Having technology in your contact centre that helps you with managing the schedules of your agents is a crucial part of day-to-day operations. Being able to reduce costs through automated shift scheduling, and improving the customer experience by making agents happier with a more flexible workload and working hours, are just some of the reasons that many contact centres look to workforce management (WFM) systems to improve this side of the business.
Understandably though, some contact centres remain cautious when it comes to actually putting WFM technology in place. There’s the costly overhead to consider, not to mention actually understanding how the technology works and how well it will integrate with other systems. Whilst these things can certainly be true, you may just be overlooking some key points that are vital to the smooth functioning of a WFM tool.
Read on for tips on how to start overcoming those WFM stumbling blocks:
Keep your contact centre goals in mind
When implementing any type of new technology into your contact centre, it’s important to consider why you’ve decided to move forward with that strategy. Are you just following the crowd and investing in WFM because that’s what everyone else is doing? Have you actually calculated what value it will add to your business?
With all the new technology that’s on the market today, it’s important not to feel pressured into implementing systems such as WFM because it’s in-vogue. Decide to install WFM because it will add real, intrinsic value to your business needs whilst also meeting your contact centre goals. Crucially, you also have to make sure you’re using the technology to its full capacity.
Trust in the system
Being able to trust your WFM data is crucial if you’re going to rely on it for forecasting and scheduling. You can’t afford for it to be inaccurate, leaving you blind to seasonal trends or, more worryingly, understaffed.
Where contact centres run in to trouble is that they rush the entire WFM process, missing out on important details and expecting too much, too soon from the technology. It’s unfair to expect that the system will be able to predict next year’s Easter schedule after having been in operation for only one week in July. Not only will it not have examined enough data, but you could also not be feeding it enough information to make a valid forecast. Unless the system is being constantly updated with new metrics, then how will it be able learn and predict trends? Make sure your putting the blame where it’s due, and give the system some leeway to fully understand your operation.
Obviously, any forecast is ultimately just a prediction, but the more data the WFM is given, the more reliable it will become in assigning the right skills, agents and resources to the right places, so you won’t be caught off-guard.
Remember your agents
The beating heart of any contact centre, the agents, is often forgotten when it comes to implementing new technology. WFM technology in particular can be a prickly subject by not taking agents into consideration, despite the fact they are the contact centre’s biggest stakeholders.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that your agents might be a little wary of WFM to begin with. They might not know what benefits it can bring them, or how it even works, so it’s crucial that you keep them in the loop, especially so it doesn’t affect the customer service they’re delivering.
Indeed, a frequent complaint from implementing WFM is that agents feel they are being locked out of the conversation. Their shift preferences aren’t being considered, they’re requested holiday is being ignored and they aren’t getting enough interesting tasks to perform. Not only will this frustrate them, making them perhaps spend less time at their desks, or not turn up at all, but it could affect their customer service.
Listening to your agents should be a number one priority here. Hear them when they say they need to change their hours because of childcare or an important family event. Some systems even allow agents to put their preferences in themselves, allowing them more flexibility to ask for sick days or overtime. Being able to track their professional progress is also important to many agents, who may sometimes get frustrated with the often-mundane tasks they have to perform. Systems that allow agents to input their skills and allow them to more easily see their career trajectory, will encourage more engagement and higher productivity.
Of course, not everyone’s preferences can be accommodated, but in having a system in place that gives agents more control of their schedules will make it much easier. By showing agents how the WFM system works, how it will help them, and by really listening to their concerns are key components in making the most of WFM.
WFM has many strings to its bow
WFM solutions can certainly throw up some concerns when it comes to their implementation, especially around their effectiveness and reliability, but they are problems that can easily be overcome with patience, hard work and trust.
Not only will a WFM tool make your scheduling and forecasting much easier to handle, and, with time, more reliable, but it will also improve the morale and work ethic of your agents. This last part is especially crucial, especially if you are to keep up a high standard of customer service. Agents are what keep your contact centre running, and are the mouthpiece of your brand, so why not give them the best tools possible to do just that.
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Published in MyCustomer 5th November 2019.