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When customer experience (CX) professionals talk about workforce management (WFM), they’re often discussing the functionality of the technology. Having the right tools is essential, of course. But implementing robust technology that aligns with your goals is table stakes. There are two other elements to consider that too often don’t get enough attention: data and employee engagement.
At Enterprise Connect 2022, Juanita Coley, Founder and CEO of Solid Rock Consulting, led a session titled “Your WFM solution alone can’t save you,” where she emphasized the value of both. Data, Coley said, is the foundation of the WFM lifecycle, which includes forecasting, scheduling and intraday (activities within one day in a contact center).
Data validation is an absolute must for forecasters. Inaccurate, disconnected data will lead to an inaccurate forecast. Contact center leaders must have checks and balances in place to watch for forecast deviations that could lead to missed opportunities or lost revenue. They also need connected data from across channels to know how many contacts to expect by channel and when (long- and short-term as well as intraday — both daily and by interval), so they can staff correctly to cover the projected interaction volume.
All this data also underlies scheduling, which Coley called a “blend of art and science.” Along with scheduling to cover the forecast interaction volume, contact center leaders need to consider agents’ availability, location and needs. With all this in mind, you have to determine the ideal scheduling type: static, stair step, 10×4, split shift. And where does gig scheduling fit in? How much flexibility is there — especially if the forecast predicts high volume or potential volume spikes and troughs.
Intraday is where the plan comes together, she said, based on the data used to forecast and schedule for optimal customer and employee experiences. Here’s where data can provide another assist, Coley said — using trend data to expect the previously unexpected. In a prior role as a contact center manager, she used trend data to see patterns of lateness on Mondays, which she dubbed “system issue Mondays,” because the common excuse was technology snafus like problems logging in — and patterns of staff “needing” to leave early on Friday paydays.
The ideal WFM solution enables contact center leaders to get to the data they need, supports intelligent forecasting and scheduling, and provides integrations for managing interactions across channels.
The other often-overlooked element of WFM is employee engagement. “Employee experience is the core of customer experience,” said Coley. “An employee is never going to treat customers better than they’re being treated. It’s just not going to happen.”
The importance of employee engagement is why we talk about workforce engagement management. Genesys understands that an empathic customer experience, where customers feel listened to and understood, starts with an empathetic employee experience. Companies with an employee-centric, customer-focused culture are more likely to retain both employees and customers.
For companies to get the most from WFM, they need to shift to a workforce engagement management (WEM) mindset. That’s where the technology and strategy come together in service of the employee.
Providing an empathetic employee experience isn’t just about emotional support; it’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. In the case of CX employees, that means providing technology that helps them succeed at their jobs and resolve customer issues — no matter how complex.
Artificial intelligence (AI)-based, real-time coaching and next-best-action recommendations are examples of tools that are empathetic to employees by better serving them; that is, they provide them with information they need at the moment they need it. More than 60% of companies identified in an Economist Impact report as being AI customer experience leaders said they use AI to prompt next-best-action recommendations to employees.
Another example is using WEM to rethink forecasting.
“We have to forecast differently today, because we were forecasting [just] for people,” said Coley. If part of an interaction is being handled by a bot or IVR or some other automation, thus removed from an agent’s interaction, then the time needed in the agent’s schedule is different. This helps make better use of agents’ time.
Coley predicts the future of scheduling will be more empathetic, too. She sees gig economy scheduling — where a full schedule composed of 30-minute increments is released for agents to bid on — as a way to engage and retain agents by provide more flexibility in their schedules. One retail company launched shift-pattern scheduling, a dynamic approach that enables agents to submit schedule preferences, which offers more flexibility and reduces the need to request paid time off. The change led to a significant jump in agent retention.
Ultimately, Coley said, WEM works best at companies where both the customer and employee experiences are important — and where empathy is the status quo.
“People care when they feel you care about them,” she said. “Treat people how you want to be treated.”
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