5 Agent Engagement Enhancements You Must Have: Workforce Management Excellence, Part I

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Workforce Management (WFM) is a bedrock technology upon which most contact centers have relied for years. But agent expectations are evolving. It’s time to rethink the workforce management software features you need to ensure high agent morale, productivity and quality.

Workforce management software can improve agent experience

The contact center agent population is just a cross-section of the larger consumer population, although they are generally younger and more tech savvy — after all, using contact center technology is an intimate part of their daily existence.  They know well what their smartphones can do, communicate often on new channels such as SMS, Facebook Messenger and Twitter, and regularly use Microsoft and/or Apple operating systems.  The standard for technology is high with them, so you can’t put old workforce optimization software technology in front of them and expect them to be happy and productive.  Workforce management systems directly and indirectly affect their personal schedules, quality of work life and happiness.

For those contact centers with older technology, WFM can be a source of constant frustration for agents, and that’s a formula for poor morale, low productivity and sub-par quality.  Consider the following agent-centric enhancements to the traditional forecasting, scheduling and tracking capabilities standard in WFM solutions:

Simplification – The iPhone is the classic example of simplified complexity.  WFM is inherently complex, and it’s no easy task to make it seem simple, but that’s what Aspect has done with its WFO 8.x icon and widget-based user interface.  As with modern operating systems and other business and consumer software, it’s graphical and intuitive, so agents can pick it up quickly – with little training.  Further, every interaction with the agent has been carefully examined and rationalized, so that the system does as much work as possible with a minimal number of clicks required from the user.

Personalization – Today’s consumers are used to increasing personalization of their interactions with providers, and agents expect the same level of courtesy and flexibility in shaping their work environment.  In Aspect’s WFM solution, for example, employees have many options they can select for themselves.  These include schedule preferences, as discussed below, but also selection and arrangement of the agent’s primary dashboard widgets and icons, opt-in and selection of preferred notification channel and allowable time window for voluntary OT and time-off notifications, gamification status/options as well as use of the Aspect Mila personal assistant chatbot.

Mobility – US smartphone penetration currently stands at about 80%, so it’s not just Millennials that like their smartphones.  With mobility comes 24/7 ubiquitous access to and from contact center systems.  Remote web access from home to the WFM system is common, but with the smartphone becoming an extension of our anatomies, agents demand mobile access as well.  Today’s WFM software must have the ability to automatically send notifications (for voluntary overtime, time-off, etc.) as well as provide a convenient app that allows the agent to perform most of the typical scheduling actions that can be performed when using the host WFM software.  Aspect WFM provides these features using Aspect EQ Inform and Aspect Workforce Mobile.

Schedule Flexibility – It’s hard to find good contact center talent, and the cost to replace departing agents averages about $4,000.  The economics of contact centers don’t allow agents to be paid a premium, but the dynamics of working in a large group does allow for schedule flexibility, which is important to many, especially students, working mothers and part-timers.  We usually think of the workforce management system as having to balance the schedule preferences of agents against the schedule needs of employers, and that is absolutely a primary function of WFM.  However, not all WFM solutions are equally good at solving this problem.  In fact, many older WFM systems don’t do a very good job of finding balanced solutions when the agent’s preferred schedule is highly variable, such as when they work a second part-time job.

Multi-channel – Consumers want to communicate with businesses in new channels.  A recent study by NelsonHall predicts that contact center voice and email traffic will have shrunk by 25% by 2020, while chat will have grown 100% and social media will have grown 200%.  This means that WFM systems will have to optimally blend voice, email, chat, social media, SMS and other new channels, because without this capability, the customer experience, agent experience and productivity will suffer.  Unfortunately, few WFM solutions have incorporated new models for these new channels.  Aspect’s WFM uses a Multi-Channel Performance module to accurately forecast the optimal blending of work across channels, so each channel can be appropriately staffed, and agents won’t be caught in an environment with either too much or too little work.

In short, today’s agent is smart, keenly aware of technology and thirsting for a job environment that leverages technology in an effective way to improve their daily work lives.  Consider these important enhancements to traditional workforce management solutions before choosing a new workforce management system.

Watch for Parts II & III of this blog series, coming soon!

  • Workforce Management Excellence, Part II: 5 Workforce Analyst Enhancements You Must Have
  • Workforce Management Excellence, Part III: Why You Need to Upgrade Your WFM System
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Eric Hagaman

Eric Hagaman is product manager for Aspect Software, focusing on Aspect workforce optimization technologies with a particular emphasis on workforce management. Eric monitors the pulse of the market to identify new trends and approaches to workforce optimization, looking for those product enhancements that will provide the most value to customers and help them master the next generation customer contact.
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