Management to Improve Agent Satisfaction
By Donna Fluss
For many years, contact center workforce management (WFM) solutions have been used to optimize agent schedules and productivity. These solutions have most commonly been deployed in contact centers with 250 or more agents, where managers found it impractical to use spreadsheets for scheduling. WFM solutions have been used to forecast the volume of calls and then schedule the right number and mix of agents to handle the projected volume.
A major problem with WFM is that few agents have been satisfied with their assigned schedules. Unfortunately, managers have ignored this issue, and have often tried to force agents to change their lives and personal schedules to accommodate the needs of the business. Or, after failing to convince the staff to change their personal schedules, managers have given up and put their WFM solution on the shelf. The challenges arising from applying the recommended WFM schedules have been so serious that for years these solutions have jokingly been referred to as “the best way to clean out a contact center.” Clearly, this scenario isn’t very funny, and has represented a very expensive waste of money.
The good news is that there is finally a new generation of workforce management solutions that allow managers to decide if they want to optimize the productivity of their contact center (as they tried to do in the past), to prioritize agent schedule preferences, or to find a balance between the two. Another major enhancement in this new generation of WFM is that the solutions have agent self-service modules that allow employees to enter their own schedule preferences, request time off (vacation days, or even just a few hours) and swap shifts. These self-service modules have many advantages; they empower agents while freeing WFM specialists from spending hours doing data entry, and allow the rebalancing of schedules on-the-fly.
Innovative managers in contact centers with 50 or more agents are using these new solutions to build departments that are quite different from the “churn and burn” shops of the past. They are improving the agent experience (and morale) for the benefit of customers, staff, contact centers and enterprises. The current thinking is that it’s better to have satisfied agents who want to come to work than an ideal number of disgruntled employees who are going to try to find a new job as soon as possible.
The old way – trying to force agents to change their lives to accommodate work – was never a winning approach. The new way – prioritizing agents’ schedule preferences and empowering them with self-service tools – can give a big boost to agent morale and reduce staff attrition. If you have not updated your WFM solution in the past few years, or you’ve never used one, it’s a great time to look into these valuable applications. Even better, many WFM vendors are now offering their solutions on a hosted basis, so you can try them out before making a large investment.