Workforce Management: Productivity, Engagement, and the Customer Experience

By Kyle Antcliff

A company’s frontline workforce can often make or break an organization. Studies show that customers’ interactions with contact center agents directly and significantly affect brand reputation, revenue, and profits. A recent Harvard Business Review study found a 240 percent annual revenue difference between companies whose customers rated their experiences as “great” compared to those whose customers rated their experiences as “poor.”

Workforce management issues often revolve around time management and how to balance the competing tasks of training and serving customers. Most contact centers have their agents either scheduled for training or customer work. These competing priorities put a strain on both productivity and service. On average, agents are idle for almost twenty hours a month, but these opportunities are wasted, neither serving customers nor in training.

Due to the siloed and manual nature of tools and operations, workforce management teams spend an unnecessary amount of time monitoring real-time data and reacting to their findings. This highly inefficient practice impacts the operating budget, and it means workforce managers aren’t focused on the things that matter most: customer and agent development.

The technology now exists to enable contact centers to react immediately and consistently to optimization opportunities, such as periods of lower or higher customer demand. Agents can be prompted to work on training or back office tasks, and coaching can be conducted during temporary periods of low call volume. This means that training no longer has to compete with an agent’s schedule. By triggering off-phone work during what would otherwise be unproductive idle time, leading contact centers are reaping productivity, agent engagement, and service delivery gains previously not thought possible.

In the age before these software solutions, contact centers were incapable of responding to the mountains of data coming at them at warp speed and stored in siloed systems. As contact centers manage multiple interaction channels, including chat and social, the proliferation of data will only increase. New software tools enable contact centers to react immediately and consistently to this ever-increasing volume of data.

Agent Engagement: Agent engagement is an often neglected but incredibly important component of the customer experience. Disenchanted agents directly correlate with poor customer service delivery and profit drain. Without question, the customer experience can be improved with contact center agents who are prepared and receive regular face time with supervisors and managers.

As mentioned previously, because serving customers take priority, even the most critical training and coaching activities are often cancelled. However, automation technology can provide contact centers with the ability to prompt agent training and coaching tasks during periods of lower-than-expected call volume. Forward-thinking contact center managers are now able to create much more one-on-one agent and supervisor face time. Coaching – especially when coupled with training – can have a significant impact on agent engagement, attrition, and the customer experience.

Customer Experience: The challenge of coordinating complexity in the contact center reaches another level when one considers the number of channels and tools (which produce a growing volume of data) and the plethora of manual, reactive processes used to “get through the day.” In most instances, workforce management teams spend a significant part of their day manually monitoring conditions and adjusting their frontline workforces in response. This activity consumes significant resources, and reacting manually makes it impossible to address all the problems and take advantage of all the opportunities.

Fortunately for contact center leaders, new technology solutions enable contact centers to unify siloed tools and operations. And from a tactical standpoint, they can use data to trigger real-time workforce adjustments throughout the day. These automated actions are far more effective and responsive to business conditions than traditional, manual efforts. In an environment where seconds and minutes matter, the impact on cost, productivity, agent engagement, and the customer experience are dramatic.

New contact center software enables frontline workforces to react in real time to optimization opportunities such as periods of lower or higher call volume, imbalance across interaction channels, overstaffing, understaffing, and individual adherence issues. A more agile frontline workforce is better able to adjust throughout the day to deliver a more consistent customer experience.

Kyle Antcliff serves as vice president of marketing at Intradiem, Inc., where he focuses on strategies, SaaS product/technology, and P&L management and services. During his twenty years of general management and technology experience, he has successfully built and grown technology and service businesses, both domestically and internationally. 

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2015]