Back to Basics: Contact Center Workforce Optimization

Eighty percent.

That’s how high the attrition rate in contact centers has jumped since the COVID-19 pandemic — about twice the historical average.

Not only did the pandemic accelerate consumer adoption of digital channels for customer service, it also catalyzed a workplace transformation — one where employees prioritize flexibility as much as fulfillment.

Contact center employee engagement is emerging as the No. 1 customer experience (CX) priority for business, according to “The State of Customer Experience,” a global research report by Genesys.

Until now, the employee experience (EX) has been largely neglected. Almost half (48%) of CX leaders surveyed for the report said their organization currently does very little or nothing at all to reduce employee effort and make CX jobs easier.

We’re going to explore how to make work easier — and more enjoyable — for your employees with contact center workforce optimization. We’ll start by defining it and describing its components, then consider why it’s important and how it’s different from workforce management.

Finally, we’ll see how contact center workforce optimization (WFO) plays into a company’s strategy to enhance EX — and how you can empower your employees with an all-in-one cloud-based contact center platform.

Understanding Contact Center Workforce Optimization

Workforce optimization involves the strategy of integrating siloed technologies and automating processes. It aims to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction, while reducing operational costs and improving how leaders manage employee performance. The components of contact center WFO include:

Workforce forecasting

Forecasting considers several variables, such as historical data and seasonal fluctuations, to predict contact volumes on different channels. It allows managers to easily determine the staffing needs in a contact center over a given period of time. With fully integrated WFO software, you can create accurate forecasts in minutes and forecast years in advance.

Workforce scheduling

Scheduling involves building schedules that engage employees while supporting an organization’s service-level goals. This means taking into account your agents’ preferences and adjusting to last-minute demands or issues. Integrated software enables you to streamline the scheduling process with automated shift allocation, flexible work rules and more.

Let’s examine the value of contact center workforce optimization by taking a closer look at workforce planning.

What are the Challenges of Workforce Planning?

A workforce planner has a demanding job. She must build schedules that balance supporting her organization’s service goals with employee preferences and any last-minute changes that occur. Her schedules must use the right number of agents to meet demand while minimizing downtime.

A workforce planner might also handle forecasting or receive a forecast and then be sure to staff accordingly for the projected volume. But there are some challenges in this role. A workforce planner often is unaware if or when agents come in or leave. Additionally, they could encounter inaccurate forecasts — too many or too few agents are scheduled. Clunky manual processes also create issues. And the planner might feel unappreciated or ignored when her efforts go unrecognized.

Workforce optimization that uses artificial intelligence (AI)-powered software to generate schedules can make a planner’s job easier and more accurate. These tools maximize efficiency by ensuring the right resources reach the right places at the right times. AI balances supply and demand with a consistent, systematic approach that eliminates human bias and errors.

How is Workforce Optimization Different from Workforce Management?

Workforce management (WFM) involves strategically optimizing employee productivity and ensuring all resources are where they’re supposed to be at the right time. A WFM strategy typically includes scheduling, forecasting, skills management and employee empowerment.

While this sounds similar to workforce optimization, most WFM systems focus on tracking and counting — static systems designed to focus on efficiency and productivity outcomes.

Meanwhile, dynamic workforce optimization systems focus on providing agility, actionable insights and an enhanced experience.

Benefit Customers by Personalizing Employee Experiences

When we think about the term “workforce,” we tend to think of a large group of agents — probably working on-site in a contact center. But when we think of them as unique individuals with specific skills, we can personalize the employee experience.

Traditional contact center WFO solutions focused on operational objectives like service levels and average speed of answer. Employees were viewed as a commodity or a cost, which led to low engagement and high attrition rates.

But we’ve seen conceptions of the workplace transform these past few years. Today’s employees want to know they’re appreciated. High-performing contact center employees value having a sense of autonomy and personal responsibility. They want to learn new skills and have advancement opportunities, according to the Genesys report “Human values: The operating system for a high-performing contact center.”

And this appetite for instruction extends beyond the contact center. Having opportunities to learn and grow is now the top factor defining an exceptional work environment, according to the 2022 Workplace Learning Report by LinkedIn.

Empower Employees with a Single Platform

You can streamline the process of long-term forecasting and planning with workforce optimization software from Genesys. Accelerate data analysis that informs strategic decisions by cutting the bulk of your hands-on forecasting activities. Achieve up to 90% forecasting accuracy in less time. And spend more time nurturing agents so they develop the skills that keep them effective — and happy.

Plan ahead

Learn from your historical contact center data. Use it to plan for customer demand, interaction volumes and agent coverage. Create accurate schedules based on what you know and extend those plans across channels and workgroups.

Know your options

Create simulation models that deliver near-perfect accuracy. Assess cost versus performance tradeoffs with sophisticated “what-if” analysis. Find the likely outcomes and risks of any staffing or interaction volume scenario or forecast.

Staff confidently

Execute long-term workforce and planning with confidence. View data across systems to understand what you need. Determine how many agents — and what skill sets — are necessary in upcoming schedules. Develop efficient just-in-time hiring, overtime, vacation and training plans based on week-over-week data.

Budget based on data

Analyze costs and revenue data for detailed financial analysis with powerful AI technology. Compare these insights to agent skill sets, salaries and performance to drive scheduling decisions. Add information from other long-term planning tools into your budget with ease.

Plan Easier. Work Smarter. Serve Better.

Your customers expect exceptional support every time they interact with you. And don’t expect that to change — even if their preferences do. If you want to keep up with rising expectations, you need the right agents and technology. Manually analyzing historical data to determine staffing needs isn’t effective anymore — it’s time-consuming and inefficient.

Discover the power of AI-powered workforce planning software in automating your complex decisions. With a fully integrated solution, you’ll take the guesswork out of contact center planning, forecasting and scheduling.