At the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, transitioning agents to work from home (WFH) while maintaining merely acceptable customer experiences was the most contact centers could manage. Customers were patient and understanding, and we all adjusted to the extraordinary changes in our personal and business lives together.

Now, as the world begins to experiment with at least partial public re-openings, and some businesses are moving to hybrid workforces with varying degrees of WFH and on-site employees, the world is experiencing another shift.

As a result, customer expectations are now rising, and so is agent stress.

These new changes—in our work environments and our attitudes—are not making things any easier for contact center leaders. In fact, they may have made managing even more challenging, as still-fluctuating call volumes add to the problem.

When Managing Schedules Becomes Unmanageable

Managing WFH agents amid erratic call volume can make scheduling sometimes escalate from challenging to utterly unmanageable. At the same time, successful contact center leaders know we are all still in a fragile state, and taking care of agents must be prioritized for long-term success.

For brands to survive this global crisis—and come out of it with momentum to stay ahead of the competition when it’s over—requires maintaining business continuity for superior customer experiences that build lasting loyalty. A key contributor to positive customer experience is having the right number of agents available to serve customers, and to ensure they’re ready when needed. Doing that effectively takes a sophisticated workforce management (WFM) solution.

Work from Home Agents and Unpredictable Call Volume

Outdated tools and complicated spreadsheets just don’t work well for contact centers operating with WFH agents—or the likely hybrid model of the future combining WFH and on-site employees—and the fluctuating call volume resulting from the pandemic’s uncertainty.

What makes scheduling tricky is striking the delicate balance between understaffing and overstaffing. Understaffing can negatively impact customer experience—and your organization’s reputation. It also escalates agent stress when most are already on edge. On the other hand, overstaffing drives up operational costs and frustrates agents who feel like they aren’t needed.

None of this is good for customer experience.

Even with a perfectly designed schedule, you need to ensure your agents actually follow it. Some of the biggest challenges of managing your workforce is calculating and accounting for absences, and following up on attendance and schedule compliance. The problem grows when you aren’t in the same location to manage things.

WFM is an important tool in tipping the balance toward profitable contact center operations. And in this unprecedented crisis, WFM is more important than ever, providing flexible scheduling to ensure contact centers operate at maximum potential.

With sophisticated WFM, you can effectively forecast your scheduling needs, create schedules, manage agent performance, encourage engagement, and adjust in real-time as needed. With the ProScheduler cloud-based WFM software from Serenova, you can ensure your agents are working optimally and staying engaged even as they work from home or are back in the contact center. It minimizes administrative effort, improves agent engagement and schedule adherence, and reduces labor costs.

ProScheduler delivers:

• Forecast workloads across channels (chat, email, voice, SMS, Facebook)
• Create multiple versions of the forecast to analyze staffing needs for different scenarios

• Optimization engine produces schedules within minutes
• Single-day reoptimization makes it easier to handle unexpected events, such as absences or changes in call volume

• Real-time adherence and forecasting reports offer intraday analyses and adjustments of schedules
• Know what’s going on at all times to improve real-time coaching and solve issues as they occur throughout the day

• See what matters to your contact center with customizable dashboards
• Keep track of late arrivals and early departures, break adherence, call traffic and more to analyze contact center performance

With ProScheduler’s forecasting module, you can develop accurate forecasts for each interaction and channel (e.g., calls, email, chat, social media). You can also produce multiple versions of the forecast to analyze staffing needs for different scenarios. Shrinkage and efficiency parameters can also be considered.

Create optimized schedules within minutes by trying different settings and then analyzing the effect and cost before publishing schedules. You can even see instant analyses on estimated SLAs down to 15-minute increments based on planned schedule adjustments.

It’s also possible to manage unexpected events such as absences and changes in call volume to optimize scheduling each day. ProScheduler can recommend the best times for meetings and trainings based on scheduled shifts and your staffing targets. All of this is particularly important during this evolving crisis.

ProSceduler makes it easy for your agents to communicate their availability and swap shifts with each other. These capabilities help agents feel supported, which goes a long way in maintaining morale and productivity during the stress of these times.

ProScheduler’s Time Web is a web interface for your WFH agents to view their schedules online, communicate availability and send in requests on time off and shift bidding. Agents’ schedules can also be published in alternative applications such as Outlook, iCal, Google, Android and iPhone.

Real-time monitoring is simpler with ProScheduler’s Supervisor Dashboard. The dashboard provides supervisors with user-friendly data and insights to efficiently manage WFM operations.

Its supervisor dashboards display insights at the contact center, workgroup and team level, including:

• Agent status in the automatic call distributor (ACD) compared to what is scheduled
• Actual staffing compared to scheduled staffing
• Current occupancy percentage and adherence percentage

WFM Made Easy

The situation is changing daily, and while we know the crisis will end, none of us knows when. Scheduling and monitoring teams has never been easy for contact center leaders, but our new reality has made tools to do it more efficiently indispensable, not just nice to have.

Serenova’s ProScheduler WFM is a robust, enterprise-class solution proven to improve customer experience, save administrative time, and reduce overstaffing and understaffing.

Contact us for more information on how to best manage and enable your WFH agents for business continuity and positive customer experience through and beyond COVID-19.