CX Workforce Management Contact Center

AI in Workforce Engagement Management (WEM): Five steps to success

Industry expert Juanita Coley shares her practical tips for implementing AI to empower agents and please customers.

4 min read

Updated on July 18, 2024

Published on April 19, 2024

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Amy Roberge
Amy Roberge
Head of Global CX Solutions Engineering, Zoom

As head of global CX solutions engineering at Zoom, I have a keen interest in helping companies demystify AI and find practical ways to implement it in their business. With AI fast becoming a must-have for the next-generation contact center, I recently caught up with Juanita Coley, contact center whisperer and CEO of Solid Rock Consulting, about her passion and specialty: workforce management (WFM). More specifically workforce engagement management (WEM) and how it can be successfully combined with workforce management (WFM) and workforce optimization (WFO) in our new age of AI.

In our interview, Juanita explains the difference between each of these practices and unravels the intricacies so many of us are facing. The practical insights and simple five-pillar framework she shares are sure to help companies stay ahead of the game in all things contact center workforce management.

Q: Juanita, for those unfamiliar with your background, could you provide a brief introduction to your role in workforce management and contact centers?

My journey began as a teen mom on the front lines, answering calls. It was during this time that I stumbled upon a workforce management user guide, sparking a self-taught passion for workforce management. From there, my career blossomed as I went on to work with major players like United Health Care and Walgreens. Currently, as the founder of Solid Rock Consulting, I guide global organizations and help them optimize their contact center operations with a focus on workforce management strategies.

Q: Reflecting on your journey, how has the workforce management landscape evolved, and what insights do you have regarding AI's transformative role in this space?

I’ve seen so much change through the course of my career. From my early days as an agent to leading workforce management teams globally, I've witnessed the dynamic evolution of contact centers. Over the years, working with diverse contact centers, a recurring challenge surfaced—the common misconception of lumping workforce management (WFM), workforce engagement (WEM), and workforce optimization (WFO) together, diluting their unique benefits. The reality is that your workforce, or your employees, directly impacts your customer experience (CX). A great employee experience (EX) can drastically increase the chances of a better customer experience. You can’t have one without the other. This realization fueled my commitment to education and implementing intentional strategies that highlight the importance of employee experience and the differences between WFM, WEM, and WFO. 

The core belief underpinning my philosophy is that people matter. When you bring AI into the mix, the impact your people have can be amplified even further. AI adds a transformative edge and the unparalleled potential to enhance workforce management strategies. 

Q: You emphasized the importance of distinguishing between WFM, WEM, and WFO. How can organizations leverage these distinctions, especially with the integration of AI?

Let’s start with WFM, which revolves around ensuring the right people or resources are in the right place at the right time with the right skill set. Its tactical output includes data analysis, forecasts, and real-time performance metrics. On the flip side, WEM focuses on equipping, empowering, and engaging the workforce through gamification, coaching, and feedback. Lastly, WFO integrates practices like quality speech analytics, enhancing the engaged workforce, and optimizing processes initiated by WFM and WEM. The key is recognizing and intentionally leveraging the strengths of each. When AI is incorporated, clarity on these differences becomes the foundation for strategic integration.

Q: You have a threefold approach to AI in WEM—AI to alleviate, AI to assist, and AI to automate. How can organizations adopt this approach to ensure responsible and effective AI integration into their workforce strategies?

First things first, you need to plan carefully. As part of this plan, you must ask: What’s coming on the horizon? What can AI do? How does AI apply to my business? As Maya Angelou said, “You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.” So, bottom line, know your contact center business inside out, identify your goals and needs and then plan where AI can set you up for success. There are three buckets AI can fall into: AI to alleviate, AI to assist, and AI to automate. 

AI to alleviate means taking the load off your contact center agents. This could look like using AI to handle simple tasks like password resets, which will automatically reduce your call volume. Leveraging AI to alleviate the volume of calls your business receives gives time back to your agents to deal with more complex queries. 

AI to assist comes into play when we talk about knowledge management. Products like Zoom AI Expert Assist will automatically surface contextual answers to help an agent respond to queries. Say a customer calls in and says, “Hey, I heard you had this promotion going on.” And the agent thinks, “I haven’t heard anything about that promotion.” Then the promotion details automatically pop up on the agent’s screen based on the customer’s question. Magic! Well, that’s AI to assist.

AI to automate is all about scenarios that require actions such as automatic scoring or call wrap-ups. These can help streamline back-office processes and improve overall operational efficiency. 

Successfully integrating AI occurs when you carefully align this three-fold approach with your organization’s specific needs and goals outlined in your initial plan. 

Q: When planning for AI in WEM, can you tell us about your five-pillar framework and how it addresses any challenges?

The main thing that you want to think through is your CX and EX outcome. If your goal is to serve your customers in a unique way, then you need to be thinking about your customer experience in terms of the employees that you’re hiring at your organization. Yes, you need to know your customers and understand their needs, but you also need to know your agents and how they operate. When we think about AI and artificial intelligence, if you don’t have good data, it’s not artificial intelligence; it’s actual ignorance.

You need to take these steps to see ROI out of the AI you implement. 

  1. Review process improvement: You’re not going to automate everything. Understand your EX and CX and identify which of the three AI approaches, mentioned earlier, to apply where.
  2. Data integrity: This is about asking the right questions to understand your data: Where is our data? Where are our data sources coming from? Is this from web chat or somewhere else?
  3. Data optimization: This step involves looking at AI in WFM, WEM, and WFO to get ready for design and implementation. You need to consider questions like: How do we leverage AI? What requires a human touch? What are we going to automate?
  4. Design and implementation: This is where you take action on the challenges you identified and set up AI in all of those areas. 
  5. Create an immersive environment: As your business evolves and changes, your approach should evolve and change. With this in mind, you need to constantly review your AI strategy and make tweaks where necessary.

This is the basic foundational framework for implementing AI successfully and adopting and maximizing its benefits. The end result: substantial improvements in operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Q: In closing, Juanita, what message do you want to leave with our readers regarding the transformative power of impactful AI-driven WEM strategies?

My final words, and I can’t say them enough, is to start by clearly defining your CX and EX goals. Understand where you want to go before deciding on the technology to get you there. Conduct a thorough review of your processes, optimizing data integrity along the way. When it comes to AI, be responsible—whether it’s alleviating, assisting, or automating- and align these approaches with your unique needs.

Looking back all those years ago, when I was sitting in that cubicle, reading a workforce management guide, I think about what I’ve accomplished without AI. Imagine what employees now have at their disposal. If you have the courage to be intentional about what you’re doing with AI, you have the power to impact employee experience and, therefore, customer experience. With this mindset and the right partner to support you along the way, I’ve no doubt you’ll see transformative results.

Continue the conversation with Juanita Coley, CEO of Solid Rock Consulting, and Amy Roberge, head of global CX solutions engineering, on LinkedIn.

Find out more about Juanita and her quest to improve the world of workforce management.

Take a closer look at Zoom Workforce Engagement Management, Zoom Contact Center, and Zoom Virtual Agent. Feel free to reach out, we’d be happy to talk you through your options. 

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