Call Center Scheduling

4 Essential Components of Your Workforce Optimization Software

Delivering a positive customer experience is no small feat ­– there are a lot of moving parts that have to work together, with workforce optimization (WFO) being a major component. When considering which WFO suite to go with, keep the following four must-haves in mind.

  1. Integration with Existing Systems

The WFO system you use should be compatible with the rest of your contact center. Cloud WFO solutions are typically the easiest to integrate ­– they can be custom-fitted to your contact center, prepped and tested before going live, and even run along with your current WFO solution as you make the switch so there’s no downtime.

  1. Creation of Reliable and Adaptive Schedules

With the right WFO solution, scheduling becomes much easier. Your WFO software should generate schedules with enough agents to cover daily shifts, accounting for agent requests like certain days or times off, flex shifts, or work-from-home shifts. At the same time, your software should review shift data to accommodate for high and low patterns, which will affect things like breaks and training sessions. Your WFO solution should also be flexible enough to adapt when something unforeseen occurs that requires a quick change in the workforce.

  1. Real-Time Schedule Adherence

In order for management to know if an agent’s daily activity is in line with contact center objectives, you’ll need to see reports about schedule adherence. Your WFO solution should monitor and record real-time adherence, tracking log in and log out times, plus lunch breaks and other types of breaks. For contact centers that have out-of-the-box needs, like after-hours coverage, your WFO solution should let you create custom guidelines.

  1. Accurate and Robust Reporting

WFO (and just about everything else at your contact center) revolves around reports ­– otherwise, it’s very difficult to know what’s going on in your business. Even the best managers can’t be everywhere all the time, which is why they rely on reporting. The data that’s gathered will help you figure out where changes need to be made and what type of training needs to occur moving forward. Comprehensive reports will help you make the right workforce decisions.

The philosophy of WFO ­– shifting the workforce for the sake of optimal productivity ­– has been around for a long time, but actually embracing this philosophy by seeking out the tools to achieve it is still new for many contact centers.

Why Your Contact Center Needs Remote Agents

When agents are twiddling their thumbs because calls aren’t coming in, it costs the contact center money. When a barrage of calls come in and wait times skyrocket, the customer experience drops. Having the correct capacity of agents without over-staffing is a tug-of-war that every contact center has had to play.

Even with insightful analytics, you can’t perfectly predict how much activity your contact center is going to have. There will be unexpected lulls and spikes in activity regardless of what the numbers prepare you for.

The goal of flexible WFM is to increase the contact center’s agility while maintaining a high level of customer service.

Traditional vs. Flexible Workforces

One way to increase workforce flexibility is to have a number of remote agents who are able to work from home. Here’s how that can help:

Hold Times

Agents in a traditional contact center can easily get overloaded with calls, leaving a lot of customers on hold. Call abandon rates increase while service quality decreases. Remote agents are often able to deliver quicker call resolution.

Ramp-Up Time

Ramp-up time in a traditional contact center can take weeks, but on-demand remote agents are able to ramp up in just a few hours.

Scalability

If there’s an unexpected rush of communication or a shift has to be covered in an emergency, the resources at a traditional contact center can’t always scale as quickly as needed. With the support of a remote workforce, though, agents can cover gaps in even a non-standard schedule at the last minute.

Encourage Customers to Use Other Channels

Unexpected spikes are going to happen. As you continue managing spikes, particularly the ones you can predict, create a contingency plan for the spikes you don’t see coming. One way to do this is to encourage customers to use other channels, like chat, email, SMS and social media.

This can limit the number of incoming calls and may also lower the number of times a customer reaches out to customer service before being helped. For example, if you have a team of agents providing social media support, they can connect with a customer after the first complaint and possibly solve the issue before is escalates.

Even contact centers that have always had rigid staffing measures can see the benefits of a flexible model, which saves resources during downtime and allows for adjustments on-the-fly.

Callback Queuing – Benefits

At first, callback queuing (CBQ) sounds counter-intuitive: why would a customer call a company just to talk to them later? Nobody wants to wait in a queue.

Actually, this type of “return later” queuing has been used for years. This is the same idea as taking a number at the DMV and passing time in the lobby, sipping a cocktail at a restaurant bar while waiting for a buzzer to alert you that there’s a table, or having fun in a theme park until your scheduled time to ride a popular attraction.

In contact centers, there are unavoidable times when there isn’t enough staff to meet demand. When that’s the case, CBQ is beneficial to both the contact center and the customer.

Features of Callback Queuing

First-in, first-out is one way to handle CBQ, but it’s also possible to prioritize the calls according to customer profile and issue. There are two types of connection options with CBQ:

1. Obtain Agent First: The system dials the customer only after having an agent on the line. The benefit is that this option is customer-focused, but it increases the amount of time the agent spends on the call. There’s also a risk that the customer isn’t there, which is a loss of time for the agent.

2. Obtain Customer First: The system connects to the customer and then connects to the agent. This is efficient for the center, but not a great experience for the customer, and they could even be placed back into a queue to wait for an agent.

If the customer gets tired of waiting for a callback, some CBQ systems will let them know their current place in line if they the call the contact center again. Alternatively, the initial CBQ option can ask the caller for a window of time to call back so they know exactly when to expect a call.

CBQ isn’t just for calls. The feature can extend to mobile apps and websites. For example, a website can have a “Call Me” option that puts the customer into the callback queue without them having to place a call in the first place.

Benefits of Callback Queuing

According to Shankar Vedantum, the science correspondent for NPR, customers don’t think about an experience as a whole; instead, they determine an experience by how it ends. When a contact center isn’t readily available to answer a call, the customer’s initial feeling of disappointment is replaced after having an agent call them back to resolve their issue. This increases customer satisfaction and helps the contact center meet certain metrics, like service level.

Contact centers can avoid using extra staff for unanticipated peak times, like when an electric company has an outage or a flight is canceled due to a change in weather. Short-lived peaks can be accommodated, too, like when a retail company runs a promotion that gets more traction than expected.

How to Use Callback Queuing

CBQ isn’t a chance to under-staff a contact center. If volume is high for an entire day and over a long period of time, staffing solutions, not CBQ, are the answer. When routine callers get asked to opt for CBQ each and every time they need help, they’ll feel like their call isn’t important.

CBQ works best when the wait is over five minutes. Offer the option, but don’t require it. The customer should choose to use it. Set the right expectations by letting the customer know what the experience will include, like expected wait time and how many times the contact center will attempt to call.