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Does self-service reduce the need for WFM?

Performance and KPIs, Understanding Workforce Planning

self-serviceWith the ever-growing number of self-service options on more and more online websites, managers may draw the hasty and erroneous conclusion, or take a short-sighted view that these self-servicing features will reduce their need for a WFM system – or, at the very least, eliminate the need to upgrade. After all, goes the reasoning, the costs of designing and implementing self-service options must be countered and offset by cutbacks and savings somewhere else in the organization, right?

At the same time, with the advent of online self-service development it was predicted that WFM suppliers and their businesses were doomed to obsolescence. But this has not proven to be the case. Why?

The truth is while self-servicing may decrease the call volume – although research shows that this is not necessarily always the case – it does change the reasons for calling, and offloads simpler tasks that are replaced by more complex ones.

Imagine you’re a bank. Like most banks today, you provide self-service internet banking to your customers – a pretty standard development in your industry all around the world. Customers no longer need to call up the bank’s customer servicing operations for routine queries, such as the status of their account balance or the transfer of money abroad.

And this is heaven-sent. Customers are happy with the online self-service options because they receive quick, correct responses that require low effort on their part. In fact, the greater the effortlessness of customer experience, the better, for it has been shown that most service experiences actually increase customer disloyalty.

Customers now calling you, knowing how much is in their account, may be seeking more complex answers, such as investment advice. This type of call has longer handling times and requires more highly trained agents to respond successfully. These types of customer calls are also of much higher value. To ensure these high-value calls are dealt with optimally, WFM becomes, in fact, more important than ever. The contact center needs WFM support for staffing optimization, creating minimal customer effort through first contact resolution (FCR) and ensuring that staff is trained with the right competence.

The impersonal nature of self-servicing and less direct contact with customers may make it difficult to stay close to your customers. You implement outbound calling and upselling, yet it may be hard to reach your customers at the right time, indicated by low hit rates. So, customers now calling you should be viewed as a gift and a golden opportunity for you to gain deep customer knowledge – having their ear entirely at your disposal – and increase customer loyalty.

I am impressed with what some companies have achieved in terms of customer-relationship building. Take for example, utilities companies: some actually help customers find ways to buy less from them in the form of and reduced utilities bills. Talk about gaining customer loyalty, or in marketing jargon, gaining top of mind.

Within the call-center arena, my word of advice is not to stare yourself blind, believing that reducing the call volume and call handling time are the only meaningful KPIs or metrics. With self-servicing features in place, the nature of call-center tasks usually become more complex. Your call-center management must follow suit to respond accordingly.

Anticipate. Make adjustments. Be prepared. This may entail adjusting your agent head count and training your remaining staff to be more skilled. This may entail not avoiding WFM upgrades, but altering the parameters, such as average handling time (AHT). In the end, this may bring about a much desired win-win for everyone: for customers getting more qualified service, for employees getting more qualified tasks to handle and for the organization, gaining a greater revenue-generating base.

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