January 30, 2024

What is workforce optimization?

We all know the challenges and stress of managing a call center. There are schedules and forecasts to create, KPIs and budgets to meet, and customers to please. Add advances in technology that fundamentally changed the way that many people work, shop, and live, and it can feel even more daunting. It’s a complex mixture of data and chaos, and it might feel like you’re just barely containing it. 

Thankfully, there is a solution that can help you not only tackle all of these challenges but overcome them: Workforce optimization (WFO). It can help improve employee productivity and customer service, all while saving money.  And I promise you, it’s real!

Ready to lower your stress level and raise your standards? This piece will define and outline the importance of workforce optimization, how to make this strategy work for your call center, and discuss how to pick the right WFO software—ultimately boosting agent performance and operational efficiency within your call center.

What is workforce optimization?

Workforce optimization (WFO) is a collection of strategies, processes, and technologies that prioritize the improvement of customer satisfaction, operational costs, workforce scheduling, and additional KPIs in order to get the optimum performance out of your employees and the services they provide. 

Essentially, WFO involves automating processes to boost productivity, maximizing smarter technology investments, and providing business data and analytics to offer detailed insights into every aspect of an organization. In call centers, WFO ultimately works to improve workforce management and agent performance.

What is workforce optimization in a call center?

Like we mentioned above, workforce optimization is all about improving and simplifying processes in order to address challenges that businesses face. Those challenges can relate to anything from workforce management (WFM), analytics and reporting, eliminating wasted time, and more. But in contact centers, these challenges—and the improvements and simplifications that workforce optimization offers—manifest in very specific ways. Like using integrated software features that solve common problems and elevate customer service.  

For instance, technology like automatic call distribution (ACD) sends customers to the support professional that’s best equipped to handle their specific needs efficiently and completely based on data the system aggregates by analyzing a few interactions with customers. By leveraging this technology, contact centers will be able to maximize the power of each support agent while protecting them from the undue stress from requests they may not be as equipped to handle. 

Call centers can also leverage Interactive voice response (IVR) technology, which is a system that provides a series of voice-responsive menus and prompts that enable customers to find and access the information they need for simple requests, without speaking to a live agent, through speech, text recognition, and digital technology. 

These are just a few examples of how contact centers have leveraged technologies to streamline operations as part of an overall WFO strategy that helps to improve customer service, while maximizing the skills of their staff.

Why is WFO important?

Implementing a WFO strategy allows your center to increase the efficiency of your entire operation with different tools and integrated technologies that operate as one unified platform. 

An effective WFO solution can produce many benefits for your contact center, including increasing savings, customer retention, and more.

Better customer experience and retention

Have you ever had dismal service at Starbucks and took to Twitter to complain about it? You aren’t the only one. Today’s consumer is more discerning, more demanding, and have even more mediums to trumpet their displeasure after a less than positive customer service experience, thanks to social media. 

Consequently, the customer service that your support professionals provide plays an even more critical role in positively representing your brand and driving success for your entire organization. Not only will people likely share their instances of crummy customer service, but, according to a 2019 Microsoft report, an estimated 58% of customers won't return to a business after one unsatisfactory experience.

WFO improves customer service in that it provides you with insights about past customer interactions that allow you to make a plan to resolve future queries quickly and efficiently. By implementing new tools to assist or streamline scheduling, and finding ways to improve agent performance your center can significantly improve customer satisfaction and retention.

Boost agent efficiency and contact center productivity

Staffing is one of the biggest expenses that most call centers have. It can cost upwards of $4,800 to hire a new support professional, and that’s not accounting for the loss in productivity during the training and onboarding process. And yet, your first thought might be to cut your staff numbers to meet financial benchmarks, but having too few agents is a surefire way to burn out your team and frustrate your customers—both of which take big bites out of your bottom line. 

WFO helps you find that elusive balance of the right number of agents without overscheduling or overspending by maximizing employee productivity through continuous training, quality management (more on that later), and more. WFO also helps you to manage workflow processes across various departments leveraging one platform which improves the overall performance of your contact center and your employees.

Increase cost savings 

An effective workforce optimization strategy will help create a stronger and more confident team of agents. Finding the happy medium of overstaffing and understaffing can reduce turnover and the possibility of losing money because of bad customer service. The money your department saves can be invested in initiatives and activities that help to improve company morale, like an incentive program for retreats in Hawaii! 😉


Here’s why your support team needs to adopt a customer-centric culture. Learn more!

What are the components of workforce optimization software?

We’ve established that workforce optimization is a multi-faceted approach to maximizing the skill of your workforce to ensure your customers are well taken care of, but what does it entail exactly? There are several key components (including contact center workforce management, quality assurance, and more) that all contact centers use to build the foundation of their WFO platform and here’s what you need to know about each one:

Workforce management

Simply put, workforce management is the use of technology, strategy, and processes to optimize productivity. Call centers use this integrated approach to accurately forecast and properly schedule agents which helps to maximize operations. 

By trading those antiquated spreadsheets for robust workforce management software that leverages automation, you will be able to streamline employee scheduling, easily develop more accurate forecasts, monitor SLAs and KPIs in real-time, and so much more. The good news is that there are many workforce management software options available. Here are some great features you should consider when vetting them:

  • Creates accurate forecasts - With an accurate forecast, you will have agents ready at the right time. The right forecast leads to the right staffing levels, which leads to the right schedule, keeping both your customers and agents happy. 
  • Powerful scheduling tools - A quality WFM software will leverage automation to help you develop schedules quickly, offer skills-based scheduling and enable your team members to do things like self-scheduling, swap shifts, or shift bidding.
  • Real-time adherence monitoring - One unhappy customer is one too many, so look for a WFM solution that has the ability to monitor your employees in real-time. Agent adherence doesn't have to feel "big brother-y" for your team, so look for tools that help contact center supervisors track the team in a unobtrusive way.
  • Robust historical reporting - Reviewing historical data will help identify patterns, skills to sharpen, and trends in inquiries. Make sure that your workforce management software offers easy access to the data you need to readily track contact center performance and improve agent productivity.

Quality management 

Customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal for any contact center. So the quality management (QM) or quality assurance (QA) team works to ensure that customer standards goals are not only being met but exceeded whenever possible. In the context of a call center, QM software will spot-check calls and other forms of communication to make sure that standards are being upheld. On the analytical side of the spectrum, the software will also review historical reports to ensure that calls are being handled efficiently as well. 

Here are additional features QM software should have:

  • Easy-to-use interface - Your tools should be easy-to-use and customize. If you have other systems in place, look for a platform that can be integrated to give you access to other applications you regularly use.  
  • Customizable review forms - No organizations, teams, or even agents are identical.  You should have access to forms that can adapt to your call center's needs and KPIs, as well as to individual agents and their performance. 
  • Clear scoring system. Your software should allow you to develop a clear and comprehensive method of reviewing calls that lets the agent know where they stand and how to continually improve. This is essential if you want to harness the powers of gamification for better agent engagement.

Customer Interaction Metrics 

A recent study estimated that more than 65% of contact centers are looking to invest in workforce optimization software with advanced analytics. The reasoning behind this desire for data is simple: it can help improve nearly every aspect of call center operations, from customer interaction metrics to real-time management. 

While call centers have never had a shortage of data, they’ve always struggled with interpreting all the data available to them in a useful way. Modern analytics tools solve this issue by quickly and efficiently analyzing customer interaction data to benchmark how a center’s performance compares to its customer service goals.

Gamification 

Who says you can’t play games at work? Gamification is all about bringing the elements of competition (games, points, awards, and shared challenges) to the workplace. It’s a great way to incentivize your team and create a positive workplace culture. When you’re in an industry that struggles with burnout and retention, gamification helps to ensure your agents have a bit of fun while improving their skills.

How to make workforce optimization work for you

We’ve broken down what WFO is. Now, let’s get into some real-world ways of how you can get the most out of WFO in your call center today.   

  • Customer-first perspective. Are both your big picture goals and your simple daily activities focused on customer satisfaction? If not, they should be. It’s important to be open to change. The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t leave room for improvement. And that is the very point of WFO. As the industry changes, you need to adjust your WFO plans to change with it and always strive to do better.
  • Time management and attendance tracking. Knowing exactly how your team members are spending their time can help eliminate wasteful processes, and keep your agents focused on their most important tasks. Attendance tracking can identify important patterns, which gives you the power to head-off issues before they become capital-P Problems or prevent them altogether.
  • Scheduling. Streamlined scheduling ensures that the most qualified people are on the shifts that need them most, but also works to ensure employees don’t feel burnt out. The right schedule is one that meets the needs of your customers and your employees. 
  • Performance and task tracking. If you have the right technology, it will be easy to track schedule and task adherence and identify when employees need some refresher training.

A dashboard with various metrics

See what it takes to move beyond WFM and accomplish workforce optimization. Learn more here!

How to choose workforce optimization software

When looking to invest in a WFO platform, it’s important to find a system that fits with the way your contact center does business. Figure out what components are most important to the way you do business today and in the future. Having different vendors for tools that help you to maximize different aspects of your business including scheduling, analytics, and customer engagement can get costly. 

Your workforce optimization software should allow you access to all these areas in one unified platform, so you can spend more time optimizing your center’s operations instead of getting overwhelmed managing multiple vendor relationships. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when picking the right software for you:

  • Ensure it has a good user interface.
  • Make sure that it can scale with your business and your departments.
  • Confirm that it can easily integrate with the current tools being used.

A giant in the consumer goods industry used Assembled to optimize staffing and increase service levels by 20%! Learn how here. 

Ensure operational efficiency with workforce optimization software  

Ultimately, modern consumers are knowledgeable, demanding, and have become harder to please. Prioritizing the implementation of a workforce optimization strategy will help you to meet your customers' growing needs. Workforce optimization should work to enhance customer experience by boosting productivity, increasing efficiency, and improving agent performance, all of which drive the success of your center. 

Assembled's powerful, cloud-based contact center software creates accurate forecasts that allow you to segment across channels and queues. It also leverages automation to instantly build schedules at scale. It even collects real-time and historical data so you can coach agents to be their best. 

You also don’t have to worry about a lengthy implementation, because Assembled’s cloud-based, and easily integrates with the other applications you use every day, including Zendesk, Kustomer, Salesforce, Google Calendar, and more. These are just a few of the myriad ways Assembled can help you deploy your workforce optimization strategy, so your call center can operate effectively and efficiently. 

Take the first step to operational efficiency: Contact us to schedule a demo today!

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Want to know how Assembled can help your team rise to the occasion? Set up time with us to learn more!

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