Supplier Zone
The Future of Workforce Management

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 Cloud-based WFM

Cloud-based solutions 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

Workforce management 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.

Supporting the Omnichannel Workforce

Omnichannel 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.

Improved User-Friendliness

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.

Supporting Decentralisation

Virtualisation and 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

The technological 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 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.

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