• August 3, 2023
  • By Mitch Todd, product marketing manager, NICE

How Technology Is Fueling a Change in Mindset About Workforce Management

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Rapid-fire digital advancements and evolving employee expectations are moving businesses out of the “age of micromanagement” and into the “age of agent empowerment.” This is a sea change for many contact centers, where managers have traditionally relied on key performance indicators, or KPIs, to keep a close eye—and a tight rein—on agent performance. 

In today’s more enlightened era, businesses are empowering their contact center agents to monitor their own KPIs and manage their own performance. As they do, they’re finding that when you improve the agent experience by giving customer-facing employees information, choice, and power over their own job experiences, superior customer interactions result.

There’s a growing acknowledgement that agents are capable of managing their performance as well as their schedules. In the post-pandemic era, employees demand more opportunities for career advancement and greater flexibility in their schedules, and evolving technology is enabling businesses to deliver on these new imperatives.

Agents now have a variety of tools at their fingertips to self-manage themselves and their schedules.  Modern workforce management solutions are increasingly incorporating effective employee engagement tools that give on-the-go agents -access to:

  • KPIs. By empowering agents with anytime, anywhere mobile access to their KPIs, you make them partners not only in managing their own performance but also in the scheduling process.
  • Flexible scheduling options. With robust employee engagement tools that allow agents to easily request schedule changes, including extra hours, time off, voluntary time off, self-swaps, and shift trades with their peers, contact centers can provide the agility agents demand without manual intervention.

So how does employee empowerment translate into higher-performing agents and superior customer service? Let’s consider two contact center KPIs related to agent efficiency:

  • Average handle time, or AHT. How long it takes an agent to complete an interaction. Many contact centers closely monitor agent AHT because they want to reduce call wait times and improve customer satisfaction.  Shorter AHT can also signal that agents are operating more efficiently.
  • After call work, or ACW. The time agents spend on any tasks they have to complete after an interaction with a customer is done. Whether it’s dispositioning a call, entering information into a CRM, or sending a follow-up email to the customer, ACW provides the necessary context to ensure that your customer has a good experience the next time they interact with you. ACW is also time-consuming and often tedious, however, and it consumes precious minutes your agents could be using to talk to customers.

By allowing agents to continually monitor and improve their performance, self-management becomes ingrained in everyday workflows and saves managers valuable time. A few key steps can help you empower agents and contact center teams to ensure that an agent’s time is both productive and efficient:

  1. Set targets for AHT and ACW: There is no one-size-fits-all target; appropriate AHT and ACW targets depend on many factors, such as service level goals, the business sector, internal processes, and call complexity.
  2. Train agents to understand AHT and ACW, how they relate to each other, and how they impact service levels and customer satisfaction. ACW is a major component of AHT—if you shorten ACW, you also shorten AHT. Luckily, employees have a great deal of direct control over their ACW.
  3. Communicate the AHT and ACW targets to contact center teams. Everyone in the contact center should be pointed in the same direction.
  4. Give agents the tools they need to monitor their AHT and ACW. This could be a browser-based dashboard or a simple smartphone app.
  5. Give agents permission to manage their AHT and ACW. This not only empowers agents but also frees up contact center supervisors to focus on other, higher-value tasks.

AHT and ACW are just two examples of how empowering agents to self-manage their work and schedules can improve the efficiency and service of your contact center; these principles hold true for everything from customer satisfaction goals to scheduling agility and more. Regardless of the metric, workforce management solutions with effective employee engagement tools can drive employees to take their performance to the next level.

Micromanagement officially died during the pandemic, experts across industries have observed. Success in the increasingly digital modern era requires empowering employees to manage themselves. By taking a technology-first approach to agent empowerment, businesses can exceed service level and customer satisfaction goals and position themselves for continuous improvement.

Mitch Todd is a product marketing manager at NICE, where he develops and executes product marketing strategies and content for Workforce Engagement Management (WEM) products. With over 10 years of experience at NICE, Todd focuses on sharing best practices with contact centers to provide exceptional customer service while empowering agents.

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