When it comes to forecasting and predicting resource requirements for telephony, the mechanics and mathematics underpinning this are well-established and widely understood.
We are however increasingly in the omnichannel era of customer service, defined by the wholesale use of digital channels such as email, web chat and social media, which are not subject to the same rules as voice. Indeed, some of these channels – such as web chat – are synchronous, whereas others, like email, are asynchronous.
The matter of workforce optimisation for omnichannel contact centre operations is complicated further by most businesses that use web chat having agents that interact with multiple customers simultaneously.
It is perhaps no great surprise then that not all contact centres achieve sustained consistency in terms of the quality and responsiveness of service they provide across all these channels. But what implications will these factors have for your call centre’s workforce optimisation measures in an omnichannel world?
How well are your agents catering to customers across multiple channels?
To cite just one of the aforementioned channels for which you might be seeking to determine your workforce requirements – web chat – there will be a need for your business to ascertain what the optimal resourcing outcome would be for agents, customers, and the organisation alike.
While your business, for example, is likely to prioritise using as few agents as possible without compromising the quality of customer service that is delivered, the customer is likely to want undivided, one-to-one attention being paid to their query. Finally, there is the agent, who will have their own preferences; they might enjoy holding simultaneous chats in order to stay engaged and busy, but they probably won’t wish to be holding so many chats that they become overwhelmed. It’s also worth noticing that a lot of web chats are getting more complex, with many taking over 10 minutes, which is a big increase on what was happening a few years ago.
You also need to consider the various channels via which you might need your agents to interact with customers. You might be want your agents to be skilled in the use of multiple channels rather than just one, so that you can be sure of your agent being able to take on any necessary channel in the appropriate circumstances. It could mean that one given agent, for instance, is well-equipped to respond to a complex email by replying with an outbound call.
What do the research findings say about businesses’ omnichannel workforce management practices?
Our recent omnichannel contact centre research has shed light on the methods used by many organisations as they seek to make the most of their available agents to handle multichannel.
It was found that in medium and large contact centres, for example, around six in 10 (60%) agents handled only voice, while approximately 5% to 10% of agents solely handled text (this term covering email, web chat, and social media).
Smaller contact centres, of course, tend to lack the depth of resource that their larger counterparts have available, so they are less likely to be able to operate dedicated single channel teams. Instead, many of these smaller centres have agents moving between voice and text interactions as the circumstances require.
Such an approach might be taken on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, or as part of a more formal, blended strategy. It is, however, an approach that years of statistics have indicated is positively correlated with improved agent attrition. It is naturally important not to assume correlation is causality; however, it is likely that agents who are able to undertake a variety of work may be more engaged in their roles.
Meanwhile, our omnichannel contact centre research has also found that 39% of respondents – particularly those in larger contact centres – use a combined voice and digital channel workforce management application. By comparison, only 8% used an ad-hoc approach.
There is much more that can be learned about the best call centre workforce optimisation practices, including in relation to omnichannel environments. For further reading on this subject, please download our free research report, “The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel Workforce Optimisation”.