Agents account for
around 75% of contact centre costs, and as effective workforce management
solutions have such an impact on efficiency, productivity and expense of the
operation, workforce management will continue to be the amongst the most
important tools of the contact centre’s disposal. This is a very interesting
time for those involved in workforce management (WFM), as many disruptive
influences – cloud, flexible working, analytics, multichannel / omnichannel and
back office WFM – are coalescing simultaneously, driving vendors to expand and
develop their functionality.
The Move to
don’t just offer financial benefits: as the time taken to roll out new releases
is so much less than the traditional CPE model, vendors can bring out new
versions much more frequently, and experiment with offering cutting-edge functionality
far sooner than they would in a traditional premise-based deployment
environment. The continued rise in homeworking, virtualisation, and mobility in
general will be a major driver for the uptake of cloud-based solutions. This
model also encourages smaller operations to implement WFM, or experiment with
functionality that was previously out of their price range.
In 2015, 19% of UK contact
centres that used workforce management had a cloud-based solution: by 2018,
that proportion had grown to 34%. Furthermore, 59% of those that were still
using a premise-based solution stated that they aimed to move to cloud by the
end of 2020.
From Front Office
to Back Office
solution providers are keen to expand out of the traditional contact centre,
with the back offices and branches of large organisations being seen as
potential goldmines. Far more employees work in these spaces than in the
contact centre, although many back offices lack the same focus upon efficiency
and the tools to improve it. With the increased focus on the entire customer
journey, back office processes are starting to fall within the remit of
customer experience professionals, who are likely to take their knowledge of
contact centre workforce management and apply it in these new areas. The
industry is likely to see back office and contact centre workforce management
systems being closely integrated, or even working as a single centralised
function that can track and analyse the effect of different departments and
processes on others throughout the customer journey.
forecasting and scheduling will become even more important, not only because overall
digital interactions are growing generally across the industry, but also because
those operations that have been struggling to handle a small proportion of digital
interactions will finally accept that the issue is not going to go away, and will
look to invest in new workforce management solutions.
While a considerable
proportion of organisations still have dedicated digital teams, many small and
mid-size operations have a much more flexible approach to omnichannel, and the
ability to move agents between channels in the near real-time capacity will be
highly prized. Many operations reports that they are less than satisfied with their
current omnichannel WFM functionality, so we can expect to see a focus from
solution providers on improving this.
There has been
significant investment made in recent years to improve the WFM user interface
without sacrificing the sophistication of the solution, in order to offer the
benefits and capabilities to a wider audience than dedicated technical WFM professionals.
This will accelerate, as it is in the interests of both the vendor and the
business to be able to use more advanced functionality: on the one hand, to
justify the extra expense of the solution compared to basic workforce
management; on the other to gain competitive advantage without having to employ
more WFM specialists.
homeworking are well-entrenched in many organisations and the power and ubiquity
of smartphones and tablets have led to an increase in mobile working - no
longer do supervisors or managers have to be at their desks in order to monitor
performance and react accordingly - and the new generation of workers have an
expectation, both culturally and supported through regulation, that their
employment will be treated as flexible by the business as well as themselves.
This attitude towards
work, and the increased empowerment of individuals will mean an increase in the
use of WFM functionality that allows shift-swapping, vacation bidding and
short-notice shift changes, with smartphone apps supporting this. The term
‘intraday’ - referring to dynamic scheduling and resourcing in response to
rapidly changing conditions – is so useful and necessary that intraday
capability will become standard functionality in WFM solutions.
AI and WFM
strides being made in Big Data analytics are likely to lead to advances in data
modelling and analysis that will find their way into future workforce
management offerings. The use of artificial intelligence to improve forecasting
and scheduling in difficult-to-optimise areas such as call blending is also
expected. Customer journey analytics, which includes looking at workload
necessary in back office operations to fulfil the overall transaction, will be
supported through the use of artificial intelligence which will be able to use
data from multiple sources throughout the enterprise in near real-time to
predict demand, forecasting and scheduling resource based upon far deeper data
than simply historical ACD statistics.
WFM as WFO
WFM will also
integrate more deeply with other elements of the workforce optimisation (WFO)
suite: analytics is an obvious area where business intelligence and contact
centre performance meet closely, but also the performance management and QA
modules, identifying best practices and singling out agents skilled in
particular types of interaction or channel. This will enable contact centres
not just to have enough agents at the right place at the right time, but enough
of the right agents. This insight will also feed into coaching and e-learning
functionality, sharing best practice and identifying training opportunities.