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Workforce Management Continues to Grow in Multi-Channel Environments

A few years ago, I could go into a room full of workforce management (WFM) professionals and ask how many people have been charged with forecasting and scheduling for channels other than phone calls, and there would just be a few hands raised.  Today, every time I ask, it seems like almost every hand in the room is raised.  WFM is now being asked to expand their efforts beyond the call center and phone calls.  E-mails, outbound calls, regular mail, and faxes are all being processed in organizations, and there can be some significant savings in time and personnel by allowing WFM to forecast and schedule for these contacts. 

SWPP surveys the WFM community each quarter on topics of interest.  We found some interesting data in the results of a survey done on multi-channel contacts. 

Non-Phone Customer Contact Channels Used

Eighty-five percent of the respondents have e-mail contacts in their organization, while 69% have outbound calling.  Sixty-two percent process regular mail, and 61% process faxes.  Thirty-seven percent have web chat contacts, while 23% have contacts from Facebook and 15% have contacts through Twitter.  Only 1% have no other channels besides phone calls. 

Non-Phone Customer Contact Channels Used

Same Agents Answering Phone Calls and Other Channels

More than half of the respondents (54%) say that the same agents answer phone calls and service other channels.

Do same agents answer all channels?

Forecasting For Other Channels

Over half (53%) say that forecasting is done manually for other channels, while 32% say forecasting is done with an automated WFM system. 

Forecasting for non-voice service channels

Scheduling for Other Channels

Forty-nine percent of the respondents use an automated WFM system for scheduling, while 43% schedule manually. 

Scheduling Non-Voice Channels

There are many things to consider as you go down the path of applying WFM to non-phone contacts.  Some issues include:

  • Your WFM tool should adapt to a multi-channel environment.
  • WFM teams need specific information on average handle times and service level goals before they begin participating in multi-channel forecasting and scheduling.
  • You need to decide whether to schedule time differently for non-phone agents.
  • You should decide if you want to create "universal agents" to cover multi-channel contacts.
  • You should find the value WFM can bring to the overall process.

We believe this trend is going to continue to grow as contact centers expand the ways that customers can use to reach them. And workforce management will be an important part of the expansion.