2020 and 2021 saw big changes in the contact centre industry. The COVID-19 pandemic spurred an evolution in customer behaviours and preferences, the way agents need to work, and the processes that managers need to implement to run a successful contact centre.
Whilst the traditional contact centre revolved around a shared floor, today’s workers are increasingly working from home, as organisations create new hybrid workforces that engage the best of both in-office and remote working. But even if some contact centres are counting the days until they can return to traditional operations, they will still need to tackle new challenges, like higher standards for customer experience and a growing customer and agent desire for omnichannel communication.
Contact centres can embrace this new era with workforce engagement management (WEM) tools designed for the modern workforce. Many customer service groups have long relied on workforce optimisation (WFO) and WEM solutions to simplify and facilitate day-to-day operations—but as new challenges and opportunities arise, the solutions should evolve at pace.
WFO solutions can help organisations streamline remote and hybrid contact centre operations by integrating tools for workforce management, quality management, interaction analytics, performance management, and gamification.
Modern WFO solutions allow the contact centre to be managed remotely by giving managers:
- visibility into their agents’ activities in real-time;
- insight into their schedule adherence; and
- the tools to adjust quickly to sudden changes without having to resort to physical taps on the shoulder.
Likewise, agents are empowered to:
- meet work demands from anywhere, anytime through mobile tools;
- collaborate in real time through digital mediums; and
- receive timely coaching and training from their supervisors from a single interface.
Are remote working contact centres here to stay?
Working from home provides companies the opportunity to add greater flexibility into planning and scheduling, such as split-shifts (over the course of a day), ‘micro-shifts’ (where agents come online for an hour or less at peak times), and in the evening when children are in bed (potentially allowing longer opening hours for the contact centre).
Remote agents are managing increased distractions and schedule adjustments, as well as more frequent customer enquiries across more channels. WFO solutions increase the collaboration between agents and management, empowering agents to have more influence over their schedules. These tools help agents better manage the new demands of working from home during a pandemic, while still also ensuring the needs of the business and customers are met.
WFO also helps managers coach and motivate agents wherever they work, thanks to key features like live monitoring for the whole team, coaching, agent assist capabilities, and gamification.
Some key Workforce Management (WFM) action points for remote workers and their managers:
- Make sure that agents’ contact information is up-to-date and available to management in both online and offline modes.
- Ensure agents understand how they clock-on/clock-off their shifts, as well as how management will supervise that they are doing so.
- Agents should check their schedule for the next day before they log off for the evening.
- Any WFM tools should be flexible enough to handle agent absences at very short notice without having to recreate the schedule manually.
Any workforce management system needs to be able to take full advantage of the flexibility of remote working agents, while providing the same level of real-time management and support available to the centralised contact centre model. Remote working necessarily encourages agents to develop independence and take control of their work, and businesses should consider implementing the tools to support this.
It can be beneficial for everyone to allow agents to change their breaks themselves, bid for shifts, and choose their own vacation period through an app without having to run everything through the workforce planning team first. Of course, the service level must be protected and any changes only ratified if this is the case. Giving remote working agents access to these sorts of tools will promote trust and do away with any issues such as perceived favouritism, as well as protecting contact centre performance.
Contact centre management is often concerned remote working will decrease visibility into what agents are actually doing. This does not necessarily have to be the case—there are tools that can check adherence to schedule (including breaks) and nudge agents into adherence by giving them reminders that a break is almost ending or that they are a little late logging back on. Key to this is that any change impacting the performance of the contact centre is immediately taken into account by the workforce management system, which can then react accordingly, rather than there being delays of some hours before schedules can be changed.
The flexibility, agility, and granularity of such automated tools can allow agents who work even a couple of minutes longer than their shift to group these minutes into a ‘time bank,’ which can then be taken as flexitime. The opposite also exists for those agents who may be late logging onto their shift, as they can work the time back later when it’s needed by the business.
WFO solutions within a cloud contact centre
WFO solutions that are integrated within a cloud contact centre platform will drive the best customer and agent experience, as well as the best business outcomes. Fully integrating WFO capabilities into agent and supervisor desktop applications supports easy access and, therefore, increased adoption. Plus, integrated solutions can help enterprises save on licensing, training, system maintenance, and ongoing support.
In addition to adaptive, scalable scheduling, key features of WFO also include:
- Real-time supervision for managers. When your agents are working remotely, these capabilities help managers keep a pulse on where intervention is necessary.
- Coach, train, and guide agents. WFO can help managers uncover coaching and training needs through interaction quality evaluation and interaction analytics.
- Self-empower agents. WFO helps empower agents so they can manage their own personal well-being and prevent burnout.
- Gamification to engage agents. Gamification is an extension of performance management and helps engage and motivate agents in a way that aligns with the overarching business objectives. Gamification can also be useful during onboarding to make training more engaging for agents starting their new jobs from home.
It’s clear that contact centre managers and employees need to rely on the agility of their solutions, including WEM and WFO, now more than ever.