Over the last several months, we have experienced one of the most unusual times in modern human history, and we seem to be coming out the other side. But there is still much uncertainty about the future.
Contact centers, like most business, have had to find solutions to provide their essential service from somewhere other than densely populated offices where COVID–19 might spread. In March, VPNs were rapidly expanded, laptops were taken home and agents found a quiet area in their homes from which to work. Some organizations even resorted to agents using their personal cell phones as tools of customer service. Organizations simply did the best they could. Service suffered, but many organizations found that sending agents home could not only work, but in fact, work quite well.
Fast forward to today. We have evolved from the certainty that a pandemic was upon us to the uncertainty about the implications. For a period, it was mandatory that contact centers get agents out of the building. Now contact centers have options, but it’s not clear what the best option will be. Many have found that while some agents can be more productive at home, other agents simply don’t perform well with that much freedom. Contact centers see the opportunity to reduce their real estate costs, but they are not confident in the long-term success of work-from-home. Most states are allowing agents to come back to work, but a resurgence in COVID-19 cases might force a return to work-from-home. Until we are all inoculated with a vaccine, uncertainty will abound.
While enabling a work-from-home contact center environment is important, it’s only a partial answer. A more solid solution in this time of uncertainty is to create a contact center working environment that is agile enough to adapt quickly to changing conditions and not miss a beat. Contact center employers need to have the technology tools to make employees fully mobile. For example, employees should be able to work in the office on Tuesday but work from home on Wednesday without any technology barriers. Aspect delivers on that need in Workforce Optimization Version 20.
On July 14, Aspect released a new version of the Aspect Workforce Optimization Suite including Workforce Management (WFM), Quality Management (AQM) and Performance Management (APM). Aspect Workforce Optimization V20 arms the mobile workforce with elegantly simplified smartphone access to common WFM scheduling functions, deeper cloud integrations supporting browser-based “workforce anywhere” access, enhanced performance feedback to employees so they can quickly self-correct and a myriad of usability enhancements that make Aspect WFO easier to learn and easier to use.
Every year, Aspect surveys over 500 agents to understand their preferences and concerns. The 2020 survey shows that 96% of Millennial agents and 97% of Gen Z agents own smartphones. If you want to extend the employee desktop to a fully mobile platform, clearly the smartphone is the way to do it. Aspect® Workforce Management™ V20 sports a fully redesigned mobile UI that mimics the desktop WFM UI, so wherever agents are physically located, they can perform key scheduling functions in a visually familiar environment. These scheduling functions include: Schedule Editor, Request Viewer, Personal Account Balances, Group Allowance Account Balances, Trades, Trade Bulleting Board, Intra-day Staffing Balances and Agent Productivity. We have redesigned the supervisor mobile UI with key functions to support the supervisor on-the-go. Below are some examples of the new agent UI:
The survey also found that 88% of agents say that a top priority for them is their ability to balance their work life with other aspects of their life. In this necessarily–mobile contact center world, that’s not a surprise. Workforce Management V20 includes important new enhancements that dramatically accelerate the speed with which Aspect Workforce Management can automatically approve requests for schedule changes, including intra-day schedule changes. Agents that may be working at home or in the office or agents that need to change their work location from home to office (or vice–versa) can get instantaneous approval of their schedule change requests on either the desktop or mobile phone. Aspect is making it much easier for employees to be effective participants in the mobile workforce.
Over the past several years, industry analysts have predicted that the cloud contact center market would grow in the range of 23% – 25% for the foreseeable future, but in the current environment with widespread agreement that browser-based solutions are fundamentally much more portable, we will likely see that rate increase dramatically in the wake of ongoing uncertainty about agent work location. We have been a pioneer in the development of cloud-based contact center solutions with our Aspect Via Platform, and Aspect Via WFM is in high demand. Version 20 of our WFM solution makes it even easier to implement a cloud-based WFM system in practically any cloud environment. Aspect Via WFM can now be scaled up to over 15,000 users in the Microsoft Azure cloud, just as it can in the AWS cloud. We are including interfaces to Twilio, Five9, NICE inContact and Zendesk routers as standard components of the product at no extra cost, and Aspect Via WFM can now use low-cost Azure Blob storage to exchange information with outsourcers in WFM Encompass. For our existing on-premises customers, we have created simplified database migration tools that make the conversion from on-prem to the cloud quick and easy. The business case for moving to a cloud-based WFM system is more compelling than ever.
What is the employer’s primary concern about the work-from-home movement? They are worried that employee performance will suffer in a less regulated and less scrutinized environment. There is anecdotal evidence that employees perform better at home, but performance comes in all shapes and sizes including average handle time, average after call work time, customer satisfaction, quality score, silence time, adherence, absenteeism and many others. To understand what’s happening with agents both in the office and when working from home, contact center managers need a tool that consolidates performance information from many sources and presents it in a form that is most relevant to each contact center employee. Aspect Performance Management is just such a tool, and in Version 20, we have tightly integrated our world-class speech analytics solution, Aspect Engagement Analytics, to enable balanced scorecards and other reports that aggregate quality metrics from 100% of customer interactions. We have also added heat maps for easy visual analysis of performance data and a new API that simplifies the import of third–party performance metrics.
Over a period of years, We have redesigned our desktop user interface to incorporate the most current techniques in UI design championed by Google, Apple and Microsoft. With a modern and intuitive graphical browser-based interface, our WFO is simple to use, even for new employees. This is critically important for employees that are working remotely from the office since they don’t have help from peers and supervisors immediately available. In Version 20, We’ve added features that make life easier for users with usability improvements such as:
- Screen pop-outs so that screens on the evaluation interaction page can be popped out, resized and placed on any active monitor for ease of viewing
- Grid quick views that allow audio/video playback, transcript view or metadata review without leaving the search grid
- Active window recordings that allow screen recording of just the active window without background applications
- Many others, especially in AQM
As the mobile workforce becomes the standard working environment for contact centers and many other industries, we will continue to see the evolution of workforce technology tools that make it easier to be mobile and that help ensure workers are as efficient and effective away from the office as they are in the office. Aspect Workforce Optimization Version 20 allows contact center employees to be immediately mobile, so the workforce can be adapted to whatever new condition these uncertain times may bring.