Workforce management (WFM) has been a fixture in the contact center world for decades. But it took on newfound importance in 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cloud-based WFM was a salvation to many organizations that were challenged with supporting the new overnight birth of the virtual remote workforce, as well as the new needs of customers, agents, and management.
By mid-March 2020, businesses around the world transitioned to work remotely, embracing the power of the cloud via the widespread adoption of videoconference tools such as Zoom and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) solutions. Meanwhile remote monitoring and support applications enabled IT staff to maintain cloud data centers during the lockdowns.
Via the cloud, organizations were able to simplify deployment to scale operations quickly in the new remote contact center world. In lieu of traditional line-of-sight supervision previously done in bricks-and-mortar contact centers, cloud-based WFM solutions enabled managers to ensure high availability and performance.
The Engagement Capacity Gap
But getting contact center agents operational to work remotely was only half the battle.
In a global survey conducted by Verint at the end of 2020, customer engagement professionals clearly voiced their struggles to address a vast Engagement Capacity Gap between the resources available to meet customer demand and the exploding volume of interactions and channels.
Our research also showed the heightened importance of cloud in the contact center. When it came to the customer engagement technologies organizations considered most critical in 2020, 85% agreed that cloud-based solutions helped in managing shifts in channel usage and interaction volumes to a moderate or high degree.
And, moving forward, 88% of respondents say they expect to invest to a high or moderate degree in cloud-based customer engagement and experience solutions to close the Engagement Capacity Gap, and WFM topped the list.
Survey respondents expressed several other key concerns. 94% percent cited “understanding and acting on rapidly changing customer behaviors” while 88% said “managing the growth in volume of customer interactions” were the two most pressing issues.
Other top challenges identified by organizations were having a unified view of customer engagement and overcoming data silos (79%), using customer feedback to improve experiences (78%), and building enduring customer relationships (77%).
This backdrop of new heightened concerns is laying the groundwork for next-generation, full-featured cloud-based WFM. While it’s always been the contact center workhorse, organizations need even more horsepower to navigate the new normal.
The Customer Insight Imperative
Today there exists a customer insight imperative to make data-driven decisions to drive the business. To do this, organizations need to understand customer behavior (interactions and experiences) across all engagement channels and modalities, and at the pace of change.
The events of 2020 have shown us how everything can change, and the need to respond with rapidity.
Changes in businesses which were once thought to take two to three years are now being attempted in two to three weeks as organizations faced adapting and responding in multiple dimensions at the same time.
All while the number and variety of interactions are rising as customer and employees want and need to interact with each other through a multitude of channels for a variety of different reasons.
And while these journeys are increasingly digital, they can be wide-ranging, spanning multiple channels, as digital-first interactions can easily drift into voice interactions and bounce across other channels in a dynamic fashion. This creates a web of touch points, interaction arcs, and data silos that only become more complex as time goes on.
Needs, and Cloud WFM
Against this Pandora’s Box of customer insight challenges, let’s juxtapose today’s top contact center operational needs and cloud-based WFM solutions:
- Rapid, sustainable change. The remedy for this is to connect work, data and experiences across the enterprise to support rapid, sustainable change—i.e., adding agents and/or turning channels on or off as needed—a simple-sounding strategy but one that is a challenge for a vast majority of organizations. WFM is the oracle of capacity planning and scheduling; it guides organizations to make changes on the fly.
- Quality, compliance, and performance improvement. Quality is still job one in the contact center. Every call into your contact center is a direct reflection of your organization to the customer. Ensuring every call is consistently of the highest quality is essential to success. Organizations must strive to improve the performance of employees and bots and/or to improve their behavioral compliance, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
- Ensuring satisfied customers. To ensure organizations are delivering the right customer experience, they must understand whether agents are doing their jobs right (compliance and adherence to scripts and procedures), and they are doing the right job to ensure customer satisfaction. The end-goal is real-time action informed by strategic insights that delivers quality performance and compliance. WFM is a key backbone for quality, compliance, and performance improvement.
The end-goal is real-time action informed by strategic insights that delivers quality performance and compliance. WFM is a key backbone for quality, compliance, and performance improvement.
- System health. This is fundamental for the remote contact center. As it turns out, connectivity and quality can be a challenge with agents working from home. Their home network bandwidth sometimes competes with the family participating in online schools, streaming Netflix every afternoon, and, particularly during lockdown periods, ordering groceries and other essentials through eCommerce sites. Today, cloud-based WFM is addressing this need through automated system health checks and verification.
- Analytics. Via the cloud and connectors, WFM captures data in real-time and unifies that data into a structure that is searchable. This is the necessary foundation to enable the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to support essential functions such as intent recognition. This takes the connection between customers and brands into a whole new realm, where more than words are exchanged; the technology helps detect the customer’s underlying purpose, providing the ability to better serve customers and empower agents on the front lines.
Assisting the Entire Enterprise
Point recording solutions for all customer engagement channels and modalities help ensure an excellent customer and agent experience by capturing and enabling the identification of customer satisfaction and performance issues and opportunities for improvements.
But they also create data silos, which make it increasingly difficult to meet these contact center priorities and ever-increasing business expectations.
WFM, integrated with point recording, has historically played an important role in managing the contact center.
However, with the changes of the last two years, as well as the increasing growth of digital, it is critical for WFM and recording to be able to aggregate all channels and modalities of interaction and experience data.
This improves the management, unification, and enrichment of the data to guide vital decision-making and help organizations be more agile and responsive in the post-COVID-19 customer engagement landscape.
When it comes to WFM, the game is levelling up. Cloud is a given today; most organizations clearly understand the value of the cloud from a deployment and scalability perspective.
But I would argue the exponentially greater value of cloud-based WFM lies in its ability to support the extensibility and openness necessary to bring forth a rich realm of holistic capabilities to support breakthrough customer engagement.