Community represents innovation, built on the unmatched expertise of WFMSG.

WFMSG Blog

Reaching Every Contact Center with Affordable and Accessible WFM Solutions

Nov 06, 2019
Reaching Every Contact Center with Affordable and Accessible WFM Solutions

by: Bob Brittan, Director of Marketing at WFMSG

No matter the size of your contact center, you will always have the task of making sure you have enough call representatives, or agents, to handle the call load. The art of successful workforce management (WFM) is understanding the basic process of forecasting and scheduling. The truth is in the numbers, both physical and financial – too few agents, and your customer satisfaction bottoms out – too many agents, and your payroll is too high. In fact, labor costs account for more than 70% of your contact center budget, so you can see how important accurate forecasting and scheduling becomes.

The WFM Process

The basic WFM process begins with an organization choosing a service level goal, usually expressed as answering some percentage of calls within a certain number of seconds. To achieve this goal, a call demand or load forecast must be created, typically by looking at historical data from the telephone answering system. Then, calculations determine how many staff are required to meet the predicted demand at the desired service level.

Once requirements are known, individual employee schedules are generated so that agents understand when to report to work, when to take breaks and lunches and when to finish their shifts. Finally, the management team needs to make sure that agents are following their schedules.

Creating a Forecast and Schedule

If you are new to the WFM game you might try to manually create a forecast from the historical call data available to you, and make a list of all of your agents. A spreadsheet is a cost effect method often used in small to medium sized contact centers and will greatly help you get organized. 

It’s fair to say that spreadsheets can be an effective tool in creating forecasts. After all, forecasts of call volume are essentially a math problem. Our old friend Mr. Erlang and his formula can be effective at calculating the required number of single-skill staff. The real problem is creating schedules.

When you take into account agent schedule preferences, multiple skill routing scenarios, complex work rules, tracking schedule adherence, and over and under staffing, failure in anyone or multiple areas results in needless expense and lost customer good-will that you may never recover from.

Removing Complexity – Just Ask a Wizard

Modern workforce management solutions enable contact centers to quickly and economically capture the benefits of modern workforce optimization technology. They have become much more affordable and can cater to entry level and start-up organizations, to large multi-site contact centers with may skill sets, telephone systems, and omni-channel environments. Administrators, supervisors and analysts no longer have to worry about long learning cycles, or resentment from agents due to a significant cultural change, just by implementing a workforce management solution. 

To ensure you are not behind the curve when it comes to accurate forecasting and scheduling, look for a WFM solution with a browser-based wizard to intuitively walk users through the process of developing and executing an accurate forecast - while managing overhead costs. Make sure your users can also run advanced “what-if” analysis by varying demand, service levels and other variables to optimize agent schedules when your services demand changes. Another plus feature are unique forecast modeling options for contact centers that offer multiple channels of support.

Modern WFM software also takes agent empowerment into consideration – after all, agents are your customers window into the organization. Empowerment for agents, supervisors, and analysts who can seamlessly be connected through tightly integrated desktop portals and multiple notification channels can keep everyone up-to-date on operations. 

Don’t forget the infrastructure. Look for a solution to fit your needs whether it be an on-premise solution, cloud hosted, or hybrid. Many WFM users today opt for a cloud-based solution for ease of implementation, cost-effectiveness, and minimum IT involvement. Remember, the historical data used in forecasting and where it comes from – make sure your telephone system is compatible with available data collection adapters. Popular cloud-based adapters now include sources such as Amazon and SharpenCX.

Instead of struggling with spreadsheets, look into affordable WFM tools for contact centers that enable you to have the right number of agents with the right skills, at the right time, across all channels throughout the day. Keeping the agents involved in the process every step along the way, gives them input into critical scheduling decisions.

Clear the Way for Growth

The business landscape never stops evolving. Small business grows into larger organizations or can become part of a merger or acquisition. Implement a new solution that automates routine workforce optimization functions including forecasting, schedule optimization, adherence reporting and workforce engagement – all presented within an easy to use web browser interface and mobile app.  

It’s clearly advantageous to have a WFM solution that is easy to expand as your business needs change. Use a solution with a simple and clear migration path and license update when basic users require access to advanced features and greater automation.  Use a vendor that provides your center with cloud-based access to a workforce optimization tool kit that meets your needs and budget. WFM solutions today are making it faster, easier and less expensive to adopt world class workforce management.

###

Read More

We know agent retention is important. What is your strategy?

Nov 18, 2018
We know agent retention is important. What is your strategy?

by: Dick Bucci, Founder and Chief Analyst of Pelorus Associates

Companies are no longer being defined by their products and services but by the way that customers experience them. As the primary point of entry for many consumer interactions, contact center agents are uniquely situated to influence customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. However, while turnover rates vary from one contact center to the next, on average contact centers experience turnover rates between 30 – 45 percent. Not only can agent turnover impact the customer experience, it’s expensive! Studies show that employee turnover costs an organization at least 25-30 percent of the benefits and salary for a vacated position.

Contact center managers are always on the lookout for new tools and practices that will help retain their best-performing agents. This is especially true today as falling unemployment levels present agents with many more employment options. Recognizing the importance of aligning customer service agent preferences with business needs WFMSG’s Community workforce management software offers a unique feature call Automated Schedule Adjustment Plans (ASAP). ASAP is designed to automate a range of common schedule and intraday management administrative tasks and works in conjunction with Community’s fully integrated communications framework.

Rather than manage schedules on an ad-hoc basis, managers can quickly execute various plan types and communicate with agents through a number of notification channels. Through this messaging feature agents are alerted to opt-in opportunities for overtime and other schedule options and can respond immediately.

WFMSG’s latest release of the Community workforce management solution deliverers a significant enhancement to the ASAP feature. Community 4.3 now includes Agent ASAP Calendar View. This allows agents to see all plans for which they are eligible, giving them more control over their work schedules. Clicking an offer from the calendar provides the agents with a detailed description of the available offer. The option to accept or decline will depend on the disposition of the offer at the time of selection. This is one of many new features or enhancements included in Community 4.3.

While there may be limits to what management can do in terms of improving compensation levels and advancement opportunities, they can and must take actions to make the work more attractive and to reward superior performers. Empowerment is a powerful tool for building agent morale and increasing retention. The power of modern workforce management software makes it possible to satisfy (within the confines of business rules and service level requirements) employee preferences for work schedules, vacation preferences, and time off requests.

About Pelorus Associates

Dick Bucci is Founder and Principal of Pelorus Associates where he specializes in contact center technologies. Dick has authored seventeen market research reports on workforce optimization applications and has published dozens of articles and white papers. Prior to founding Pelorus Associates Dick was a senior sales and marketing executive with leading telecommunications vendors and value added resellers. Dick has over 35 years of experience and is one of the most widely published and quoted analysts in the contact center industry.

Read More

Going for the Gold = Workforce Management Reboot

Feb 19, 2018
Going for the Gold = Workforce Management Reboot

by: Roger Lee

QUESTION: What do Shaun White, Chloe Kim, Red Gerard, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Jamie Anderson all have in common, other than winning gold at the Olympics in Seoul?

Give up?

The ANSWER: Technology, social media, communication and collaboration.

These Olympians, even though they are a mix of generations, are tied to their smart phones non-stop – just follow them this week on Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. They are constantly connecting to and collaborating with their fans and their friends. They document their every move through character counts and photos. And they do it all with their earbuds stuck in their ears, playing their Pandora and Spotify playlist as they compete for their country and deliver gold medal performances.

These Olympians range in age from 17 -31, GEN Z to Millennials. The way they communicate, collaborate and even celebrate is changing from the way the old guard used to do it. Think about it, the old guard celebrated on TV, completed a few interviews and saw their picture on a box of Wheaties. Today – they still do all that, but before the interviews, they have already tweeted out to their fan base a picture of them with the medal around their neck and those fans have already congratulated them directly.

What does this change in the way these generations communicate mean to the contact center?

This is the future of our customer-base. This is how they expect to communicate, and we must be prepared to meet them where they are. And, like these Olympians, we must have the resiliency to change the way we talk, implement new processes and enable the right technology.

As expectations continue to evolve with people, process, technology and strategy, so must terms, acronyms and even the English language. First let me clarify the acronyms. As you probably know, WFM is Workforce Management; WFO is Workforce Optimization. And recently, Gartner redefined WFO as WEM, which is now Workforce Engagement. Confused yet? What’s the difference you ask and more importantly why does it matter?

Let’s start with Gartner’s definition of workforce engagement:

For years Gartner defined Workforce optimization (WFO) solutions as complementary functions designed to improve the performance of customer engagement centers by means of optimized deployment of appropriately trained and motivated agents. These functions range from ones for recruitment and scheduling to ones for evaluation and training. By adding intelligence to each function, everything from recruitment to scheduling to training can be optimized. Key functional domains include: strategic planning, recruitment, workforce management (WFM), including intraday optimization call recording and quality management (QM), coaching and e-learning, performance management (PM), surveying — focused on capturing operational and agent performance information, interaction analytics — audio and text analytics, combined with screen analytics, emotion detection and associated operational call data.

Workforce engagement management (WEM) solutions expand on the already mature workforce optimization (WFO) market by also accommodating technologies that help drive employee engagement within the customer engagement center.

Lastly, Workforce management (WFM) applications are spreadsheets or robust applications that allow you to staff and forecast the necessary resources (agents, customer service professionals) needed to answer calls, handle chats, emails, social media and back office operations. Unfortunately, the term workforce management much like quality assurance is viewed as “Big Brother”. As quite a few movies are going through a reboot (HellBoy, The Karate Kid), so must our industry terms and of course the acronyms. I will declare and put my twist on WFM that has started to and needs to evolve to WEM.

Why WEM?

With the ever-changing generations in the contact center, not only today’s Millennials expectations and needs are different, wait until GEN Z starts to be part of your contact center. The old days of a command center dictating schedules, determining when you are going to lunch and having to call in to let them know you are sick (unplanned leave) must evolve. The new workforce wants and expects the following:

  • Mobile, mobile and mobile
  • Transparency
  • A voice in the decision-making process
  • Recognition through gamification
  • The right tools at the right time
  • Work-life balance

As you can see from the “new” workforce demands, WEM elevates the strategic importance of having a collaboration and engagement approach to workforce management.

Let’s discuss item #1 in a bit more detail. Engaging your workforce through mobile applications especially through your WFM = WEM solution is not a nice to have but a standard feature that is intuitive and easy to use. Majority of the Millennials and GEN Z are born digital – usually having a laptop, tablet and mobile device attached to their body – especially mobile phones. To evolve your command center within the contact center to an engagement center, provide functionality but not limited to:

  • Viewing schedules
  • Request time-off
  • Receive notifications to accept or decline overtime and/or fill shortages in staffing schedules
  • View key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Communicate unplanned late arrival
  • Communicate that you are sick

A few key factors in leveraging the above features and expected functionality are transparent communication and collaboration. Two-way and transparent communication is important with all generations who work with you in the contact center.

Check out another article on the importance of Engaged Employees in the October 2017 issue of Contact Center Pipeline written by Roger Woolley titled Engaged Employees = Happy Customers.

Having been both an industry practitioner and a vendor, I remain focused on what is important to the end-user, customer/clients. As leaders we must serve the needs of our employees not the other way around. If you have any questions and/or need advice, please send me an email to lee.roger2@gmail.com.

Stay tune for the next blog as I discuss “communication is only as successful as collaboration.”

Until next time…

About the Author

Roger Lee has more than 20 years combined experience in finance, operations and services management and quality. Roger has held several leadership positions and been characterized as an “other-centered leader” who fosters a transparent environment with an emphasis on engaging and actively listening to all staff and customers. He believes that finding ways to improve the customer experience is essential – and the responsibility for improvement spans the enterprise.

He has been featured in global industry publications including Contact Center World, Customer Interaction Solutions, Call Center Network Group (CCNG), Contact Center Pipeline, Call Center Magazine, Call Centre Helper, Australia Internet Retailing, and CMO Australia.

Read More

Engaged Employees = Happy Customers

Oct 18, 2017
Engaged Employees = Happy Customers

by: Roger Woolley, Director of Marketing at WFMSG

Article Featured in Contact Center Pipeline / October 2017

Employee engagement is more than just a buzzword. Successful customer service organizations create a culture that encourages it. Engaged employees are more enthusiastic about their contribution to the business and, ultimately, increase the level and consistency of service provided to their clients. Senior executives, as a result, are increasingly targeting employee engagement as a significant contributor to the quality and impact of the customer experience.

Sounds simple enough, right? But actually, creating a dynamic culture that encourages employee engagement means addressing what’s important to contact center employees:

  • Work-life balance
  • Recognition of accomplishments
  • A voice in decision-making
  • Clear and attainable goals
  • Tools needed to be successful
  • Transparent communication

Community workforce management (WFM) keeps employees engaged as it was built from the ground up with agent empowerment at the forefront of its design.

COMMUNICATION FRAMEWORK

The Community WFM framework natively connects agents, supervisors and analysts through tightly integrated desktop portals and multiple notification channels without the need for a third party plug-in. It provides the tools for contact centers to have the right number of agents with the right skills, at the right time, across all channels throughout the day. But, the difference is the agents are involved in the process every step along the way, giving them input into critical scheduling decisions.

While traditional workforce management applications are good at accurately forecast- ing customer demand, optimizing the agent’s schedules, and have increased productivity, Community WFM expands these capabilities by engaging employees with a built-in communications network that gives agents a voice in the decision-making process. Through this framework, analysts are able to update forecasts and schedules in seconds to adapt to intraday changes in call volumes and customer demand. With more control over their work schedules, agents enjoy a better work-life balance to deal with unexpected challenges in everyday life.

MULTICHANNEL

Agents, supervisors and analysts can interact across five different channels including: desktop pop-ups, internal memos, email notifications, SMS/text messaging and an agent mobile application. Through any of these options, supervisors and schedulers can:

  • Send ad-hoc information and notifications to a specific group or individual.
  • Send reminders about upcoming schedule events.
  • Solicit agents for opt-in shift adjustments.
  • Notify agents of schedule changes and processed requests.

MOBILE EVERYWHERE

Community’s mobile application, Community EverywhereTM, empowers agents on-the-go by providing unmatched visibility and transparency. Whether employees are in the office, working at home or on the road, they can:

  • View their schedules.
  • “Call in” sick.
  • Receive notifications and accept or decline offers for schedule over- and under-time.
  • View adherence to KPIs.
  • Notify analysts and supervisors of an unplanned late arrival.
  • Request time off.

COLLABORATION

Agents and supervisors can engage in traditional intraday activity such as shift-bidding as well as swapping shifts with other co-workers all from the communications network.

As an enterprise workforce management provider of omnichannel forecasting and scheduling optimization, Community WFM is the first truly collaborative workforce management system that revolutionizes the way WFM analysts collaborate with agents and supervisors to quickly adjust schedules with precision and agility. Imagine having the ability to refine work schedules and immediately engage employees about the new schedule with just a few clicks.

YES, IT IS THAT SIMPLE

With Community WFM you have the ability to engage employees by offering them the framework to connect with each other, the ability to engage through the channel of their choice, and on-the-go visibility and transparency. This engagement will help your employees make happy customers.

Increasing Employee Engagement with WFM Software

Read More

Welcome to the Next Evolution in Workforce Management

Jun 13, 2017
Welcome to the Next Evolution in Workforce Management

by: Dick Bucci, Founder and Chief Analyst of Pelorus Associates

If you have worked in the customer service industry, then you know workforce management software is a proven technology that’s been around for over three decades. As the technology has matured, the majority of legacy providers have proven they can adequately forecast, schedule, track adherence, and offer intraday management. However, with the newest release of Community WFM, the Workforce Management Software Group (WFMSG) has taken a leap forward and introduced a set of features that will create new standards for WFM technologies going forward.

Designed by industry experts, Community WFM enables organizations to maximize resource productivity, deliver consistent customer service, and control payroll related expenses. Below are some of the capabilities featured in the latest software release. Community WFM eclipses many of today’s legacy WFM technologies by automating communications and processes that are not currently tapped by the legacy providers.

  • Multiple levels of Two-Way Communications – Employees can communicate with each other through a multi-channel communication framework, including an agent mobile app, SMS text messages, email, desktop pop up messages, and secure memos.
  • Automated Schedule Attendance Monitor (ASAM) - ASAM provides an automated and streamlined approach to track agent arrival and attendance. From the dashboard supervisors can determine agent attendance status including expected arrival time.
  • Automated Schedule Adjustment Plans (ASAP) - With this toolkit analysts can create and save strategies for dealing with unexpected increases or decreases in contact volume.
  • Data Targeting – Flexible data export capabilities allows users to readily integrate with external databases such as common payroll systems to quickly and economically create custom reports and devise new applications.

Workforce management systems have a well-deserved reputation for complexity. Consequently, even in the very large contact centers only a handful of highly trained personnel can manage the software. Community’s software is easy to learn and easy-to-use. Lastly, Community’s Data Targeting module coupled with industry-standard SQL database software and intuitive dashboard commands makes it possible for contact center personnel to build third-party integrations and custom reports using only its internal staff.

Since its inception, the Community WFM solution has excelled in making workforce management easy and even fun. This latest generation continues to simplify scheduling and forecasting in highly dynamic contact center environments and adds even more value by automating response strategies and, through its open design, substantially reducing the time and cost of integrating with related enterprise applications such as human resources and payroll. So, if you’re looking to improve workforce agility and deliver accurate schedules with precision, check out WFMSG latest software!

About Pelorus Associates

Dick Bucci is Founder and Principal of Pelorus Associates where he specializes in contact center technologies. Dick has authored fourteen in-depth market research reports on workforce optimization applications and numerous articles and white papers. Prior to founding Pelorus Associates he was a senior sales and marketing executive with leading telecommunications vendors and value added resellers. Dick has over 30 years of experience in telecommunications and is one of the most widely published and widely quoted analysts in the contact center industry.

Read More