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How Workforce Management Can Keep Your Agents Sharp

Want to improve agent engagement and relieve stress? Take a hard look at your workforce management program.

Why do agents leave a call center? For that matter, why do agents who stay call in sick or fail to adhere to schedule? Right now, ICMI is conducting a survey on agent attrition and retention to give you a detailed picture, but we can say with a great amount of certainty that agent attrition is a critical problem for many organizations, large and small. One area that is often overlooked as an opportunity to make sure that agents are engaged and their stress levels are manageable – increasing both agent and customer satisfaction – is workforce management.

You don't have to have a sophisticated workforce management system in place to make your WFM program a key enabler in agent satisfaction pain points like engagement and stress relief. Even organizations that do have them are struggling. What you do need is a realistic and thoughtful approach to your WFM program.

Don't Stress Your Agents

Take for example an organization with a robust WFM team that is so attached to real-time management that the process is frequently triggering an alarm for agents to attack the queue. Breaks are delayed – agent adherence goes out the window, and it’s not the agents' fault – and there’s even very little breathing room for agents between calls. The result (in addition to an unmanageable schedule and a near-worthless forecast) is stressed-out agents who don’t perform as well as they can in customer interactions, call in sick or even quit. And this result has hard costs associated with it.

Make sure your WFM forecasting and scheduling are on target and stick to real-time management increments of 15 minutes. You may occasionally have to chase traffic – and sometimes you’ll have idle agents waiting on traffic – but there’s a solid middle ground for meeting service level without wearing out your workforce.

Forecast and Schedule For All Agent Activity – Including Coaching and Training

One of the chief complaints we see is that there's no time for agent coaching and training, and that's evidenced in our recent Quick Poll on agent issues. Just like after-call work and other non-phone (-chat, -email or –social media) activities, coaching and training need to be planned for and scheduled by your WFM team. And there are several reasons why.

Agent coaching and training are necessities for meeting service level and quality goals. Call center agents equipped with the training and skills they need to handle customer interactions efficiently and accurately (and in a customer-centric frame of mind) are more confident and successful in their work. When your contact center achieves this, costs go down and agent and customer satisfaction go up.

Agent coaching and training drive agents' career-pathing success. You don’t want to promote an agent to team lead or supervisor just because they can deal with the stress, you want to know that they can perform at the highest level and be prepared to lead by example, based on how they were helped to succeed. Again, when your contact center achieves this, costs go down and agent and customer satisfaction go up.