdrawn from the front line to receive training or coaching without risking service levels. Better skills mean happier employees and less attrition.
4. Collaborative working
Contact centres looking to elevate their status, boost agent morale and performance should encourage agents to share best-practice across the organization. Time spent away from customers might well be classified as ‘shrinkage’ but longer-term, it leads to a team of CX ambassadors who stay the course and go the extra mile to delight customers. Use WFM to allocate quiet time with team members to exchange ideas and explore innovative ways of working in a relaxed, collaborative environment away from the pressures of serving customers.
5. Embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create your own WFM concierge
AI bots can hold conversational chats to quickly notify agents of potential time-off or overtime and create an easy balance between optimised customer service operations and greater employee freedom. AI is like having your own WFM concierge, handling all processes related to schedule requests and offering intraday automation with AI-optimized employee self-service.
Why wage a constant battle between occupancy and shrinkage when both are necessary to give agents the well-rounded skills, flexibility, and motivation they need to perform at their best? Take the middle ground and use WFM to enjoy the best of both worlds: the ability to meet customers in the right place, at the right time, with skilled people who feel empowered throughout their working day.
Explore how contact centers can engage customers and agents at the same time as creating a working environment that is both efficient and flexible.