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Why technology will not yet replace the workforce manager in the contact center

Why technology will not yet replace the workforce manager in the contact center

Man Vs. Machine


Workforce Management (WFM) systems used to be out of reach for small or budget-constrained contact centers.  With advances in technology, they are now more affordable.  The latest WFM systems are comprehensive and sophisticated, including features like optimized call routing, improved intra-day forecasting and voice analytics.

With the availability of more comprehensive WFM tools, some may question if the Workforce Manager position is still needed within the contact center. Technology has allowed us to go beyond what any human being could do - balancing multiple agents’ preferences, schedules and skill sets with forecasted future call volume, and handling time per agent simultaneously. While this covers the main responsibilities of a contact center Workforce Manager, several functions still require a human touch.

There are four key reasons why a Workforce Manager is still necessary:

1) Unanticipated changes or anomalies during the workday

WFM software can utilize historical call arrival patterns to forecast resources required to meet service levels.  However, if call volume were to peak unexpectedly, the software alone could not mediate this and realign resources effectively without the skill of a Workforce Manager. In addition, further investigation into what caused the spike in calls (i.e., such as a new product offering that was defective) requires further human analysis.  As of 2015, there is certainly no artificial intelligence Workforce Manager that I’m aware of!

2) Managing WFM within the Contact Center

For the WFM software to be utilized optimally, an individual who manages the system and analyses the data frequently is key. The Workforce Manager needs to ensure that the agents not only understand how their schedule adherence will be measured (lunches, breaks, meetings, coaching, etc.), but also need to ensure the agents are consistently following the defined processes.  In addition, they need to keep up with software updates and/or changes and communicating them to the contact center team.

3) Communication with Agents

  While WFM software takes the scheduling and forecasting component out of the Workforce Manager and Contact Center Management Team’s hands, there are still communications with the contact center workforce that cannot be easily automated. First, the management and approval of schedules (especially when several agents are vying for the same shift) need to be addressed; in addition to the communication around schedules and scheduling changes. When there are new marketing or sales campaigns, product introductions, or system outages, agents need to be made aware of what these changes are and how it will affect them. The constant and on-going daily communication between the Workforce Manager, their team, and the contact center is essential for success.

4) Professional development and relationship management

The Workforce Manager plays the important role of keeping agents and supervisors incentivized and motivated to perform well on the job, which is important to ensuring that customers are satisfied as well. Tools most useful for developing agents consistently require subjective thinking and contact center expertise that a software program cannot provide. These tools include call monitoring and feedback, incentive programs, social recognition for high performers and performance reviews. In addition, the Workforce Manager can also play a key role in identifying poor performance related to schedule adherence and its associated cause so the supervisors can provide the appropriate coaching or performance management (not the role of a WFM).

The past decade may have brought improved WFM solutions with advancements in technology and less complex user interfaces, but the Workforce Manager still plays an instrumental role in any successful contact center and I do not see that changing.  If anything, the role will continue to grow within the contact center industry, even with the continued advancements in technology.

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