Independent Contact Center Consultants: Bridging Strategy, Technology and Operations Since 2004

WFM in an Omnichannel World

co-browsing in the call centerIn spite of the fact that nearly every “call center” is now a “contact center,” we observe little substance to the discussion – much less action – around multi-channel Workforce Management (WFM). With “omnichannel” one of the most frequently heard buzz words in our industry, we decided it was time to look at planning, forecasting, staffing, and scheduling across media, with all its nuances and challenges.

In our December contribution to Contact Center Pipeline, we engaged our own team and other industry experts to explore both the prevailing technology and centers’ use of it. We started with a set of questions, and our esteemed panel responded with their insights and experience. We’ve distilled the input into our own little “state of the union” on WFM in this omnichannel world.

While I encourage you to download the full article, here are a few of the insights that we gleaned in this process:

Contact center leaders “get it.” They want to move beyond Excel worksheets to common reporting, forecasting, and scheduling that address all media needs. They want to proactively manage workload across channels. But they don’t do it because it’s too hard from both an operational and technological perspective. Companies field a patchwork of systems and teams to address their omnichannel offerings. The systems don’t talk to one another. Teams often reside in different organizations.

Blending is an atypical practice and faces many challenges with different media types and their WFM. The consensus views are: 1) agents that are cross-media usually do so in dedicated blocks of time, especially for non-real-time work such as email and back office; and, 2) different media require different skill sets.

Vendors long ago solved the challenge of how to get data on voice contacts from many different ACD systems into many different WFM systems. They are now solving that for other media, with a wide range of sources, many of which provide not enough, or not good enough, data. Nonetheless, the major players have made great strides in filling the gaps as well as creating algorithms to make appropriate provisions for the different work types. For example, chat is immediate (like phone), but its algorithm allows for multiple sessions. Email uses a deferred algorithm that addresses backlog as well as the longer service goal.

Service Level (SL) and Average Handle Time (AHT) and its components (talk time and wrap time) are still table stakes and critical to WFM, even as people try to focus on more strategic metrics. However, there is pressure to move from speed towards happiness/satisfaction. Increased focus on Customer Sat and other metrics will continue to shift the conversation, even though it may be quite difficult to factor “customer experience” or “happiness” into workforce planning! Changes to routing strategies based on personalization, customer match, or other “context” will impact WFM in the future.

At the end of the day, omnichannel is not about everyone taking every media; it’s about managing all media effectively and creating a “seamless, integrated” customer experience as they use their channels of choice. Common routing, reporting, and management, across channels (aka “Multimedia Routing and Reporting or MMRR), is critical to that vision. Carefully considered use of technology enables centers to create and use accurate data on all media.

Again – I encourage you to download the full article »