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Why workforce optimization is imperative for businesses in 2021

(Image credit: Image Credit: NakoPhotography / Shutterstock)

Remote workforces have been evolving for the past decade; the pandemic just kicked them into high gear. Now, according to the PwC Covid-19 CFO Pulse survey, more than half (56 percent) of CFOs say that their companies are making remote work permanent where possible.

Though many companies were forced to throw the switch hard to move away from the office last year, 2021 provides an opportunity to step back and refine and optimize remote work operations. In the contact center, this means supporting remote and hybrid workforces with new technology, processes and training that will enable them to meet a broader range of customer expectations. 

When the pandemic shuttered doors, the contact center became the central place where customers could engage with brands. It became the new front door for many businesses. Nearly overnight, contact center agents had to handle not only issue resolution, but also questions about sales and products that previously in-store sales associates would have answered. While at first a crisis response, this trend has taken hold, and brands are looking for ways to make the most of this opportunity. 

But managing a contact center workforce that is adjusting to work-from-anywhere lifestyles while also handling new responsibilities has created challenges for supervisors and agents alike. That’s why companies are turning to workforce optimization (WFO) solutions. 

WFO streamlines contact center operations by integrating tools for workforce management, quality management, interaction analytics, and performance management and gamification. Supervisors get the tools they need to motivate and engage agents wherever they work, as well as vital reporting and analytics that can help them ensure the overall quality of the customer experience. Agents benefit from being able to manage their time and workload so that they can avoid burnout. When implemented well, WFO solutions should balance the needs of employees and the business, and help deliver great customer experiences.

Automating repetitive service tasks

Many contact centers are also leveraging AI to automate routine and repetitive service tasks so that agents can focus on more rewarding, higher-value work. By integrating data and applications and using automation to streamline the customer experience across channels, businesses can help customers get answers faster, on the channel of their choice, and with less effort. Customers are able to solve more and more problems through self-service channels without needing to speak to a live agent (an increasingly important requirement for digitally-savvy consumers). If they are not able to solve their problem or complete their interaction over the self-service channel, they are immediately and seamlessly transferred to a live agent who is fully armed to take over and complete the interaction.

WFO solutions offer the following benefits to foster a more engaged workforce that will deliver better customer experiences while cutting costs at the same time.

Adaptive, scalable scheduling. Remote agents are juggling their work and home lives like never before, managing new distractions and schedule adjustments as customers reach out more frequently across more channels. WFO solutions can streamline schedule management to help supervisors manage time off, shift bidding and swap requests, and more accurately align their team’s resources and preferences with contact volumes throughout the day. WFO helps supervisors dynamically load balance across digital and live channels, and agents can receive automatic notifications regarding upcoming scheduled events, request approvals, and voluntary time off offers. These features allow agents and contractors to achieve more balance while also accommodating the needs of customers and the business.  

Real-time supervision for managers. Supervisors can no longer walk around the call center floor and provide on-the-spot coaching. But workforce engagement management (WEM) solutions can provide the same kind of visibility and ability to assist agents virtually. Some solutions allow supervisors to see their entire team’s desktop activity and monitor voice calls in real-time. Solutions should also offer multiple ways to directly intervene if needed to help ensure call quality and optimize the customer experience. AI can also be utilized to accelerate analysis and feed dashboards. 


Gamification to engage agents. Agents have gone from group settings to working their shifts alone. This can lead to a sense of isolation and decreased motivation, as well as missed camaraderie with peers. Workforce engagement management (WEM) solutions that provide gamification can create a sense of healthy competition and interaction among agents, and keep them motivated wherever they are located. Agents can compete in a variety of ways to win both virtual and real-life prizes, and supervisors can reward continued learning and positive behavior. Gamification can also be useful during onboarding to make new hire training more engaging for agents starting their jobs from home. 

Insights for training. As sales interactions shift from brick and mortar locations into the contact center, and routine tasks are increasingly automated, agents are being challenged with work that is broader and more complex. WFO analytics can help managers glean insights from each interaction to tailor training opportunities that will help every agent continuously improve their skills. Supervisors can maximize agents’ contributions to success by easily sharing operational metrics, key performance indicators, and service level statistics. Introducing automated scoring to continuously monitor performance can also provide the right learning paths for agents. Automated scoring allows access to insights into where technology and people are best utilized to enable a more compelling customer experience. Additionally, WEM solutions can leverage AI to provide coaching and recommendations during an interaction, so agents can course-correct if necessary. 

Looking ahead 

Providing a great employee experience forms the foundation for delivering great customer experiences. It will be important for contact centers to have the right tools in place to support their agents, especially as businesses have indicated that they will continue with a work-from-home or hybrid model. Workforce optimization will continue to be an important tool to assist contact center supervisors and managers in engaging customers and facilitating great experiences and positive brand associations, while they manage a distributed workforce.

With solutions for streamlined scheduling, real-time coaching, gamification, and individualized training, WFO/WEM technology can help cultivate an engaged and efficient remote workforce. This will allow organizations to operate contact centers that work – for everyone.

Mike Bourke, Senior Vice President, Product, Five9

Mike Bourke is Senior Vice President of Product and Strategy at Five9, responsible for overall product roadmap and strategy, technology partnerships and M&A.