Four Tips for Finding the Right Workforce Management Solution

The vast majority of contact centers use workforce management (WFM) in some way, but in smaller companies, those WFM processes might live in Microsoft Excel. As contact centers grow and become more complex, staffing requirements become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to manage in spreadsheets.

Implementing software to automate your workforce management can help optimize your staffing, offering features like split shifts, intraday schedule changes, and vacation bidding that are simply not possible with manual WFM processes. While any new technology in the workplace takes effort to incorporate, the long-term benefits from automating WFM are substantial. This is especially true while many contact centers are managing remote workforces.

If you're ready to move forward with WFM software, you will likely need approval from your executive team and procurement professionals. To create buy-in across the organization, you'll first need to know what you're trying to achieve and the expected ROI for the investment. Here are four key elements to selecting a WFM solution:

1. Know your must-have features.

The goal of workforce management is to provide great customer service while carefully controlling the costs of providing that service. With that in mind, start your search for a WFM solution by drafting a list of features your contact center would benefit from having. Each WFM solution offers a slightly different mix of features, along with a unique interface. Historically, WFM applications have been complex and difficult to learn. Put one with a modern and simple user interface at the top of your list.

Key features that have become more prevalent during the past five years include adaptive intraday management, shift bidding, and integrated communication channels. The latter of these features allows managers to send messages to agents from within the WFM software as notifications, email, or text messages.

2. Focus on mobile.

Employing a WFM app is critical to remote work operations, and choosing a WFM solution without significant mobile support will cause problems as remote contact centers become the norm. Moving workforce management onto a mobile app that agents have on their smartphones can revolutionize contact center operations. A mobile workforce management tool ensures there are no communication breakdowns, especially with remote workers.

Analysts can use the app to submit requests for additional staff to compensate for an unplanned absence or surge in customer demand, and that shift opportunity will be immediately available for agents to accept on their phones. Once the opportunity has been fulfilled, the schedule is updated in real time and all parties are notified of the change.

With mobile at the core of your WFM strategy, you and your agents can respond faster to changes in contact center demand. If we use our smartphones for everything else, why not workforce management?

3. Prepare for onboarding.

Any new software purchase requires prep work for the team, and workforce management is no exception. Given that WFM impacts many elements of contact center operations, expect to spend multiple sessions onboarding and training your team on the technology. Fortunately, a good WFM partner will have proven onboarding processes so that your team can go live as quickly as possible and you can use the most important features.

Research your provider's training process for new customers and talk with its onboarding team. If your company is committed to the solution and looking for some quick hits to improve forecasting and scheduling, the vendor should be willing to invest in training the staff on all its available capabilities. If you're paying for all of the bells and whistles, you want to make sure you are using them.

Bear in mind that each new agent or manager you hire will also need to train extensively on the WFM software. Customer success teams should continue to help new users understand their tools months or years after the sale is closed.

4. Look for a true partner.

All the bells and whistles are important, but ultimately the success or failure of whatever WFM solution you choose is going to depend on the team behind the technology. A true partner in WFM will provide continuing education for agents and managers. It will also continue to innovate, bringing new features to the product as the market demands them.

Before you select a WFM solution, ask for customer references and talk candidly with the customer success team about support after the onboarding window. Think past the sales process and find a partner that will help you build your business over the long run. Your diligence now will pay dividends later.

Roger Woolley is chief marketing officer of CommunityWFM.