Workforce Management Guide for Contact Center Leaders (& Why it’s Important)

By John Yarbrough | August 25, 2020
Graphic representing call center employees' work schedules on a calendar view

There are two constants in the contact center. Customer expectations are evolving, and contact center leaders are working to elevate the customer experience.

Whether evaluating new support channels, providing more agent training or assessing areas to further streamline operations, for most contact center leaders, success is predicated on the ability to measure, evolve and improve. For this reason, workforce management has become a core focus of discussion amongst leaders looking to take their contact centers to the next level.

However, a recent study highlighted that more than 69% of businesses still have no cross-channel workforce management solution in place. Such a disconnect leads to the following questions:

  • How can organizations best support agents’ productivity so they not only meet but exceed their goals?
  • Which workforce management processes and solutions drive rapid decision making and contact center productivity?
  • And in today’s current health crisis, which performance management strategies can adapt to a work from home model now that supervisors and agents are geographically dispersed?

This article provides a roadmap for how call centers can leverage workforce management solutions to optimize customer experience and employee engagement.

What is Workforce Management?

Workforce Management (WFM) refers to the process of maximizing performance and employee contributions within an organization. Typically, WFM initiatives involve building and maintaining processes designed to optimize workforce productivity, often encompassing several complementary efforts such as:

Data consolidation and forecasting

With so much data at our fingertips, WFM projects frequently seek to uncover hidden insights from workforce statistics to enable better decision making, budgeting, scheduling, etc. When viewed holistically, workforce management initiatives allow companies to accurately predict staffing needs and associated budget implications as labor demands change.

Field service management

Organizations with large mobile or field operations need to have visibility into available company resources — including field employees, vehicles and equipment — to accurately forecast when jobs can be completed and assign field calls to the appropriate personnel based on availability, expertise and location.

Performance management

Effective workforce management also ensures that employee performance and productivity align with the goals of the department or the organization. For example, an organization may leverage WFM solutions to give real-time feedback via dashboards that highlight individual and team performance.

While workforce management applies to different types of businesses and departments within an organization, it is often associated with contact centers given their unique and complex staffing needs.

What Is a Workforce Management System?

A workforce management system is designed to consolidate various aspects of WFM planning while automating manual processes to provide business leaders with the information needed to make informed decisions. After all, you can’t effectively manage what you don’t measure. A modern workforce management solution helps CX leaders with the following, and more.

Captures staffing data in real-time

Contact center leaders are tasked continuously with juggling staffing-related changes related to planning and unplanned absences, illness, attribution, training requirements, and more. Despite this complexity, CX leaders still must accurately predict, forecast, and optimize staffing based on customer demand, making it vital they have access to real-time, accurate data to make informed decisions.

A modern WFM solution makes it possible for leaders to rapidly access performance data that is most important to the organization and more easily keep track of continually evolving staffing-related information, such as late arrivals, early departures, break adherence, call traffic, agent timesheets, etc. Together, this information helps supervisors analyze contact center performance in real-time and accurately forecast staffing requirements based on future workloads.

Additionally, with resource management you have a complete picture of available resources, leaders can delegate and redistribute responsibilities, adjust scheduling, and identify hiring needs, as necessary.

Monitors task management

Regardless of role or department, maximizing productivity and impact begins with ensuring the right people are working on the right tasks at the right time, based on the priorities of the business.

An integrated workforce management system helps contact center leaders get a handle on the schedule adherence battle by building multi-channel schedules with shifts that address multiple activities across. By merging your routing engine, your operations team can take control of task distribution logic and instill a set of processes that are less time-consuming. This ultimately means better experiences for your customers.

Supports schedule compliance

Schedule adherence assesses how closely a contact center agent follows their scheduled activities. WFM solutions provide real-time visibility into agents’ actual activities vs. scheduled activities, making it easy for supervisors to identify and address potential performance issues. Additionally, this data makes it possible for CX leaders to more accurately staff for future demand based on historical performance metrics.

Supports regulatory compliance

Contact centers must meet a variety of compliance requirements, and with agents completing requisite training on relevant regulations on an annual basis. Modern WFM solutions support regulatory compliance through automated triggers designed to pause/resume recordings and censor sensitive data fields as specified by the Payment Card Industry-Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).

Benefits of Workforce Management (WFM) Software Solutions

From time tracking and scheduling software to communications platforms and human capital management (HCM) systems, workforce management software presents a solution for just about every need and also improves the employee experience.

Contact centers are traditionally the department within an organization that depends heavily on workforce management. When a contact center successfully implements WFM software, that contact center benefits from better forecasting, improved scheduling, the ability to optimize and reoptimize available resources based on unplanned staffing changes, monitor performance in real-time, have a full overview for the human resources team, and more.

Trends in Workforce Management

Trends in workforce management follow trends in customer experience and customer satisfaction. Research shows that the majority of customers now expect a hyper-personalized experience, but today’s organizations are slow to respond.

  • Only 9% of organizations say their customers rate brand experiences as satisfactory.
  • More than 50% of consumers expect companies to perform due diligence to understand their needs before making contact. This is especially true for customers on the phone.

Leading brands are accelerating CX investments to keep up; however, in most contact centers, interaction is managed in silos. Separate systems route tasks and interactions that drive workforce management, thereby creating unnecessary complexity and extra headaches for workforce planning and operations.

Workforce Management During Times of Crisis

Customer service is never more important than during times of crisis, and the global Covid-19 pandemic has further demonstrated how essential it is for managers to work with agents daily to provide both coaching and address concerns as they arise. When customers are facing uncertainty, whether it is economic uncertainty or uncertainty about health and the future, treating every customer with the highest level of customer service can help build unshakeable brand loyalty that can last a lifetime.

This heightened need for exceptional customer care, in turn, necessitates comprehensive workforce management processes designed to equip CX leaders with the data and insights required to identify and resolve issues as needs change quickly.

4 Workforce Management Best Practices that Ensure Customer Service Doesn’t Fall Short

1. Minimize hold time

Before the current health crisis, 75% of customers felt it takes too long to reach a live agent. WFM solutions help CX leaders monitor data like wait time, average handle time, first call resolution and improve all time management. They can then increase staffing levels or redeploy agents assigned to other channels to address spikes in call volumes.

2. Monitor agent calls for coaching opportunities

A critical part of workforce management is monitoring and training. By listening to a sample of calls, you’ll be able to see where your best agents are delivering high-quality service that can be replicated throughout your contact center. You’ll also be able to uncover areas where there are opportunities for improvement. Research has shown that the best managers spend more than three-quarters (75%) of their coaching time delivering feedback via “short bursts” before, after or even during customer calls.

3. Maintain connection with agents working from home

92% of millennial workers expect the option to work from home. Before the coronavirus health crisis, the work-from-home model was increasing in popularity, but in 2020 it has become the new normal. Even as physical contact centers reopen, many organizations expect to continue supporting WFH flexibility for agents, further illustrating the need for robust workforce management processes even after the pandemic subsides.

One-on-one meetings go a long way for workforce management in remote situations. Aim to hold these types of meetings via a corporate-approved video conferencing solution. Discuss topics like 30, 60, 90-day goals, historical performance and career growth to maintain agent engagement.

4. Support employees to maintain business continuity

Resilient organizations understand the importance of customer satisfaction and also know that supporting their employees is equally as important during times of crisis. For your business to maintain continuity, a healthy work-life balance, and persevere through the difficult times, tap into workforce management strategies that focus on employee care.

It’s Not Too Late to Make a Change

Do you already have a WFM solution? If so, it’s not too late to make a change. The bottom line is that changing WFM solutions present an opportunity to rethink your overall WFM approach.

Gartner predicts that by 2023 at least 95% of new workforce management applications sold will be deployed in the cloud, spurred by organizations’ desire to modernize their contact center tech stack and reap the benefits offered by a modern cloud WFM solution.

Let Serenova help upgrade your entire workforce management process with the smoothest transition possible. Leverage Serenova’s experience to strike the right balance among customer experience, agent experience and business goals. We’ll help you minimize administrative effort, improve agent engagement, optimize schedule adherence, and reduce labor costs with a modern, cloud solution designed to support even the most extensive contact centers.

Click here to request a free demo today.


John Yarbrough is the Senior Director of Brand and Communications for Lifesize/Serenova.