Contact Center Workforce Management

Adapting Workforce Optimization to Meet the Rapidly Changing Priorities of Contact Center Operations

In normal times, workforce optimization is a business approach that utilizes advanced contact center technologies to improve customer experience while boosting overall operational efficiency. WFO includes…but is not limited to…automating processes, creating greater data visibility, ensuring compliance, performance management, recording, surveying, eLearning, speech analytics and solving staff-related business problems.

Now, businesses and government agencies are either requiring employees to work from home or redirecting call traffic to employees in less affected regions to handle spikes in interaction volume during the COVID-19 outbreak. Of course, this has led to additional considerations in terms of people and priorities, such as:

  • Increasing the focus on risk assessment and controls
  • Greater emphasis on employee communications, policies, and messaging to ensure that front-line personnel are kept abreast of all pertinent facts
  • Updating QA monitoring and reporting procedures to incorporate the activities of an elevated number of remote workers
  • Improving agility and flexibility while enhancing agent empathy

With the non-stop changes everyone is currently experiencing—constant uncertainty about what might happen in the immediate future, shifting schedules for work and school, caring for family members and overriding concerns about ongoing health risks—employees are often exhausted by the effort required to simply maintain a sense of consistency in their lives.

This rapidly evolving scenario is spurring a greater sense of urgency for businesses to promote employee engagement and prevent morale from cratering among both remote and premise-based agents. Companies are creating policies on the fly to make necessary adjustments during the transition. Among the strategies to be addressed are minimizing uncertainty by more meticulous tracking of outcomes to better predict results. Agents also need to be given higher degree of empowerment. This can be abetted by ensuring they are equipped with the tools and information necessary to do their jobs.

Taking the necessary steps to stabilize and improve workforce performance during the current crisis will be outlined on Tuesday, July 7th at 1:00 pm ET. CrmXchange offers a complimentary roundtable webcast on Best Practices for Workforce Optimization. It will highlight proven approaches and actionable insights to help optimize efficiency in contact center environments.  Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • Using WFO tools to help agents safely make the return to the office
  • Managing hybrid workforce of remote and onsite workers
  • Incorporating regional COVID-19 related safety regulations into business practices
  • Spending time wisely – Establishing more frequent touchpoints to ensure agents continue to feel connected
  • Keeping agents motivated by sharing successes and reward achievements

The roundtable will feature presentations from two experts from leading WFO solution providers. Rich Correia, Director of Product Marketing, NICE will share his expertise in deploying the right products to meet changing need. Kelly Koelliker, Director, Content Marketing for Verint will provide insight on adapting the most effective contact center workforce engagement solutions.

Register now for this targeted and topical roundtable discussion. For those who can’t attend the live session, a link to the webcast will be posted 24 hours after it has been completed.

Meeting the New Challenges of Employee Training, Coaching and Engagement

Since the contact center agent is the face and voice that often defines a company in the eyes of existing and potential customers, workforce recruiting must focus on identifying vital traits, skills, and abilities in individuals. But even when those who meet the highest qualifications are put in place, they must be trained, continuously coached, and kept actively engaged to be successful.

Companies which can recruit and retain qualified and motivated front-line personnel are positioned to operate more efficiently while building customer loyalty. According to a McKinsey report, “Failure to keep talented employees can have significant repercussions… attrition can erode customer satisfaction while increasing operating costs. Each new agent hire is estimated to cost the contact center $10,000 to $20,000 in training, direct recruiting costs, and lost productivity during ramp up.”

Taking every step to keep top performers onboard is now more critical than ever. Although many consumers have become comfortable with online self-service tools, once they decide to call into the contact center the issues are almost always more complicated to resolve. Since people are already frustrated at being unable to find answers on other channels, they are on edge from the moment when an agent picks up the call.

This dilemma has only grown more acute during a crisis in which many customers are already panicked. According to a recent blog on CrmXchange by Uniphore, 60% of consumers said they were given different or conflicting information on current conditions from the news, leaving more questions than answers. Adding more fuel to the fire is that customers are often faced with longer wait times as companies adapt to a new wave of work-at-home agents. Nearly 40% who were put on hold with a company after calling about crisis-related issues stated that they were annoyed or frustrated.

Further McKinsey research suggests a need for companies to take a proactive stance when interacting with their contact-center employees by focusing on engagement and finding ways to increase their comfort and happiness wherever they are working. They found a startling difference in outcomes. Engaged and satisfied call-center employees are:

  • 8.5x more likely to stay than leave within a year
  • 4x more likely to stay than dissatisfied colleagues
  • 16x more likely to refer friends to their company
  • 3.3x more likely to feel extremely empowered to resolve customer issues

So how does a company ensure that these valuable assets are happier and more productive? Actions in three areas can have a major impact– targeted coaching, employment of updated training techniques and applying proven strategies to enhance employee engagement —and they are available for all contact centers to take.

A focused educational alternative now makes it possible for a business’s entire workforce planning team to benefit from the latest innovative thinking without ever having to take so much as a step away from their home offices.

CrmXchange is presenting a premier online virtual conference: Techniques for Training, Coaching and Employee Engagement, to be held from June 15-19. The event is being produced in conjunction with the Quality Assurance and Training Connection, (QATC), a membership association created specifically for quality assurance and training professionals in the contact center environment.

The web conference is structured to benefit contact center leaders at all levels – supervisors, managers, directors, and VPS. The fully interactive event enables attendees to meet with industry experts and colleagues who will answer questions in real time while providing updated strategies and techniques. The schedule is designed to provide direction to meet the changing needs of businesses transitioning to a greater percentage of work-at-home agents but will also provide guidance for companies still maintaining on-premise employees.

Among the topics to be covered in-depth are:

  • Learning how to work in a remote world
  • Best methods for coaching and training remote and on-premise agents
  • How to optimize agent performance in the new reality
  • Developing an effective instructor competency program

The event will kick off on Monday, June 15 with a focused keynote address entitled “Do Better Work – Finding Clarity and Camaraderie in a Remote World.” It will be presented by Max Yoder, CEO and Co-Founder, Lessonly who will offer stories of the best ways for businesses to navigate the path to working from home, providing specific examples of how to foster understanding, accountability, and progress from disparate teams.

Other areas to be explored in this targeted, complimentary virtual conference include:

  • How to Foster Agent Engagement and Human Connection Through Coaching Your Remote Contact Center Team in a Post-Pandemic World
  • Nurturing Employees to Become Ambassadors and High Performers
  • Agent Coaching and Engagement for Remote Service Excellence
  • Creating a Solid Gamification Strategy to Engage Employees Near and Far

In addition to the educational sessions, attendees can visit the booths of leading suppliers in the online exhibit hall. They can then download white papers, videos, product data sheets and other vital content from leading solution providers and organizations such as CallMiner, NICE inContact, Calabrio, NICE, Lessonly, C3 Software and Sharpen.

Register now at no cost for the complete four-day event: there is no limit on how many people a company can sign up. For those who cannot attend the live presentations or have the time to visit the exhibits during the event, links to all sessions and the exhibit hall will remain open for one full week after the event is completed.

Now is a Better Time Than Ever to Update from Manual to Automated Forecasting Models

Even in the best of times, determining the right staffing levels needed to keep a contact center operating efficiently while adequately meeting customer demand is a delicate balancing act. Staffing too many agents needlessly drives up costs: staffing too few at peak times causes service levels to suffer. The first step in making informed forecasting calculations is to accurately estimate the volume of calls coming into a business’s contact center. Of course, this is easier said than done, particularly in an environment where many organizations are experiencing dramatic call spikes driven by concerned and often panicked customers.

While there are many ways a company can try to figure out the number of calls coming into the contact center, the method will ultimately depend on which sources of information to which it has access. Obviously, the most effective way would be to obtain an accurate calls-per-day figure from an Automated Call Distribution (ACD) system. But even though these systems have proliferated over the years, far from every company that could benefit from such a solution has one in place. For many businesses that do not have an ACD or effective call logging solution, the option becomes simply asking staff to manually log the number of calls coming in.

Trying to match agent availability and skills with staffing needs while keeping track of work hour limits and labor costs is a daunting task, especially when done manually or with Excel spreadsheets. Some companies still employ downloadable templates to do their scheduling in Excel, often employing Erlang C formulas.

While using Excel can be a viable option for some smaller companies, it can turn into a tedious, time-consuming and inefficient process, particularly when there is a need to scale up rapidly. Making it all work is dependent on the contributions of a few lead users who have the requisite knowledge and system access. These lead users must frequently create new tables or worksheets …sometimes entire new files…to set up new staff groups, forecast time periods, call types, forecast variables, or forecast methodologies, These files then must be stored and linked together. If they include elements an entire team to needs to access, the files must be stored on network shared drives. In addition, spreadsheets tend to get progressively more complex, hard to maintain and error-prone

In an evolving period that calls for rapid response and flexibility, businesses are becoming increasingly frustrated with the limitations of Excel and are now seeking a simplified and more accurate planning process. Contact center managers and executives are seeking to find ways to connecting themselves with the tools that can take their WFM practice to the next level. Now they can take advantage of a focused educational presentation to help them expedite the timetable to understanding and implementing a more time-effective solution.

Genesys will present a complimentary tutorial “Best Forecasting Methods In the 21st Century.” on CrmXchange. The webcast, scheduled for Thursday, May 28th at 1:00pm ET. will be led by Shawn McCormick, Senior Solution Architect, Genesys. Shawn brings to the table more than two decades of experience supporting the Workforce Management/Workforce Engagement needs of companies of all sizes from just about every industry sector. He started his career as a manager doing scheduling on paper from a forecast sent down from corporate and thus respects the tradition while embracing the enhanced possibilities offered by WFM technology.

Among the topics he will delve into are a review of what is actually possible and how automated forecasting plays a role in preserving business continuity. This includes:

  • Considerations for the manual planning processes and the perspective of faithful Excel users
  • If automation is right for a specific company – what needs to be looked at to make the correct assessment
  • How the use of AI enables businesses to perform the planning process more accurately and rapidly than ever.

Register now for this topical webcast: if you are unable to attend the live presentation, a link will be posted 24 hours later to allow you to access it.

 

 

 

 

Meaningful Agent Training For Meaningful Customer Experiences

How important is agent experience when delivering exceptional customer experience? Eighty-six percent of CX executives believe it is the #1 factor. When it comes to customer satisfaction, agent satisfaction is the key. In the live Virtual Conference webcast, Lauren Comer from NICE InContact walks us through a comprehensive worksheet to help us better understand how to conduct meaningful agent training for more meaningful customer experiences.

It’s simple: satisfied and engaged agents are more likely to stay in their jobs and to have a positive impact on the overall customer experience. But how do we make sure we keep our employees satisfied and engaged? After all, the types of problems agents are handling are increasingly complex, and they need to solve these problems in a way that is efficient and satisfactory for the customer. The answer lies in training: creating more time for it and adding in higher-value skills.

We know what you’re thinking: creating time is easier said than done. After all, you cannot simply add time to your day. When we think about how we can gain more time for training, it is not about adding time, it’s about being more efficient with our time. We can do this by focusing on three things: accelerating new agent onboarding, training smarter with analytics, and pushing miniature bite-sized learning packages.

When accelerating new agent onboarding, it’s not about cutting onboarding time shorter. You’ll want to keep that duration the same while focusing on the activities and skills that really matter to the customer experience. Today, the majority of onboarding time is spent on contact center processes, technology used to service customers, and learning to use the knowledge base. The solution is an all-in-one intuitive agent interface. It’s simple: less complicated technology leads to less training required on systems. Instead, your agents can spend more time on service and use freed onboarding time on value-added training.

Many businesses have a one-size-fits-all approach to ongoing training. This is too manual to identify agent-specific skill sets, and too time consuming to be prescriptive in training. By using analytics to pinpoint agent-specific skill gaps, businesses may evaluate agent interactions based on experience through customer sentiment, customer complaints, specific words and phrases, as well as feedback from customer surveys.

In general, businesses do not prioritize setting aside time for ongoing training and development. The perception is that there is not enough time because of the typical contact center training mold. These training sessions tend to be formal, classroom style training that last at least one hour and require the presence of every employee. Instead, push “just-in-time” bite sized training. These are short, custom learning packages that are accessible from contact handling surfaces. Pushing bite-sized training packages can transform idle time into training time.

Creating time for training will transform how your agents develop and adapt overtime, becoming better equipped to handle the increasingly complex problems being thrown at them. Meanwhile, focusing that training to include higher-value skills such as problem solving, multi-tasking, and emotional intelligence will hand them the toolkit to success.

In the last 12 months, forty-three percent of contact centers experienced an increase in contact complexity. Prepare your agents by modeling what effective problem-solving looks like, identifying common problems in your contact center, ensuring all agents understand all of the problem-solving resources available to them, and allowing room for hands-on role play.

In fifty percent of contact centers, contact volume has increased in the past twelve months. Meanwhile, sixty-seven percent of agents indicated a number of channels as a factor contributing to stress. Today’s digital omnichannel world requires new juggling skills from agents. Get ahead of potential stress by providing your agents with hands on exercises for multitasking practice, sharing best practices across peers, and incorporating screen recordings into QM practices.

Just as well, emotional intelligence is key to successful customer interactions. When your agents have superior emotional intelligence, they are better at managing their emotions as well as the emotions of others. Teaching emotional intelligence is tricky. You cannot just teach the agent the empathy piece, but you also have to teach them to cultivate that emotion into effective problem solving. Do this by creating a list of recommended words and phrases by incoming sentiment /scenarios and provide hands-on exercises with your agents using active role play.

To reiterate, the keys to meaningful agent training is time and value. Creating more time for training, maximizing time with the right tools, and rethinking the training model will set you up for success. Focusing on higher-value skills like problem solving, multitasking, and emotional Intelligence will better prepare your agents for the evolving and increasingly complex contact center. You can listen to the full webcast here: https://bit.ly/3dOPln9

 

Finding an Easy Formula to Do the Math is a Challenge for Contact Centers

When you google “contact center metrics,” there’s no shortage of suggestions to peruse. Lists of varying numbers of suggested metrics to be monitored pop up on the screen: 7, 13, 20, 27.  But which are the right ones for a company’s specific environment? The across-the-board metric cited is First Contact Resolution (FCR), which is a standard that just about every contact center views as critical to maintain and improve.  Similarly, Customer Satisfaction ratings, while not always quite as simple to define, are also a universal target to be monitored.

But it gets murkier from there. Many other commonly cited metrics, such as service level or average handle time, are not always directly comparable across channels; and evaluating teams that share some — but not all — queues is not always a precise process.  An ICMI study revealed that 39% of contact center leaders struggle to identify and measure key performance indicators.

A deeper understanding of metrics and how to calculate them helps a business set the right targets and reach goals to support its mission and vision. Each measure used to help determine how teams are performing needs to be understandable and actionable to individual agents, supervisors and management alike.  When all parties agree on what is important, a company can consistently track performance and see where to improve processes and training to help its agents do better.

Having this level of clarity on goals and metrics and knowing how they’re tracking towards those goals, creates employees who are more engaged with their work and empowered in their roles. A Dale Carnegie infographic shows that companies with more engaged employees outperform companies without engaged employees by 202%, and have customer retention rates that are 18% higher, according to loyalty strategy research by Colloquy.

Setting goals to measure performance can be somewhat tricky. Targets should not be so difficult to attain as to make them daunting for agents. There must be flexibility and compromise in determining how to balance between goals that appear to compete with one another, such as average handle time – where saving and time and reducing cost is paramount – and customer satisfaction, especially in cases that involve more complex interactions. When creating scoreboards to measure agent performance, businesses need to ensure that goals are instantly comprehensible and ready to act upon. They also need to make sense mathematically in tracking drivers across all contact channels including traditional, social, and mobile.  It’s helpful to use the same classification system across all interactions and equip agents to use it consistently.

Of course, simply knowing which metrics to use and how to score them is not the be-all, end-all for optimizing agent happiness. Going back to Google, one would find an astounding 147,000+ results for “benefits of a happy contact center agent”. The major areas of focus in these listings range from the obvious: “why agent satisfaction is important,” to the ubiquitous “fun things to do to keep agents happy” and the more specific evaluations of software and services to promote agent satisfaction.

Companies must be proactive in their approach to building models that are consistently accurate in predicting probabilities and outcomes in their contact centers. Models that are less than precise lead to failure to maintain desired service levels and result in cost overages. Businesses need to find innovative but proven methods to calculate the proper variables and the right things to look for in developing analyses that result in accurate forecasts.

Data abundance and complex operations make it challenging to develop, implement, and present clean, clear reports and on-target analyses. Over the next several months, agent-first solution provider Sharpen Technologies, developers of an always-on contact center platform built for the enterprise, will present a comprehensive series of complimentary webcasts on CrmXchange.

The four sessions are designed to demystify the process of determining the right metrics, show businesses how to measure and accurately analyzing contact center performance, and to implement those analyses across the operation so the entire organization stays focused on excellence. It will culminate in a discussion of how to put together the most efficacious math models for contact center executives and managers to glean actionable insights.

The first webcast in the series, “Attributes of Solid Contact Center Performance Metrics – and Attributes of Poor Ones”  will take place on Thursday, March 5.

The second,” Learn How to be Great: Helping Agents, Supervisors, and Execs Perform,” will be presented on Tuesday April 21.

The third session, “Setting Performance Goals and Scorecards,” comes up on Thursday, August 13.

The final presentation “Building Great “What-If” Models and the Resulting Analyses for the CEO” will be delivered on Tuesday, October 20.

All webcasts will be jointly presented by Ric Kosiba, Chief Data Scientist and Adam Settle. Chief Product Officer, Sharpen Technologies. Ric’s vast background of expertise goes back two decades to Bay Bridge Decisions Technologies which he co-founded in 2000. In that role, he developed the contact center industry’s first “what if” decision engine, a complex set of algorithms designed to forecast proper staffing levels. Adam is an experienced education professional skilled in Sales, Coaching, Team Building, and Training. He combines his extensive knowledge with hands-on experience as a trainer at Apple and Angie’s List.

Register now at no cost for the individual presentations or the complete series. Each webcast is at 1:00PM ET. If you cannot attend the live presentation, a link to the recorded session will be available within 24 hours.

An Online In-Depth Education Program Without the Cost and Inconvenience of Traditional Live Conferences

While there are numerous quality live conferences in the CX/contact center space that delve into workforce optimization, attending these events often entails a series of complex decisions. First, you must determine if it includes enough seminars that are relevant to your specific needs and exhibitors with the right solutions to advance your program. Then, you need to obtain approval and funding, plan the details of the trip and make sure all your responsibilities are covered while you are away. While some consider traveling to an event a welcome break from routine, others find it a time-consuming, expensive disruption that they simply can’t justify.

The need for ongoing education in this critical operational area continues to grow. Over the past 12 years, an increasing number of workforce planning professionals have found a flexible, no-cost, no-travel alternative in CrmXchange’s annual online Best Practices in Workforce Optimization virtual conference, produced in conjunction with the Quality Assurance and Training Connection (QATC) and the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP).

Over the past two years, the event has been expanded to provide even more in-depth education. For 2019, it will take place the first two weeks of November, with the first week (November 4-8) focusing on QA and Analytics and the second (November 11-15) examining strategies for Workforce Management and Performance Optimization.

The enhanced conference content reflects the evolution of how contact centers now approach workforce planning responsibilities. It used to be handled in independent groups, with one team handling quality assurance, another conducting training, and yet another developing agent schedules. Supervisors often tried to do coaching with no input from other functional areas, while managers simply ran and reacted to reports. But this disconnected approach no longer works in today’s complex, omnichannel contact center environments. Workforce Optimization is a wide-ranging field that now encompasses all these elements as a unified discipline. And the CrmXchange virtual conference provides WFO professionals with the year’s most convenient and comprehensive opportunity to gain greater insights on the latest technologies, tactics and best practices.

Attendees have the opportunity to meet in real time with industry experts and colleagues who can answer their questions and offer business solutions tailored to their contact centers, without the cost and time away from the office of an on-site conference. Anyone can attend learning sessions the same way they would in an on-site conference.

The format allows entire WFO teams to share newly acquired knowledge throughout an organization. Team members can attend live sessions together or attend different session tracks. All sessions will be recorded and available on demand for one week after the conference – giving those who could not attend the initial presentation the opportunity to view the sessions later.

In addition, attendees can visit the virtual exhibit hall to download product videos, and obtain product information, press releases, white papers, and much more. Sponsors, including Calabrio, CallMiner, NICE, NICE inContact and Verint, are ready to share the latest innovations that may benefit your contact center.

And while you can’t sit down over a drink after hours, you can still chat with presenters and peers in the virtual lounge, a specially designed virtual networking forum for registered members of this online event. Learn what others are doing, meet colleagues, pose questions, and offer your own insight.

The Best Practices in Workforce Optimization virtual conference kicks off on Monday, November 4 at 12 noon ET with a high-interest keynote address Building a Customer Experience Movement which examines the true elements required to create a culture-changing CX program that is built to last. It will be presented by Nate Brown, Co-Founder of CX Accelerator, a virtual community of customer experience professionals.

Join the thousands of industry executives who have already benefited from this powerful complimentary two week online conference Register now and check out the broad ranging agenda.

New Research Finds Only 12.5% of US Consumers Actually Hate Chatbots

A nationwide survey conducted in August finds that 94% of U.S. respondents considered their last customer experience positive – although they note there is still room for improvement on the margins. While high-profile customer service blunders by major companies gobble media attention, new research from Genesys challenges the notion that companies aren’t in touch with consumers and provides insight into how businesses can adapt their support options to meet evolving preferences.

Human Touch and Digital Channels Rank High

The survey bolsters conventional wisdom that consumers perceive the best and most effective customer service happens when a human is involved (75%). But almost equally, 76% of respondents want the option to access digital support channels when they choose.

When asked about the most irritating issue in customer service, only 12.5% of consumers cited speaking with a bot. A bigger frustration noted (for nearly 27%) is not being able to talk to a live agent when they want.

However, these were not the biggest customer service annoyances reported by consumers – out of the twelve options provided, the top three pain points selected by respondents are being put on hold (42%), being given incorrect information (37%), and being given too many automated options before reaching an agent OR resolving their issue (36%).

Automation, AI and Live Support Key to the Customers Desire for Fast, Frictionless Service

Genesys Chief Marketing Officer, Merijn te Booij said, “It’s straightforward – the results of the survey indicate consumers want a blended approach – they want the rapid access to a business that digital channels can provide combined with the human touch when they want it.”

Consumers put a timely response (64%) and knowledgeable agents (55%) at the top of their list for the type of customer experiences they value the most. Concurrently, 67% of respondents say it’s very important companies quickly route queries to a customer service agent who has background information and understands the customer’s needs.

“It’s clear from the research findings that businesses need to strike the right balance when deploying digital channels, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in customer experience,” said te Booij. “We think it also means it’s safe to say that the role of humans in customer service isn’t going away anytime soon – unless a business is willing to sacrifice customer satisfaction. However, we do believe AI will continue to change the way humans work and how consumers get service for the better.”

He went on to explain, “Interestingly, businesses can use AI to alleviate consumers’ biggest pain points in service when applied strategically and in concert with human effort. AI really is the key for enabling consumers to have their cake and eat it too — in this case that means fast, efficient, knowledgeable service at the hand of a human or even a bot when they choose.”

Brand Reputation Matters

Today, brands cannot afford to ignore the importance of delivering the type of service consumers want. 72% of U.S. respondents say they have sometimes or always bought something from a business based solely on its reputation for customer service. Further, 89% of respondents have taken action as a direct result of poor customer service. A full 58% say they have switched providers as a result of poor customer service, and 49% say they have never done business with a brand again after a bad experience. Nearly 50% discussed their disappointment face-to-face with family and friends and 24% even spread the word via social media.

Additional Key Findings from the Survey:

  • Keep those phone lines open! While voice is no longer the only game in town, consumers still want the option to call when they need customer service. In fact, 91% of U.S. respondents say it’s important to engage with a business over the phone, with 54% considering it “very” important.
  • Despite an increasing use of social media by businesses as a customer support channel, only 4% of U.S. consumers are fond of interacting with companies that way. Respondents cite discomfort, impersonality, unlikelihood of success and lack of speedy response as barriers.
  • People value good service, with 44% of respondents saying they’re willing to pay more to ensure better service. And yet the main reason to tolerate bad service? 42% polled say it’s related to a low price

Survey Methodology

The nationwide poll includes responses from 1,000 U.S. adults over the age of 18 and was conducted online and by email or text to mobile phones. Two-thirds of respondents were women. Genesys also conducted the same survey of equal pool size in both Germany and the United Kingdom (U.K.).

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.

3 Ways to Prioritize Your Agents for a Better Customer Experience

A great customer experience isn’t coincidental. It’s carefully crafted, highly intentional and, most importantly, it’s hard.

A mere 8 percent of customers think they’re receiving an awesome customer experience, according to a study from Bain & Company. And of those who have a really great experience, 68 percent of them attribute it to a pleasant agent, according to another study from American Express. Furthermore, 62 percent said the agents’ knowledge and resourcefulness was key to their positive experience.

You know knowledgeable and empowered agents provide a better customer experience, yet you’re still plagued by insane turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficient workflows and misaligned processes in the contact center. Why?! And what can you do to fix it?

Start prioritizing your agent experience.

Think about it, when your agents feel they’re working well – when they’re efficient, effective and aligned – they work harder. They know what your expectations are and how they’re impacting the greater vision of your company. Agents that are motivated, engaged, and empowered are happier and more satisfied with their jobs. And, they’ll provide better customer care.  They can see how their actions impact a real, live human by creating a better customer experience.

But if they’re stuck in a broken process, fumbling through outdated technology paired with a manager that has too much on their plate, their ability to drive positive experiences flounders into a sea of nothingness. And if they’re frustrated, the results on your team morale are toxic.

You’re searching high and low for coachable moments, without any time to actually coach, amplifying the negativity. And to top it off, the outdated tech stack your center’s using is mismatched with what your customers are using. For instance, your customers (and your agents, for that matter) are used to texting, sending pictures or videos, chatting on a live chat or using social media to communicate, switching from one place to another without losing context.

But your business is not.

It’s time for contact centers to put agents’ success at the top of the priority list. Start building your agents’ confidence and empowerment. But what exactly does agent success look like? Here are five ways to prioritize your agents and improve their (and your) success.

Three Ways to Prioritize Your Agents

  1. Start (and continue) coaching

The single most important thing you can do as a contact center manager is coach your team. But managers are struggling to train their people well. On average, managers are spending 53 percent of their week looking for coachable moments rather than actually coaching. Yet, studies show frequent touchpoints, with specific examples increase employee satisfaction, engagement and performance. And, it creates a culture of trust company-wide.

  1. Use the right tools

Efficient tools and processes increase agent productivity and satisfaction. Think about it: If your agents have to fumble through a messy process, touch eight different tools in under three minutes, just to find a clue to answer the customer’s problem, they’re going to get a little flustered. But offering up the right tools (with coachable moments built in), with processes meant to enhance the workflow, not stifle it, creates more effective and efficient agents – and happier customers.

  1. Empower them

Empowered agents work with more autonomy. They see more first contact resolutions and have clarity in where they’re impacting your company’s vision. Workers place a high value on employee empowerment, whether they’re in a contact center or somewhere else in the company. It’s simple, they want to feel supported and respected. They’re hungry to perform at or above your customers’ expectations, but they need the right tools to be successful and effective.

Sharpen has created a solution designed to remove the inefficiencies that are plaguing your agents, their quality of life and their ability to provide a positive customer experience every time. Join their webcast as they talk about key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.

Trends in Agent Empowerment

Although businesses highlight the importance of customer service and retention, customer service managers continue to report an overwhelming amount of issues. Alarming turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficiency and inadequacy are some of the issues plaguing contact centers today. The root of the problem? Agent success, or lack thereof.

Think about it – when employees feel they are working efficiently, effectively, and with constant support from supervisors, they work harder. In contact centers today, agents feel frustrated. Too often, contact centers will use outdated software, leading agents to become frustrated and be less efficient with their time. The lack of support from supervisors is apparent, while agents rarely have any means to track their progress, leaving the agent confused and directionless. To top it off, outdated technology used by most contact centers is mismatched with the technology used by the general public today including SMS & MMS text, live chat (not with a robot), social media, and way more.

It is time for contact centers to put their agents’ success first in their line of priorities. In order to do this, they must focus on empowering their agents. What exactly does agent empowerment look like? Empowered agents have access to the tools they need to do an excellent job, are fully supported by their supervisors, are capable of making decisions for themselves, and are well respected by their colleagues.

Millennials entering the workforce place a high value on employee empowerment whether in the contact center, or in another industry. It’s simple – they want to feel supported, respected, and feel as though they have the tools they need to be successful and effective. These tools include a way to track progress, up-to-date technology, effective training programs and constant feedback.

Sharpen has developed a holistic solution designed to eliminate common inefficiencies that ultimately impact the agent, their quality of life, and their ability to provide a perfect customer experience. Check out their webcast on August 2 as they discuss key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment, and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.