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Updated on January 26, 2024
Published on November 30, 2023
It’s that time of year again. Leaves are falling, and temperatures are cooling off. Customers everywhere are making their holiday gift lists and checking them twice, while retail contact center supervisors are deep in navigating their busiest time of year. We get it. Being a contact center supervisor during this season is hard. It’s tough to figure out how to best ramp up operations to support the influx of customers while preventing agent burnout.
These are just some of the common challenges you might be facing:
The holidays are a peak season for retail, but many industries have seasons throughout the year when call volume hits the high notes. So, what’s the best way to leverage the latest technology and AI to manage your contact center during these seasonal peaks? That’s where contact center workforce management comes in.
First things first, let’s explain what we mean by contact center workforce management (WFM). WFM is a set of processes and tools that help you optimize the performance and efficiency of your contact center team. When it comes down to it, the main goal of utilizing a WFM solution is to ensure that the right number of agents with the right skills are available at the right times to meet customer service demands. The best contact center workforce management solutions include innovative AI–powered tools to help forecast, schedule, track, and analyze work performance.
But how can you make these innovations in workforce engagement work for you as you juggle increasing customer expectations and the potential of agent burnout? Lucky for you, we’ve pulled together some contact center workforce management best practices to help you sail through periods of heavier call volume now and as you plan ahead.
Deploying agents at the right time is, of course, essential, but it’s also vital to ensure you have the right agent lined up. Matching an agent’s skills to the query helps avoid customer frustration and creates the necessary efficiencies as call volumes rise. As Juanita Coley, contact center whisperer and CEO of Solid Rock Consulting, shares:
“It’s about forecasting, scheduling, and real-time management. The power of workforce management comes down to predicting the right people, ensuring those people are in the right place, at the right time to best serve your customer needs.”
First, dive into historical data to make a plan. A good WFM tool can pull insights from your last peak season to predict the ideal schedule for your next busy period. Zoom Workforce Engagement Management, which is available for Zoom Contact Center customers, leverages AI and machine learning so you can pull data to predict call volume and call handling time. This capability helps you schedule up to four weeks out to easily analyze trends and determine your future needs.
Second, make the most of your schedule to help ensure you’re assigning suitable agents to deal with specific customer calls. With Zoom Workforce Management’s newly available dynamic scheduling feature, you can optimize your roster by flexing breaks, lunches, and even start times based on your requirements. Your agents can achieve first-call resolution more effectively, and customers will appreciate getting their valuable time back.
Lastly, remember that things change, team members get sick, and bad weather can disrupt orders and cause an influx of calls. Even the best-laid plans can go out the window. Last-minute changes don’t need to be a headache with the right WFM software. When you can quickly pinpoint an agent’s capacity in real-time, adjusting the roster and reallocating calls becomes a walk in the park.
But voice is just one channel to consider. With the increasing need for contact centers to take an omnichannel approach, contact center leaders need to look beyond voice when forecasting staffing needs. With a multi-channel forecasting model, Zoom Workforce Management removes the need for complex spreadsheets and heavy admin work. In one holistic view, you can easily see agent activities across all channels, manage their work shifts, schedule groups, and build flexible schedules. And with the capability to monitor real-time adherence, you can get a quick view of agent performance and identify areas of improvement and teaching moments.
Let’s face it: burnout can severely impact agent morale, leading to staff absences or even attrition. In fact, according to SQM, Customer Service QA Experts, the average call center agent turnover was 38% in 2022, the highest rate they’ve seen. With customer care being the front door of your company, boosting connection and reducing turnover by even the smallest amount can make a difference. But, how do you keep morale high during your busiest time of year?
Giving your contact center team predictability or even control over their schedules is incredibly important in helping them feel supported and empowered at busy times. Being aware and having access to schedules creates a mutually beneficial relationship between contact centers and their agents and can help improve retention. As Juanita Coley found, “I recently surveyed agents, and schedule autonomy was the number two reason they like and stay in their job.”
How do you provide schedule autonomy without risking an empty call center? First is communication. Get your agents involved in planning. Make sure you communicate your expectations and ask them for their availability and ideal work schedule in advance. Keep the lines of communication open so they can approach you if anything changes at the last minute. With Zoom’s Workforce Management agent vacation request feature, agents can take more control of their schedule and request time off in advance based on a list of out-of-office activities (e.g., PTO, FMLA, or sick leave).
Finally, give your team more flexibility by allowing them to work from home or a location that works best for them. Cloud contact centers, like Zoom Contact Center, have been designed to enable a dispersed team. And with workforce management built-in, you can stay on top of every agent’s performance.
Happy agents mean happy customers, so ensuring your agents feel engaged and empowered is crucial. After all, your agents are often your customers’ first touch point with your brand. With 54% of customers leaving a brand after a poor interaction, your agents are central to creating the customer loyalty and repeat business we’re all chasing. A significant way to invigorate your team during high-call volume periods is to give them all the resources and AI capabilities they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Spot-check patterns and pull insights that can build a knowledge bank to help agents with future calls. As Adrian Swinscoe, Principal of Punk CX, puts it:
“Agents feel like they’re failing because they can’t solve a problem that was brought up before. Sharing information means the team can celebrate victory together.”
Tools like Zoom Contact Center’s AI Expert Assist can offer a helping hand here. By allowing you to curate and serve up useful knowledge-based articles and historical customer data, you can help agents quickly resolve issues for new and returning customers.
Another way to boost morale is to ensure agents feel connected to you, each other, and to your organization’s culture and purpose. Tools like Zoom Team Chat and our new employment engagement platform, Workvivo, can be integrated into the Zoom Contact Center interface. These additional communication outlets make it easier for agents to stay in the loop, feel less lonely, and ultimately do a better job, regardless of their location.
Contact center technology is undergoing an AI transformation, an evolution we call the next-generation contact center. But what can AI do to help with a contact center’s workforce needs during busy seasons? As mentioned above, tools like Zoom AI Expert Assist can help your contact center team stay calm under pressure and do their jobs effectively. But there’s more.
Generative AI is a hot topic, poised to simplify the lives of contact center agents and supervisors significantly. Capabilities like chat and call summarization give individual agents more context to quickly and effectively handle transferred and returning calls, as well as reduce call durations and customer frustration.
Then there’s our friend, the virtual agent. Virtual agents have been around for a while, but recent developments in AI are making them more intuitive and easier to build. Today, your IT team can create flows fast, and you can assign your virtual agent the simple queries, freeing up your agents to solve the more complex, time-consuming questions. AI can help resolve the issue entirely or level up the call effectively.
Caleb Schleder, product support at Precision Planting, agreed when he spoke at Zoom’s recent user conference, Zoomtopia 2023: “Having the ability to use AI to optimize workforce engagement is so helpful.” With a 10-week annual peak planning season, he understands the importance of leveraging workforce management tools to help ensure success at busier times.
Check out how our intelligent virtual agent helps Zoom save $13 million each month and generate a 95% CSAT for our support teams.
While workforce management solutions are necessary and helpful, particularly at peak times, there’s another way contact center leaders can minimize siloed communication and reduce friction. As a recent study from Metrigy found, by integrating your contact center capabilities with a unified communications platform, your team can benefit from:
Riley McEntire, Director of Marketing & Advertising, Phoenix Franchise Brands, agrees: “We went from needing a team of 30-45 to 15-20. It was an amazing increase in bandwidth as they weren’t jumping back between different platforms. It was all right there.”
With stats like these, it’s easy to see why Metrigy found that 54.2% of organizations integrated their UCaaS and contact center platforms last year. If you’re in the thick of an overwhelming peak season right now, it might be something to consider so that you’re ready before it’s time to ramp up again.
Whether you’re currently wading through peak season or your busy period falls at a different time of year, we hope these best practices are helpful. Finding the delicate balance of answering a high volume of calls and queries while preventing team burnout is not an easy feat. But armed with the right technology and AI-enhanced tools and practices, you can eliminate the stress for all involved. Using the latest workforce management tools to navigate surges effectively, you can help ensure your customers experience the kind of excellent service worth sharing and your agents feel empowered and fulfilled.