Our panel of experts discuss the product features that you should be looking out for when buying workforce management (WFM) software.
Monitoring and Reporting Tools
Your WFM software will ideally allow you to calculate key metrics – like predicted call volumes, staffing requirements and Average Handling Time (AHT) – at the push of a button, on a user-friendly dashboard.
This dashboard should also allow you to monitor service levels, queue times and occupancy levels across different contact centre teams in real time.
If your contact centre uses multiskilled advisors, this capability will enable you to move advisors around to best meet the demand that’s coming in.
If your contact centre used multiskilled advisors, this capability will enable you to move advisors around to best meet the demand that’s coming in.
Just remember to think these decisions through carefully; knee-jerk decisions can often be a planner’s greatest plight.
Finally, when it comes to monitoring and reporting, alongside your real-time dashboard should also be a historical dashboard which automatically analyses trends in KPI score across the year. It should also provide you with the raw data to run your own analysis.
Cross-Channel AND Cross-Skill Forecasting
Now that we’ve moved from “call centre” to “contact centre”, we want software that cannot only forecast calls but also email, chat, social media and more.
But we also need to consider the skills that advisors have, not only across different channels, but across different contact reasons too. This ensures that we don’t overstaff in one area and understaff in another.
Our WFM software will ideally automate much of this for us, but it can also automate other functions that can help planners to save real time.
We can use the WFM software to show us how contacts are distributed throughout the year, month, week and day – helping us to much better plan for peak (and trough) periods.
For example, we can use the WFM software to show us how contacts are distributed throughout the year, month, week and day – helping us to much better plan for peak (and trough) periods.
Another nifty automation feature is automatic updates and forecast recalculations. These can be sent to the planner every 10-15 minutes, ensuring that they stay “in the know” and don’t have to constantly look across at the real-time dashboard.
Staying in adherence is important for the business (in terms of costs), the customer (in terms of wait times) and for the advisors themselves (in terms of occupancy rates). This message should be clearly relayed to advisors in “power of one” training.
To make sure this message sticks, many contact centres set advisors adherence targets. WFM software helps you to stay on top of these targets.
These systems will automatically compare an advisor’s current status with the status that they are scheduled to be in – gently signalling to an advisor when they are in the wrong state.
As the planner, you too can see which advisors are out of adherence in real time, while you will also have access to reports of historic adherence, which can be great to give to a supervisor before they conduct one-to-ones with advisors. This will help to ensure that adherence remains a key focus.
A “Manual Adjustment” Function
Tools have great insight, but so do you! Your WFM software therefore should give you the ability to make manual adjustments to your forecasts to account for your planning experience and other business intelligence.
If you are going to make use of certain WFM software tools, you need to have a full understanding of them, be confident in making use of them and know when you can tweak to account for your own experience.
Use this experience and confidence to optimize your forecasting process and remember to test out your experimental methods on old sets of data. You can then immediately see how accurate your model is by comparing your forecast to the “real” contact volumes that you received in the past.
To help with this testing, some WFM tools will allow you to take snapshots to compare the accuracy of your forecasting models, helping you to clearly see which worked better.
Thanks to Charlie Mitchell at Call Centre Helper
Simplified Forecasting Capabilities
A software vendor might start throwing terms around like Triple Exponential Smoothing, ARIMA or maybe even Multiple Temporal Aggregation, at which point you might just start nodding your head.
Look for WFM software that makes forecasting simple while still maintaining accuracy and intelligence.
These complicated algorithms are critical to forecasting accuracy, so you should look for WFM software that makes forecasting simple while still maintaining accuracy and intelligence.
Computing power and data analytics have advanced to where it is possible to take advantage of advanced algorithms for more accurate results, taking into account your business specific inputs.
The best WFM software eliminates the guesswork by ensuring the best algorithms are applied to your forecast for the data set and time period for which you are forecasting, eliminating the need to specify the exact forecasting algorithm that should be applied.
It will still be important to then measure the accuracy of your forecasts on a regular and ongoing basis to ensure you are improving and make corrections, as necessary.
You shouldn’t need to learn the names of any algorithms and how they each individually work – unless you really want to!
Ideally, your WFM software will be part of a unified contact centre offering. This will help to simplify training, deployment and management.
With unified WFM software, admins only set up new users one time in one software, rather than one time in the contact centre ACD, one time in the WFM software, and so on. Unification also removes cumbersome integration.
Advisors can view their schedules, participate in shift bids and swaps, and request time off from the same interface they use to handle customer interactions, ensuring they have immediate notification and access to the most updated WFM information.
Arguably the greatest benefit of unification is therefore only needing to log into one piece of software to access all contact centre functions.
Thanks to Lauren Comer at NICE inContact
Agent salaries make up 60% to 70% of contact centre costs. Overstaffing your contact centre headcount by 2% to 3% could cost the business hundreds of thousands depending on the size of your organization.
By using artificial intelligence (AI) in automating the forecasting and scheduling processes, contact centres can accurately predict long-term operational performance.
Having this within your WFM software allows managers to consider the true impact of contact volumes, attrition, service levels…
Having this within your WFM software allows managers to consider the true impact of contact volumes, attrition, service levels and other key factors.
Using AI in this fashion will allow you to easily and continuously track plan variations and respond faster to change, in order to drive better, more personalized customer experiences.
Employee Training Capabilities
As the number of customer channels grows, the need to train employees and give them the skills necessary to manage each channel with confidence also increases.
Integrating a training manager function as part of your workforce management software allows organizations to improve employee performance through better scheduling and tracking of training, such as e-learning or coaching sessions.
When overseen and encouraged by trainers, call centres can expect to generate increased agent engagements and greater levels of customer satisfaction.
As part of the training, you should ensure that agents are tracked and monitored to ensure that their soft skills are kept up to date. These soft skills include communication, professionalism and the ability to gain the trust and respect of customers.
Thanks to Cameron Smith at Genesys
The concept of self-service for shift preferences, trades, overtime or time-off is nothing new. However, the latest innovations in automation and scheduling are designed to give advisors more control of their working lives.
Advisors can move their own breaks to accommodate family meals and make the most of their morning and evening commute time to learn new skills and share tips with colleagues online.
They can also view their own personal performance key performance indicators (KPIs) and take part in challenging competitions through gamification, all within a single extensive self-service application.
An additional benefit of this is that it can reduce the demand on resource planners and supervisors – so you won’t be drowning in frequent, last-minute changes and can focus on higher-level tasks and strategic objectives.
Bulk scheduling allows you to build schedules in minutes, through leveraging rule-based automation.
Having this capability allows planners to more easily experiment with different shift patterns that can flexibly accommodate the challenges of home-schooling or caring for vulnerable relatives.
Using bulk scheduling, supervisors and planners save huge amounts of time when updating schedules for multiple agents…
Using bulk scheduling, supervisors and planners save huge amounts of time when updating schedules for multiple agents and teams or when mapping skills to meet increased or fluctuating customer demand.
Bulk edits, updates and changes to queues, skills groups and overtime are just a few clicks away – freeing managers from the tedium of administrative tasks.
Also, this means managers are able to review and confirm important changes long before critical schedules are impacted, helping to improve decision-making.
The back office plays a key role in supporting customer journeys, processing claims, order fulfilment, compliance requirements and updating knowledge bases.
If contact centres choose to blend automation with data from their WFM, they can also schedule and forecast their back-office resources quickly and efficiently. This helps to reduce costly overstaffing and overtime while boosting employee performance and engagement along the way.
Streamlining back-office processes makes it possible to track individual and team activities and then measure performance against key contact centre metrics.
These metrics include AHT and more specific WFM success measures, such as service level and forecast accuracy.
Thanks to Magnus Geverts at Calabrio
Our brains love to run “what-if” scenarios! What if I win the lottery? What if I injured myself home alone? What if my car stops working on the way to an important interview?
Running hypothetical what-if scenarios are important in preparing for the future. So why not also consider running what-if scenarios within your contact centre?
This feature within WFM software can help you understand the impact of events on the future and recognize what actions need to be taken. The COVID-19 pandemic is a fitting example of how what-if scenarios can come into play.
This feature can map out different scenarios with a snapshot into what your business will look like in different situations.
For example, this feature can map out different scenarios with a snapshot into what your business will look like in different situations.
Think about what would happen if a second wave were to hit or if you have to schedule a 50/50 split of homeworkers and office-based workers to ensure social distancing continues.
Another example may be when you have made changes to your script with the introduction of new legislation or you’re promoting a new customer survey. The revised script might add another 30 seconds onto the call.
Running what-if scenarios within your WFM software means that you can understand the impact of increasing the call handling time by another 30 seconds.
The gamification feature within certain WFM software positions advisors as players of a game. The software can then reward performance (e.g. with gold, silver and bronze medals), based on predetermined parameters and metrics.
Contact centre managers and supervisors can also upload their own key metrics in alignment with business goals.
Reports and statistics can then be compiled daily, allowing agents to keep track of their “game progress”.
The medals advisors win can be traded in for prizes, like being first in line for the next holiday bid.
As a result, gamification encourages advisors to reach a specific target, improve their performance and engage with important KPIs.
Thanks to Neil Draycott at Business Systems
Intraday management solutions leverage intelligent automation to enable contact centres to re-forecast and re-simulate demand throughout the day and revise requirements as needed.
These solutions will ideally be part of your central WFM software, which will also include forecasting tools that are able to find unseen patterns in data and automatically evaluate dozens of algorithms to pick the best model and increase staffing plan accuracy.
Then there are also those scheduling tools that provide advisors with greater flexibility and enable them to manage their work/life balance more efficiently.
Finally, your WFM software will hopefully include automation tools that are able to balance advisor and organizational needs by allowing advisors to select extra hours or voluntary time-off from pre-approved options that are only presented if they also benefit the business.
Thanks to Omri Hayner at NICE
For more from our panel of experts on the topic of contact centre WFM, read our articles: