Table of contents
- What is workforce management?
- AI and workforce management
- The Upshot of AI: More brain power
- 3 predictions for the future of AI in workplace management
What is workforce management?
Workforce management (WFM) is a set of institutional processes an organization uses to maximize employees’ productivity and performance. It revolves largely around scheduling, with the goal of optimizing labor distribution to accomplish the necessary tasks in the right amount of time. In simpler terms, WFM helps teams get the job done with the exact number of workers needed–no more, no less.
Workforce management is of premium importance in call centers, where it’s necessary to maintain a high level of service even amidst fluctuations in call volume. With the right workforce management tools, call centers can drill down to the day and even to the hour to forecast the likely call volume and schedule the precise number of employees that should be on hand to manage it. This not only prevents costly labor overruns but keeps agents from getting burned out by being overworked.
In addition to optimizing scheduling, call center workforce management can help leaders gain insight into important business metrics like employee productivity. It can help assess agent strengths and schedule them accordingly based on when their expertise is most likely to be needed. The larger a contact center is, the more complex its workforce management needs become. Thus, WFM automation can save a great deal of time on scheduling so that leaders can focus more of their attention on hands-on tasks like agent coaching to improve outcomes.
Additional workforce management tools call centers can deploy give agents much-needed flexibility that aids with employee engagement. An on-the-go scheduling app, for example, lets agents bid on shifts, swap shifts with their coworkers and make time off requests without needing to go through a complex system.
AI and workforce management
Artificial intelligence, or AI, has been around for many decades, but only in the last ten years have we seen it become a mainstream part of how we live and work.
Generally speaking, modern AI refers to technology’s ability to engage in what’s called unsupervised learning. In unsupervised learning, the computer takes a data set provided by the user and independently analyzes the data, discovers patterns in it, and produces outputs that aren’t reliant on any sort of pre-existing rule set.
In practical terms, this means we can take any sort of data that arise from our call center–employee data, customer data, call data, and so on–and with the help of AI, turn it into actionable insights we can use to drive positive business outcomes.
Harnessing AI in your contact center can help you:
- Improve efficiency
- Gain insights that will strengthen agent training and coaching
- Create an agent experience culture, boosting morale and reducing unwanted outcomes like absenteeism and turnover.
All of these things can have a positive impact on your bottom line.
Here are four ways to employ AI as a WFM tool in your contact center.
In the contact center industry, the ability to accurately forecast call volume and the corresponding labor needs are paramount. Without accurate forecasting, you risk excessive labor costs for unnecessary staffing or reduced customer satisfaction as a result of longer wait times.
AI can help you compile more precise forecasts by identifying patterns in historic data on call, message, and email volume for any given time frame.
Such patterns can be used to generate predictions about future volume and the labor that will be required to accommodate it. Workforce management software forecasting tools can account for seasonal changes and even external events, and can be used to accurately forecast not only the number of agents you should schedule, but the most appropriate skill sets to prioritize for a specific period.
When done manually, scheduling is one of the biggest human resource challenges for contact centers. Thankfully, this was one of the earliest available features of WFM software, and it’s evolved by leaps and bounds in recent years thanks to machine learning and AI.
An AI-enabled WFM system helps you balance your labor requirements with the personal needs of your agents, accommodating fixed availability, time off requests, required breaks, shift rules and shift changes.
AI takes call center scheduling one step further, enabling you to learn the efficiency levels and skill sets of every employee and schedule them when their talents will be best utilized. AI can prioritize individual preferences and implement fairness standards so more desirable and less desirable shifts are more evenly split among agents over time. Then, within your WFO platform, you can easily distribute the schedule to your whole team, make real-time updates, and even enable agents to swap shifts independently to further reduce manual scheduling tasks.
Prioritizing your agents’ scheduling preferences helps promote greater work-life balance, which is tied to all kinds of positive outcomes from higher performance to fewer health problems. By using WFO software and AI for scheduling, you’ll enjoy greater workforce productivity and fewer of the downfalls associated with over-staffing.
Create a continuous cycle of quality analysis and improvement with AI-enabled WFM performance tracking tools. Instant screen capture enables you to monitor 100% of agent interactions in real-time so you can instantly flag and address any glaring issues or opt to come back to call sessions for follow-up coaching later on.
AI speech analysis tools assess customer conversations and identify the sentiment of every call, then deliver clear, value-packed reports you can use to monitor your agents’ performance over time.
By applying these tools both at the individual agent level and collectively to entire teams, you can create a constant cycle of performance improvement that leads to greater customer satisfaction.
Another area where AI speech recognition tools come in handy is compliance. Contact centers are particularly at the mercy of legally required statements like recording notifications, solicitation disclosures, rules pertaining to debt collection, and many more.
Real-time conversation monitoring and speech analysis help you ensure every agent is making the required disclosures on every call, minimizing your risk for legal action.
Compliance is also a factor when it comes to labor laws–rules regarding breaks, sick days, overtime pay, and so on. A WFM system can help you stay on top of all the requirements you’re subject to, protecting you from potential litigation.
The Upshot of AI: More brain power
The modern contact center is, by default, an omnichannel environment. From voice to email to webchat and beyond, there have never been more ways to engage with your customers.
While ideal from a service standpoint, such an environment comes with mounting workforce management challenges. AI is quickly becoming an important silent partner for the contact center, helping to assist on calls behind the scenes to deliver faster, more relevant service by enhancing agent experience and performance.
After all, two heads are better than one.
3 predictions for the future of AI in workplace management
More refined predictions based on volume of public data
The amount of publicly available data grows exponentially larger with each passing year. WFM is just one of the many business processes that can leverage it in creative and exciting ways. Hyper-local weather reports and crowdsourced meteorology can shed light on weather events that may impact call volume. Google search volume data for terms like ‘how to treat the flu’ can be harnessed to predict an upcoming spike in sick days, which could call for a corresponding shift in scheduling.
Greater automation based on past behavior
As call center workforce management solutions continue to get smarter, we’ll enjoy the ability to automate more and more tasks. If your WFM solution notices you’ve taken the same action the last ten times something has happened, for example, it might prompt you to automate that action to save time in the future. The same predictive capabilities can help managers spot employee patterns that could be indicative of a performance problem or be a sign an agent is on the verge of quitting so preventative measures can be taken.
Employee engagement baked in
Call center workforce management tools of the future have employee engagement built right in. A smart WFM solution can automatically recognize employees for completing a desired behavior, like always clocking in on time, and distribute rewards, like a badge or even a monetary bonus.
When combined with AI, the future of workforce management is bright and the possibilities, like the data, are vast.
In a call center, workforce management is the set of processes used to optimize employee scheduling and productivity. With workforce management tools, contact center managers can accurately forecast call volume and ensure the right number of agents are scheduled to respond to it.
Workforce management tools empower organizations to improve their efficiency by scheduling the right number of employees at the right time, matching employee skills to customer needs, and giving leaders insight into important performance metrics.