Achieving workforce planning excellence in an omnichannel contact center

Aarati Mankar

April 28, 20235 min read

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New-age contact centers are equipped to engage with customers through a variety of communication channels, including voice calls, live chat, email and social media platforms. In an omnichannel contact center, for instance, customers are provided with a seamless experience regardless of the channel they are using. This means that a customer can start a conversation on one channel, switch to another and have their issue resolved on yet another channel while still maintaining context throughout the interaction.

To deliver such exceptional service, an omnichannel contact center requires a proficient and well-equipped workforce capable of handling multiple channels at once. Agents must be capable of handling several emails, live chats and WhatsApp interactions at the same time. However, when an agent receives a customer call, they are expected to prioritize it and put the other channels on hold temporarily to provide the best possible service to the customer.

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Why should you care about workforce planning?

In such situations where agents are expected to handle multiple channels, they receive training to work efficiently across these channels. However, assigning agents to manage all channels at the same time can be a difficult task, even though it may improve overall productivity.

Consider a situation where your brand receives an overwhelming number of customer interactions in one hour, including 1000 emails, 500 voice calls, 5000 live chats and 200 WhatsApp messages. Each channel has its own unique handling times, turnaround times and required service level agreements (SLAs). To handle this volume, it's crucial to have the right number of expert agents available while taking into account shift timings, minimum and maximum working hours, meal and short breaks, full-time and part-time employees and other scheduling rules.

All of this must be done while striving for high occupancy, optimal shrinkage, and maintaining a good work-life balance for agents. Although it can be difficult, creating an optimal schedule is crucial for providing customers with outstanding service under such circumstances.

Key strategies to streamline the omnichannel workforce

So, how can contact center managers achieve workforce planning and scheduling excellence in an omnichannel environment? Here are some key strategies to consider:

Invest in agent training and development

In an omnichannel contact center, agents need to be well-versed in multiple channels and have a deep understanding of customer needs and preferences. This requires ongoing training and development to keep up with the latest trends and technologies.

Investing in agent training and development not only improves the quality of customer service but also helps to retain top talent. This can include providing regular coaching and feedback, offering opportunities for career advancement, and providing access to training resources such as online courses and certification programs.

Foster a culture of collaboration and communication

Effective communication and collaboration are essential for any contact center to function smoothly. In an omnichannel environment, this becomes even more critical, as agents may need to work together across multiple channels to resolve complex issues.

To foster a culture of collaboration and communication, consider implementing tools such as instant messaging, video conferencing and team collaboration platforms. Encourage agents to share their knowledge and expertise with each other, and provide regular opportunities for team building and socializing.

Prioritize agent well-being and work-life balance

A majority of employees, around 82%, believe that their organizations should view them as more than just employees and acknowledge them as whole people.

In a high-pressure environment like a contact center, agent burnout and turnover can be major challenges. To prevent this, it's important to prioritize agent well-being and work-life balance.

This can include offering flexible scheduling options, such as remote work or flexible shifts, providing access to mental health resources and promoting a healthy work-life balance. By taking care of your agents, you can improve morale, reduce turnover and ultimately improve the quality of customer service.

Embrace a data-driven approach

One of the biggest challenges in workforce planning and scheduling is predicting customer demand accurately. This is where data comes in. By analyzing historical call volumes, customer behavior patterns, and other relevant data, you can create more accurate forecasts and schedules.

Using workforce management techniques, contact centers can make informed decisions based on data analysis. By forecasting the volume of customer contacts, including when and how many customers will reach out, on which channels and for what reasons, contact centers can determine the optimal staffing levels required to handle the anticipated workload. This information can be used to automatically create agent schedules that are tailored to meet specific requirements.

A bar chart provides a clear visual representation of a contact center's activity levels over a six-day period. The chart shows the number of customer calls received and the number of agents available on each day. There is a small increase in both call volume and number of agents on the second day, but the figures remain constant for the last three days.

For example, if the forecast predicts a high volume of live chats, the system can assign more agents to handle this channel. Similarly, if there is a predicted increase in calls during a particular period, more agents can be scheduled for that time. By implementing workforce management techniques, contact centers can create schedules optimized for handling customer interactions efficiently and effectively in both the short and long term. This results in better customer experiences and increased satisfaction while reducing costs associated with overstaffing or understaffing.

A bar chart displays the staffing status of a contact center on an hourly basis from 12:00 am to 11:00 pm. The chart provides a visual representation of the number of staff available in the contact center at each hour of the day. By presenting this information in a clear and concise format, the chart allows the viewer to easily assess the center's staffing patterns over the course of a day.

The WFM system also offers flexible scheduling capabilities, accommodating various activities such as breaks and meetings and creating schedules that comply with set business policies. This ensures the schedules created are optimized for the contact center and its agents.

Effective workforce management achieves all these benefits by ensuring that the following tasks are performed properly:

  • Forecasting and budgeting: determining the number and type of staff resources required while keeping in mind the available budget

  • Staff scheduling: automating staff schedules by factoring in variables such as workload, availability, absences and vacations

  • Time and attendance: predicting changes in demand and managing both planned and unplanned staff absences and leaves

  • Employee performance management: gauging employee engagement levels to improve productivity

  • Compliance: staying informed about compliance with state, federal and local laws, tracking mandatory certifications and training for specific roles, monitoring missed breaks, adhering to labor standards, complying with family/sick leave requirements, and honoring union agreements

  • Payroll and benefits administration: minimizing manual payroll and benefits administration

  • Vacation and leave planning: tracking staffing levels and handling time-off requests and approvals digitally

Prepare your contact center for continued success

Strategic workforce planning is crucial for future-proofing your support team and developing a strong workforce management strategy. Focusing on this can reduce your worries about staffing and allow you to concentrate on improving your team's performance. As per the latest 2022 edition of Gartner® Market Guide for Workforce Management Applications, it is estimated that by 2025, approximately 80% of large enterprises that employ hourly-paid workers will have made investments in WFM (Workforce Management) to enhance the employee experience and/or support digital workplace initiatives.

Sprinklr WFM is an all-in-one solution that:

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