How WFM and QM combine to engage an offsite call center workforce and deliver superior CX
High-speed internet, cloud-based applications and other technologies have opened a new vista for the call center—the remote agents. Most contact centers have had to quickly transition to working from home as a direct effect of COVID-19. Contact centers will hopefully see the cost savings of shrinking their in-house call center facility. Others will find remote agents better able to meet increasing customer demand for off-hours service.
Switching to an entirely remote workforce can solve many staffing challenges. No longer is the company limited to the talent pool surrounding the contact center. And the organization may attract a different caliber of agent via flexible, commute-free work options.
Unfortunately, working from home can also have a negative impact on morale and providing an exceptional customer experience. Management and motivational techniques are also required to overcome these new challenges. So let’s get started, read on for our tips on WFM for work from home!
First up, set aside any notion that remotely managing call center operations is inherently different. Nope. If anything, a nationwide talent pool ups the ante on pre-employment screening, because there’s simply no excuse to settle.
Call center leaders must develop accurate hiring profiles and craft effective assessment tools. And they should take into account that remote work generally requires more independent time management skill and tech savvy than on-site employment.
Remote call center agents also require as much orientation and training as their traditional call center counterparts. Companies must adapt the usual classroom learning, role playing, skills testing and nesting period to a remote environment. It’s especially important to clarify roles and expectations, maintain a resource center for self-guided learning and share insights on working from home successfully.
What appeals to a work@home/WFH agent? Flexibility and work/life balance tend to take top billing.
This makes contact center scheduling of tantamount importance, and high-performance, but easy-to-use WFM (that’s workforce management), software can help. When scheduling in spreadsheets, shifts may have to be 8 hours and schedules deemed final days in advance. But when you have workforce management software, agents could sign up for 2-hour work blocks (or whatever time frame is sufficient to find their groove) and swap shifts with a day or less of notice—and neither staffing levels or average handle times (AHT) would be affected.
What’s more, WFM software can give agents what they don’t realize they need—structure. Contact center managers can schedule breaks, monitor adherence and adjust to shifting call volumes and other factors on the fly, all the while directing agents’ attention where it’s needed and inserting adequate time to refresh.
Remote workforce managers don’t have the ability to “feel” when their team is firing on all cylinders, but real-time analytics and live and recorded call monitoring can more than fill the gap.
QM systems in particular empower supervisors to review all forms of customer contacts—calls, emails, texts and DMs—to steer daily performance, identify opportunities for improvement and feed a continual, personalized skills development cycle for each agent. This will usually include formal QM training sessions, upskilling coursework and micro-coaching.
Early on, however, managers should be especially sensitive to how QM and performance feedback is delivered. Trusting relationships can be difficult to foster at a distance. If an agent feels threatened or disconnected, constructive critique can come across as harsh criticism. Establishing rapport is essential, which brings us to...
The real struggle in managing remote call center agents generally comes in belonging. How do you make remote team members feel like a part of the larger organization?
It takes effort to foster a sense of community with remote agents. Successful contact centers will often use techniques like:
Always consider how remote employees can participate in events or collaboration offered to on-site team members, whether that’s accepting photos for the Halloween costume contest or setting up a “buddy system” for an in-house and a remote agent to work together toward a performance goal.
These tactics can be difficult to add “after the fact” if a company lacks a mission and identifiable culture. For more information about these elements, download our whitepaper on employee engagement here.
Whether you have been thrust into remote workforce management because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, are looking to use remote agents to supplement on-premises capabilities for a holiday ramp-up or other purpose, or expect to transition some or all of your production environment out-of-house, we have workforce engagement systems and information to help.
You might begin with our whitepaper “The Complete Contact Center Guide to Employee Engagement for SMBs.” It provides tips on how you can best motivate, retain, and engage employees who are passionate about the customer experience (CX).
According to Digital Journal, over 90% of all enterprises project to use cloud platforms to innovate and improve agility by 2021. In other words, you know that your peers and competitors are moving to cloud to improve the customer experience (CX) and lower costs.
If you’re ready to begin innovation in the cloud, what should you consider first? We created an eBook, “4 Questions to Answer for a Successful Cloud Move,” which addresses the following four questions we consistently see:
In this blog, we’ll cover data migration and process change questions. Download the eBook for more questions you need to answer in order to successfully move your business to the cloud.
The first question on everyone’s mind is “What data do I move to the cloud?” This isn’t the time to lift and shift your old problems to a shiny new house in the clouds. This is a time to rethink what’s important.
Pro Tip: Moving your business to the cloud provides a great opportunity to evaluate what data is essential today and is a must-have in the cloud tomorrow.
As you plan for your data migration, it’s important to assess your environment and decide which factors will guide the migration. These factors include application integration and critical application data.
Additionally, you’ll need to consider your reliance on data, such as which telecom source(s) you integrate with for your Workforce Management (WFM), Performance Management (PM), Recording, and Payroll integrations. Whether you have data compliance requirements, data requiring regular syncing, or non-critical data you can migrate first—your cloud provider can help determine where to begin your data migration process.
You may be wondering what to do with data that is on-prem. For example, you’ll want to decide which technologies to keep inhouse and outsource—it’s not all or nothing. Not all parts of your contact center solutions need to be outsourced.
This is particularly important if you’re using a cloud solution for the first time. With contact center cloud migration in steady growth, about half the North American market is in the cloud with a steady upward trend over the past five years. Cloud solutions offer flexibility and can be used to fill technology gaps, as well as replace entire systems and solutions. This means you can join the cloud movement in a way that fits your business and data requirements.
At Verint, we offer a selective move of data. We ask what data is important to you for migration and offer consulting services to help you determine what data needs migrating to achieve your business goals.
Just as you wouldn’t port old, bad data into your beautiful new cloud solution, you wouldn’t map broken, inefficient processes to your new world.
When moving to the cloud, you need someone in place who can map the current and future states of your processes. The future state of your processes is how the process flow for an application will work once in the cloud.
For example, let’s say you have a quality program in place. When you make any major change, such as a move to the cloud or an update, it is the ideal time to evaluate how an application is being used. How are you using your quality program for scoring and coaching, and what will those features look like once in the cloud?
Pro Tip: Your move to the cloud provides the perfect opportunity to reevaluate coaching best practices and recalibrate your coaching between managers.
Or consider moving your workforce management tools to the cloud. Will you change the way you are scheduling or forecasting? Will you change the way that you’re currently accomplishing current and future state scheduling and forecasting?
Understanding what the requirements are and what you are trying to accomplish from a business perspective will help ensure that the features you map to the future are the correct ones for your organization.
At Verint, we evaluate your current state processes and tie them in to how you would like them to change. We offer a process and model optimization workshop that will help you to envision your processes in their future state.
With thoughtful planning, any business can create a solid contact center migration plan that fits their short-term and long-term business goals. For the past 10+ years, Verint has helped leading brands and SMBs successfully move to the cloud to achieve flexibility, efficiency, and strategic value.
As a leader in cloud solutions, Verint offers full-featured, unified customer engagement solutions to fit your organization's needs and budget, whether you're a large, multinational enterprise or a small- or mid-sized business. For more questions to answer for a successful cloud move, download the eBook today!
How probing questions can shape workforce engagement and where technology fits in
“Know thyself” is a Greek aphorism, which turns up throughout literary history from Plato to Emerson to self-help blogs. It’s also great advice for call center leaders seeking to enhance employee engagement.
Early on, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) often have a leg up in this regard, enjoying a tight-knit community of hand-selected, committed individuals. But as contact centers grow, it can be difficult to bring new people into the fold and, over time, a once cohesive, highly engaged group can fall prey to the “blahs.”
That’s why it’s important to keep probing the contact center’s identity—what makes it special and why should employees care? Who are we today and who do we want to become?
We’ve talked before about the importance of a shared mission, the authentic purpose behind the call center, but knowing thyself is also critical.
It’s rather common for contact center leaders to hoist the “employee engagement project” on a manager or group of supervisors. And those tasked with delivering better survey results will usually turn to the internet in search of tips and tricks.
This research can get the ideas flowing but rapidly adopting #5 from some call center management post may not achieve much. After all, how do you know whether to use gamification tools or overhaul the hiring process if you haven’t first identified your barriers to workforce buy-in?
Unfortunately for all of us who love quick fixes (and why not, when they work?!), employee engagement is exceedingly resistant to “hacks.” And technology itself isn’t innovation.
It would be wonderful if purchasing a curated selection of products translated into greater workforce engagement, because then we could just budget for it! But it’s rarely so easy. Sometimes, a volunteer activity might do more to bring employees together than a slick new messaging system on their workstations.
High-tech and high-touch together are typically what it takes to get the innovative employee engagement.
Remember working with a ruler and scissors in elementary school and being given the pearl of wisdom to “measure twice, cut once”? Not bad advice for the contact center.
Measuring employee engagement is the necessary starting place, and it should happen long before considering how to “cut and paste” other call centers’ techniques into your operations. A comprehensive examination of workforce engagement can help target initiatives and provide benchmarks against which to judge progress.
Here’s where technology can be an immediate asset. Some technology solutions can enable an entire workforce to share perceptions and feedback via their preferred communications channels. And it’s so easy to implement, contact center leaders can check in more than once per year!
Moreover, reporting features built into high-quality workforce management software can drive insights into the variables affecting employee performance. Contact center leaders might, for instance, identify a top-performing team whose manager stumbled onto an innovative employee engagement approach that should be shared company-wide.
When working to know thyself better, it’s vital to ensure decision-makers are really listening, too. Asking for input and ignoring it can destroy any existing engagement. So be open to the opinions offered, even if it means abandoning some entrenched ideas or promoting difficult change.
Employee engagement demands a customized approach, measured to fit and cut to suit. For instance, some call center environments lack camaraderie. The fun activities typically recommended for workforce engagement can pay immediate dividends there, adding rewarding personal interactions into the average workweek.
Other teams are collegial but not particularly driven and unfortunately, creative event planning won’t solve that problem. Instead, contact center leaders will have to figure out how best to promote a sense of forward movement with career pathing, competitions and other approaches.
Applying the right solutions begins with asking the right questions. Do employees need a stronger voice? Then exciting digital tools to gauge attitude and energy level at varying intervals could make a difference. Would they like more skills-building? Then a training solution that empowers them to learn—and get paid—while providing continual feedback could be transformative.
Innovative employee engagement initiatives are created for an organization based on extensive self-examination. Designing a strategy is a complicated undertaking, but we’ve broken down the most important elements in our whitepaper, The Complete Contact Center Guide to Employee Engagement for SMBs.
Download it now for a walk-through of workforce engagement concepts, from beginning the data collection process to developing a feedback loop to evolve over time. Along the way, you’ll get to know your organization a little better so you can implement the right combination of tactics to drive engagement to new heights.
5 Basics Every Call Center Must Get Right
Employee engagement is a powerful force. An engaged workforce is associated with better customer retention, lower turnover, greater productivity and among publicly traded companies, even higher stock price.
Enticed by these benefits, some contact center leaders dive into employee engagement strategy with motivational speeches and recognition programs to fire up the team—only to find the initiatives don’t move the needle. Employees might give lip service to the mission or participate in “fun” events without energy.
Such issues frequently arise when workplace engagement is treated as an “add on” within a call center lacking an employee-centric purpose. The challenge is that engagement is all about meaning, which can only be built from the ground-up.
So what are the prerequisites for robust workforce engagement? Here are five basics you must get right.
The candidate recruitment process shapes new employees’ first impression of the contact center and the perception can be remarkably enduring. That’s why it’s vital to communicate the organization’s mission and advantages, in actions as well as words.
Consider whether a commitment to people is conveyed throughout screening. Do interviewers put candidates at ease so they can show their personality? Is the process respectful of the time and effort they expend to win the job? Are the hiring criteria fair and clearly explained so prospects know what’s expected?
It’s worth examining all aspects of recruitment, from job postings to onboarding functions, to set the right stage for employee engagement from Day 1.
The next question is whether the contact center is investing adequately in employees. Below-market compensation can harm morale and drive up turnover. A call center may feel like they’re saving money on staffing, when they’re actually spending more to continually refill the seats while losing the sense of community on which employee engagement rests.
Fortunately, it’s not just the hourly rate that matters. For some call centers, wage increases aren’t in the budget, and throwing money at employees is no panacea.
So look at the package holistically. Could an extra personal day lower stress levels with minimal impact on operations? Would online sign-up for schedules enhance agents’ life balance, for the modest cost of some workforce management software?
There are usually many options for offering employees meaningful rewards within any budget.
Imagine being called to a microphone to give a speech. You don’t know the topic and the audience is fidgeting impatiently. Your heart would be beating a mile a minute, right?
This isn’t so different from how an unprepared agent feels when taking their seat. They know they must answer questions, recommend products, resolve problems, operate technology systems and be “on” every moment. If they don’t have the skills and information they need to feel successful, every day can be full of discouragement.
This makes proper training an essential precursor to workforce engagement. When an employee feels like “I’ve got this,” they aren’t losing energy to panic and self-criticism. They’re comfortable, confident and ready for full engagement.
It’s tough for an agent to give their all if they’re sick, run-down, stressed out or slumped over in their chair on the verge of sleep. The contact center industry in general has become increasingly aware of how good physical and mental health contributes to employee performance and engagement and why a company health plan is only the beginning.
As a result, many contact centers are reexamining their sick day policies, building in active breaks to get people moving, offering a little more downtime during the day, ensuring leaders are inclined to provide support after a tough call or champion an agent who needs a boost. It’s called a wellness strategy, and every call center should have one.
Most people are motivated to achieve goals, make progress or enjoy a variety of experience—if not all three! As a final employee engagement point—contact centers can tap these instincts with opportunity.
When a company has a culture of promoting from within, agents sense the potential. And when there is a skills-building structure, they understand how to move forward. Encouraging agents to look toward the future can have a transformational impact on engagement, and call centers have the added advantage of creating the talent they need.
From hiring practices to training and promotion, treating people well is the ticket to engaging them. But if you have a strong foundation, what’s next?
We’ve developed an entire whitepaper on that! Download The Complete Contact Center Guide to Employee Engagement for SMBs to learn how to shape the environment, build community and innovate on workforce engagement.
It’s a short read that’s long on impact.
Many contact center leaders will often feel like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. Inhabiting one persona, managers strive to make employees happy, adapting to their needs and requests. But then operations feel out of control or metrics drop. In comes another persona, the one focused on Just Getting Things Done, Already!
The oscillation can seem endless. One moment you’re obsessing about workforce engagement, an hour later about service levels. Is this a case of “never the twain shall meet”?
It doesn’t have to be! The right tools can help unify the call center’s split personality and foster an environment that is both employee- and customer-centric.
Usually, the real issue in flexible workplace management boils down to scheduling. The employee-friendly manager accepts that agents have lives and, well, stuff happens. A spouse’s job changes. The kids get sick. Or an employee has an opportunity to take a master photography class they’ve always dreamed of, but only if they can switch Saturday with someone.
On the other hand, the metrics-focused manager is trying to do right by the business by maximizing schedule adherence. If this is the right group of agents to have on shift, the manager will try to enforce it. And if breaks are set for 15-minute increments starting at 2 PM, they’ll do their best to make it happen.
We know these two mindsets should reinforce each other. Every contact center wants happy employees who enjoy work/life balance and arrive refreshed each day. Only they can deliver the customer experience that will drive growth and success. A profitable enterprise can then, in turn, reinvest in those employees.
So why do these objectives usually seem to be in competition? Can you say spreadsheet?
Before we get too down on spreadsheets, let’s acknowledge that they are ideal for many purposes, as accountants will attest. But they’re not the best answer for schedules.
For a long time, contact centers didn’t have other scheduling options. They needed somewhere to do their ARIMA and TES forecasts (auto-regressive integrated moving average and triple exponential smoothing, if you want to flashback to the acronyms). And from those forecasts, schedules were built.
It’s just that spreadsheets aren’t particularly flexible. Use all the macros you want, but it’s still tough to change one agent’s shift and have the right adjustments instantly appear.
WFM software, in contrast, can handle the Murphy’s Law of the contact center. If something can happen, it will—an unforeseen training need will come to light, an employee will call off sick or a marketing email will be sent earlier than expected. With WFM software, though, it’s easy to deal with the unexpected.
With a few clicks, the new reality can be reflected in the system, and the WFM solution will then draw on historical data from the ACS and even CRM integrations (e.g., Salesforce) to create the best-fit, optimal response. New agent shifts, break times, etc., are automatically generated, and the harried on-the-floor manager is back in control.
WFM software ratchets down managers’ stress levels, but it can also bring a greater sense of self-determination to agents. The best systems allow for managers to establish schedules and then empower employees to sign up for shifts that work for them. “Opting in,” even for something as simple a Friday on the job, can lead to higher morale.
Even if managers take a determinative role by scheduling individual agents, such systems can still help manage the endless array of adjustments. Agents can use the WFM tools to request shift changes, and managers can approve the swaps and revise the shift with minimal effort. The WFM software will perform detailed analysis to “re-optimize” based on agent skills, targeted metrics, and so on.
Suddenly, the challenging fluidity of the call center environment feels less like losing control and more like, well, the everyday.
High-quality workforce management software brings two competing interests—employees’ preferences and the company’s targets—into better balance. Still, most contact center leaders find that offering more job flexibility works best as part of an overarching employee engagement strategy. When agents feel a sense of commitment to their positions, in addition to their personal interests, they make more considerate use of expanded scheduling options.
For an in-depth look at how to improve workforce engagement, check out our white paper The Complete Contact Center Guide to Employee Engagement for SMBs. It offers pages full of ideas for fostering workforce engagement using flexible workplace management, any one of which is worth the time it takes to download.
In the race to build a highly engaged workforce to deliver exceptional customer experiences, contact center leaders are asking some deep questions. That’s because employee engagement isn’t just that age-old survey topic: employee satisfaction.
Turns out, being okay with the cafeteria menu, while tangentially linked to overall engagement, is not equivalent to being emotionally committed to a job. And it’s the latter that truly drives excellence.
Employee engagement taps into a sense of purpose—and that’s why executives and managers are probing their organizations’ underlying missions. And no, we’re not talking about those once-popular mission statements, which all read alike.
For some campaigns, defining the mission is easy. When employees are doing charitable fundraising, for example, agents naturally grasp the importance.
Most of the time, however, contact center employees are tasked with selling consumer products, booking vacation stays or handling customer complaints. In these situations, agents may not immediately see how their contributions matter within the bigger picture of their own lives, beliefs and interests.
This disconnect is where employee engagement often stutters, and it may be why only one-third of U.S. workers reported being engaged with jobs in a recent study. Although it’s not possible to artificially engineer meaning, a meaningful call center mission isn’t as elusive as it may sound.
A shared call center mission is really about motivation. Managers might begin by asking themselves why they show up each day. Sure, there’s the paycheck. But what drew you to overseeing customer contacts rather than working in retail, accounting or any other specialty?
The picture will be similar for agents. A good hourly rate is nice, but alone it’s not enough to generate engagement. The “extra something” employees see in the job is what elicits loyalty and involvement.
Still stumped? How many times has a prospective agent said they’re interested in the position because they’re a “people person”? Start there. Many individuals entering this industry value communication and are looking to help others—and that’s what most contact center jobs are about!
How can the contact center tap into that helping instinct? Here are some ideas.
Beginning as early as the interview process, reference the customer. What is the purpose of the company’s products or services? Why do customers buy in the first place?
Managers can help paint a picture to evoke employees’ empathy. Something as simple as a collection of markers might be a customer’s ticket to self-expression. A mobile phone plan might be the tool that ensures the photos they capture of their children are safely stored in the cloud.
Seen through this lens, answering a customer’s questions or even resolving a complaint takes on larger meaning.
Employees have a vast trove of experience. Have them think about when a positive customer experience stood out.
For example, an employee may remember buying a faulty product and being concerned about losing their money, only to have a customer service representative handle the return with no fuss. Another might recall an agent making them laugh, adding a nice touch to their day.
These can be their models. Why not try to deliver the same positive impact?
The focus on others needn’t be solely external. Agents’ colleagues count, too. When employees feel like “we’re all in this together,” the sense of belonging can boost engagement. From traditional team-building activities to breaks scheduled strategically to give employees downtime for interaction, there are many ways call center leaders can help create a sense of community.
No matter how empathetic an employee, a difficult call or a gray Wednesday can sap enthusiasm. Coaching can help counter the effects.
There is inspiration everywhere. For instance, career coaches will sometimes use the analogy of stage plays to help inspire workers. Actors say the same lines, sing the same songs and follow the same choreography night after night during a play’s run. The actors have to find a way for the audience to experience each line, song and dance as though it’s the first time the play has ever been performed. Because for the audience, it is the first time they’re seeing the show even if the actors are on their two hundred and twelfth performance. Agents can be encouraged to make each contact fresh for their audience.
The foundation of employee engagement is a shared mission, the purpose of the call center that will bring employees together. But there are numerous other elements.
Fortunately, we’ve delved deeply into this topic in our white paper The Complete Contact Center Guide to Employee Engagement for SMBs. From the basics to the environment to skills progression and beyond, we’ve got you covered. So grab your copy here.