By Donna Fluss
Change is born of necessity. The business world today is dramatically different from what it was fifteen years ago, and not just because of the pandemic. The workforce has changed, management practices have changed, how we do business has changed, and customer expectations have changed. Technology must adapt and transform, and nowhere is this more fevident than in the workforce management (WFM) sector. Today’s new-gen WFM suites are striving to stay on pace with modern management trends, smart technology, expanding global business requirements, and broadened market opportunities. To borrow from a popular idiom, these are “not your mother’s WFM solutions.” And the new capabilities are getting rave reviews.
Contact centers need to address operational requirements, satisfy employee needs, and meet customer expectations, all while managing costs. The last few years have brought significant changes to WFM solutions; they have been enhanced to meet the needs of omni-channel servicing environments, multinational enterprises, digital natives, and the up-and-coming Gen Z workforce.
AI and intelligent automation are enabling major enhancements to WFM solutions. Vendors are delivering new algorithms and AI-based forecasting and simulation models that include automatic selection of the best predictive models to use. Flex staffing has paved the way for the gig economy and scheduling practices that are built for “real agents and real life.” Real-time adaptive scheduling is altering and improving the handling of intraday staffing variances in real time, making it much more effective than in the past. The use of automation, including pre-defined rules, is eliminating the delays associated with having to involve WFM administrators and supervisors in many processes, from the assignment of overtime to who gets to take vacations.
Self-Service Comes on Strong
WFM solutions are providing agents with enhanced self-service capabilities that give them the autonomy to create and manage their own schedules and time off. As importantly, these tools allow agents to accommodate their need for work/life balance. Self-service scheduling and time-off management features come with automated dispositioning of agent requests based on client-defined availability and rules.
A growing number of agent self-service apps include AI-enabled intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) to assist with common WFM requests using natural language in a variety of channels, including short message service (SMS), desktop chat, text, and mobile device. Additionally, employee empowerment features such as gamification and expanded visibility into their personal performance via reports and dashboards keep agents engaged and motivated. Real-time alerts are an important feature for keeping agents apprised of contact center conditions and helping them stay on task and vested in their performance.
Vendors are investing to improve their user interfaces (UIs) and user experience (UX). In the last couple of years, WFM vendors have started to modernize and simplify agent and supervisor UIs and UXs, applying intuitive design elements that improve access and navigation. An increasing number of agent and supervisor functions are available on iOS and Android mobile devices and tablets, delivered in graphical, interactive, widget-based dashboards with role-based features, functions, and reports.
Mobile apps enable supervisors to monitor contact center performance and agent adherence via real-time reports and dashboards, track real-time adherence, and make schedule modifications directly from a tablet. Mobility features keep agents engaged by giving them access to personal dashboards and schedules, making it easy for them to view their schedules, sync schedules with personal online calendars, request time off, and view statistics from their smartphone or tablet, even when they are outside the contact center.
Life has changed substantially in the last few months. Contact centers need enhanced and flexible WFM solutions that address the needs of digitally and pandemically transformed contact centers. Companies that continue to operate with outdated technology and antiquated business practices and management techniques are going to find themselves at a major disadvantage and, worse, at risk of facing increasing employee attrition rates. WFM solutions from the past are ill-equipped to meet the current and future challenges confronting contact centers in the post-COVID-19 world. DMG expects to see significant innovation in the WFM market in the next few years, as well as new vendors coming to the market.
Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary, author, and speaker, Donna drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the services industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.