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Agent Preferences vs. Shift Bidding – Which to Choose?

How can resource planners achieve the best balance between agents’ wishes for their schedules and the forecasted needs of the contact center? Rebecca Philp, Product Knowledge Manager at Teleopti, weighs up two options on offer.

As the contact-center world moves further and further into an omni-channel environment, the option to automate agent shift preferences is growing, replacing the older bidding systems based on manual scheduling. The question one must ask is: Why is this change occurring? To answer such a query, I will first look at the limitations in sticking to shift bids, and then explore the possibilities on offer with introducing a system that automatically optimizes schedules to agent preferences.

Shift bidding: The potential problems

With Shift bidding, contact centers can release the schedule of shifts on offer and agents can then bid for the shifts that they want, entering how much they would like to be paid for working those hours. At the end of the process, shifts are awarded, typically to those with the lowest bids (and the highest KPIs). Though the process is good for initiating agents’ involvement in building their schedules there are a few issues that will crop up time and time again:

Time consuming (with often little end improvement)

Using shift bids takes weeks upon weeks to execute, and in most cases, the schedules created are very similar to the ones that were in place before the bid. A lot of work for little gain.

Fixed and ill-fitting

Shift bids fail to account for the constantly changing landscape of contact-volume forecasts and, once a shift bid ends, it can cause the contact center to be locked into a set of schedules that allow for almost no flexibility, a problem for both the agent and the center. If a shift bid is designed around the first week in September, how does that solve scheduling issues in the third week of November? Equally, a locked-in schedule won’t work for many agents as they often work in contact centers as a second job, wanting the flexibility to fit shifts around other things in their life.

Stress for agents

Agents care first and foremost about their schedules and getting the right number of hours at the times that work best for them. If management is making them worry about their livelihood, then this will cause them to lose focus on the job that they are employed to do.

Overtime expenses

Just as the “best” shifts will end up with the lowest pay per hour, the “overtime”/unpopular shift times will have to be filled by paying agents at a much higher cost, causing payroll costs to rise. Furthermore, those agents who have to work the less favorable hours, might be being paid more but a “bad schedule” could leave them feeling tired and demotivated. In the long run, if agents are performing poorly, the company won’t reach their service level targets.

Agent Preferences: The strengths

Agent Preferences is an automated system that lets agents enter their preferences for shifts and days off for each day of the week of the upcoming scheduled period by choosing the desired shift category (e.g. early, daytime, late) or day off. There is no monetary bidding involved but agent-rank tiers can be brought in to determine what percentage of preferences agents receive in their schedule e.g. 80% for third tier agents and 100% for top tier agents. Using this option, there are multiple benefits on offer:


Firstly, while traditional shift bidding requires contact centers to undergo a bidding process only several times a year – taking weeks to complete each time – an ongoing agent preference system gives agents the freedom to continually request desired scheduling. Imagine being able to enact “mini-bids” every week, without any extra effort. Each mini-bid is specifically targeted to that week’s forecast.

Secondly, an automated Agent Preferences tool is responsive to the growth and evolution of the customer-service industry, rather than restraining it. While the cumbersome process of shift bidding makes it easier to only work with single-skilled agent groups, Agent Preference offers an easier, ongoing process that can work for multi-skilled, multi-channel contact centers.


The system also allows users to define metrics and weighted measures for ranking agents, typically by using performance metrics from built-in gamification features or from quality scores, or a combination of both. This process will guarantee that the highest performing agents will get most of their preferences awarded.

In addition, resource planners can set business (/service level) requirements so that the company’s customer-service needs are never overlooked.

Motivation and empowerment for agents
  • Motivation - The frequency of “mini-bids” with this Agent Preferences system means that agents no longer need to feel locked-down or demotivated by shifts that are set for months on end. Instead, having this strategy of frequent preference iterations ultimately motivates agents to think: “If I’m a top performer, I need to maintain that level if I want to keep my shift-preference rank. But, if my performance is poorer, I don’t need to be too upset since I’m not trapped in this schedule for the next few months. I can work towards a better shift in just a few weeks.”
  • Empowerment - In keeping with Teleopti’s own focus on agent engagement and empowerment, Agent Preferences (through a self-service portal) allows agent input on how and when they’d prefer to work. When scheduling time rolls around, the intelligent optimization engine kicks in and balances business needs with agent preferences.

As I said in my previous point, this fairness is found in regular ‘mini-bids’ and realistically balancing agent wishes with forecasts. Equally, unlike shift bidding, it doesn’t favor those that can afford to work at a lower cost per hour.

The closing balance

At the end of the day, Agent Preferences is an automated system that Teleopti offers and believes in, yet for a single-skilled contact center looking to set schedules for months at a time, sticking to shift bidding is perhaps the optimal option. However, for a multi-channel contact center working with multi-skilled agents, constantly adapting to consumer needs whilst satisfying employees, Agent Preferences seems, at least to me, to be the best way forward.


Publish Date: June 21, 2017 5:00 AM

Flexible working; a 3-point plan for time-off-without-pay, zero and reduced hours in contact centers

Zero and reduced hours, time-off-without-pay (TOWP) could be the answer when it comes to flexible working but how will it work in practice? Per-Arne Karlsson, Technical Director APAC at Teleopti, shares a simple 3-point plan

Flexibility in contact centers means many things to many people. It usually means making life easier for agents, enabling them to strike the all-important work/life balance.  Or, it can apply to the automated technology that makes flexible working possible.  Most recently, another meaning has emerged that focuses on the growing trend for companies to increase their business agility by introducing flexible or reduced hours working contracts.

As we all know, organizations everywhere continue to face the reality of squeezed budgets.  In a race to cut costs, it’s easy to see how the concepts of zero or reduced hours contracts and offering time-off-without-pay (TOWP) are an attractive commercial proposition.

Permanent contracts translate into higher costs for employers in terms of increased insurance contributions, holiday and sickness pay, pensions and statutory redundancy payments should times get really tough.  The new flexible ‘Pay-As-You-Go’ approach to employing staff means just that – employers only pay for the hours worked with the added bonus of not being legally obliged to offer all the other extra benefits on top.

Flexible working contracts are particularly appealing to industries with seasonal peaks and troughs or in sectors such as insurance, financial planning and even shopping channels, where periodic spikes in the weather, stock market surges or the demand for products promoted in short bursts are uncontrollable and often unpredictable.

This new take on flexibility makes perfect operational and business sense, but just how can you introduce the right flexibility strategy if you don’t know how volatile your demand is? That is the common conundrum faced by organizations today.  How do the contact centers supporting them ensure that enough agents are in the right place at the right time and then keep them motivated to meet fluctuating customer requirements and service levels?  Here is a three-point plan to keep you on track.

1. Understand the psychology of work

People like to be busy knowing they are offering a worthwhile service that is valued by their employers.  Otherwise, they would prefer to be anywhere but at work, even if they are not paid.  Nothing is more demoralizing or frustrating than wasting time sitting around waiting for a customer to call.

Zero hour contracts, where staff work when their employers need them, would appear to be the obvious answer.  However, they have sparked a great deal of controversy and are sometimes viewed as an opportunity for unscrupulous employers to exploit staff during times of high unemployment.  The truth is there are both pros and cons to this type of employment.

Despite the obvious negatives of no fixed income, being constantly on-call without any guarantee of work and feeling undervalued, the positives that zero hour contracts present are flexibility, more free-time, the chance to develop new skills and the freedom to find permanent work are real incentives for people to take the conscious decision to avoid permanent roles.

The biggest challenge appears to be for contact center leaders who fear losing their star performers and attracting the best new talent if they cannot offer a full-time permanent contract.  This is where guaranteed minimum hour contracts can help.

2. Take the middle ground and include time-off-without-pay (TOWP)

The risks of flexible working and reduced hour contracts can be mitigated by following the safe middle ground. This is particularly relevant in environments where demand can be very unpredictable, for example during charity appeals, special offer advertising or 24hour shopping channels.

In contact centers of this type, demand depends on a number of factors such as viewing figures and demographics, the popularity of a presenter and the unpredictable demand for hundreds of different products.  Even the weather plays a part, are people out enjoying a warm day or watching their TVs?

One option to maintain flexibility but reduce costs is to introduce minimum hours contracts that offer a fixed yet flexible number of working hours per week, say from 12-20, combined with ‘Time off without pay’.  While it might sound ridiculous, TWOP can be very popular.  Why?  It is a win, win situation because managers can better control staff costs and meet customer demand while agents, though not paid for time off when not required, are guaranteed an income and the opportunity to devote more time to their home and social lives without having to ask for it! Give it a try and watch the queue of potential applicants grow.

3. Look beyond scheduling

Introducing flexible working contracts is definitely an important step forwards, but it doesn’t quite overcome the problem of enabling quick-build schedules to accommodate these new contracts. To maximize flexibility, choose Workforce Management (WFM) technology which includes a mobile app to support agents updating their availability to work at certain times/days in advance.  The secret then lies in constantly adapting to change by conducting “what-if” scenarios using the latest WFM solutions.

A well-considered flexibility strategy combined with technical innovation offer a failsafe route to success and improved work/life balance for agents with minimum hour’s contracts.  Also look out for WFM solutions with Real-Time Adherence (RTA) capabilities embedded in their DNA.  These include the ability to:

  • issue email or SMS notifications to people with the right skills to check if they can work at short notice and so plug in any gaps
  • monitor agent adherence to schedules and compare them with the live ACD status - wherever you are using a variety of desktop, tablet or mobile devices
  • flag up when schedules are in danger of being breached with automated alarms
  • offer real-time data feed, updated in seconds, to enable fast decision-making and action to be taken.

Take control of this new world of flexibility by understanding the psychology of work, then use this knowledge to introduce flexible working contracts underpinned by technology that goes beyond simple agent scheduling.  There’s no better way to release the full potential of your contact center and your overall business.


Publish Date: June 12, 2017 5:00 AM

Consultative approach to WFM drives long-term contact center success

One of the biggest problems many companies suffer from is the lack of awareness about the extent to which WFM software can help them in their daily work. Instead, they approach WFM like a play station: they plug it in and start playing with it, stopping short of ever realizing the software’s full potential. Why is this? It is because the technology providers who sell WFM software seldom have awareness of this either – often the case if their line of expertise is not WFM per se. With WFM representing the single, biggest cost-cutting tool available to a contact center, one must get around this.

So, how to get around this? The way to do this is to properly adopt a consultative approach; not just during the implementation stage but also during pre- and post-implementation. As a WFM expert and provider, we believe you should know what a consultative approach truly entails and apply these investigative tactics in the pre-sales and sales stages.

From the start, you don’t just buy a box; you buy a solution. This involves doing a thorough examination of your current environment. Talking to supervisors about how they manage their teams, what they look for and what they should be looking for. Sit down with contact-center agents to listen to them describe how they do things. This may include mundane tasks, such as requesting schedule changes or vacation.

More often than not, an investigative approach uncovers issues or problems that customers are not even aware of. You can uncover if your center is achieving its objectives, handling time targets, occupancy targets, average speed of answer targets, etc. Often, under-performance has improper staffing levels at its root. What it comes down to is miss-utilization of the workforce, frequently a result of manual scheduling, using Excel – seemingly old-fashioned in this day and age.

In fact, a trend we’ve uncovered in talking to customers is that when prospective candidates are going through the interview process and realize that the hiring company lacks a mobile strategy, they decline the job. Agents no longer accept to be stationary, glued to their desks. The expectation today is that almost everything should be carried out from mobile devices – especially scheduling requests and changes. A way to retain staff and counter-act agents from leaving is then to offer mobility. Here again, to get mobility into the system properly requires a consultative approach.

During pre-implementation and implementation, you should be guided in how to configure your solution. Parameters must be managed. For the scheduling side of the equation, each company, city or country may have specific rules about how agents may be scheduled. These rules must be analyzed in order of the employment rules of the place in question. These rules need to be incorporated into the system to ensure agent-schedule production comply with these laws. At the same time, schedules must be produced with conditions that agents find acceptable and satisfactory.

Specific operations or campaigns must be managed; make sure your supplier covers how to adapt to these, as they often demand completely different planning and forecasting. It is extremely important that the best methodologies are available to those users who interpret the data.

Many vendors remain only initially with a customer, supplying a training syllabus that merely instructs which buttons to press. Then they are done and gone when they really should be vigilant about ensuring that business needs are understood and taken into account when configuring the tool. A good way is to  break up the enablement of the tool into various sessions at the customer site, using their data.

After training is officially completed, it is important to do a couple of health check-ups down the road, analyzing the operations to see how things are running and determining if additional consultation or training is needed. Many vendors don’t do this consistently, don’t do this at all or charge for the extra days.

When it comes to providing, or investing in, WFM without a consultative approach, it is generally not successful. For this reason, a number of suppliers have shifted or are shifting their focus from selling WFM solutions to ones that are easier to sell; ones that don’t require a consultative approach.

It is important to keep up with the technology of today and the agents of today – the majority being Millennials and Generation Z. At the end of day, a consultative approach helps mitigate problems from the outset.


Publish Date: June 2, 2017 5:00 AM

Reflections on managing Average Handling Time (AHT).

Hussein Kamel, Senior WFM Consultant at Teleopti, looks at the best ways to work with Average Handling Time. Shorter contact durations cannot be demanded from agents, but instead the AHT must be properly examined, processes adjusted and agents assisted.

When creating forecasts, you are predicting volumes based on historical patterns, seasonality, special events, etc. However, there is also the other elephant in the room: Average Handling Time (AHT). Yet, though AHT merits attention, it rarely seems to get its equal share of the focus in a contact center’s operations. Interestingly, a reduction of 20% in AHT is equivalent to an equal reduction in volume on your overall staffing needs.

Most organizations are looking toward reducing their call volumes through better self-service solutions, social media, and pushing out information to customers. Yet, reducing AHT is also a strategy that centers use, and should be using even more, to reduce costs and increase efficiency. It is worth noting that we see a lot of approaches to AHT which offers plenty of opportunities to streamline contact durations. The following key points are general ideas about how to approach managing AHT reduction plans.

Don’t ask agents to consciously reduce AHT: 

Yes, it is necessary for agents to see their AHT so they’re aware of how it is trending, but if you ask your agents to drop from a four-minute call to a target of a three-minute one, they will most probably do so, but at the expense of customer experience. Of course, this does not mean that higher AHT makes happier customers (that tends to be another center legend). However, it means that if agents are thinking they must cut down their call time, they will talk faster, make mistakes, brush off customers, and overall be stressed about how fast they need to hang up and get on to the next call. They won’t be focused on customer resolution or satisfaction. So, how do you approach reducing AHT?

Analyze AHT variation: 

A first step is to create a bell curve analysis of AHT. A bell curve is a tool to measure how much variation there is from the average. AHT will always follow a bell curve pattern with differing degrees of variation. Follow this link for more on bell curves.

For example, let’s assume you have a target of three minutes, and your center is achieving an average of four minutes. You are above the target by a minute. Not good. Once you look at the variation of the data using a bell curve analysis, what do you find? Are most of your agents 30 seconds above or below the four-minute average, with the same percentage of variation from the average? Does the bell shape look tight and uniform? In this case, you see low variation in the data.

Or, are some agents hovering around three minutes, whilst others are up around the five, six or seven-minute mark, thus skewing the data for everyone else to have an average of four? Does the bell shape look loose and spread out? You then have high variation in the data.

Dealing with low variation across the group:

If the data shows you have low variation for the call durations (everyone more or less obtaining the same AHT – say, 30 seconds up or down from the target), and at the same time you are off target, it means the problem is not an issue with the agents, it is rather something at the process level. Granted there will be a few agents at the far end of the curve, but just a few doesn’t matter.

So, how do you move from four to three minutes? It is by understanding which main types of calls have the highest impact on overall AHT, and trying to re-engineer the processes of those calls to make them shorter. Are the systems slow in pulling the data for the call, does the agent need to use “hold” to do something away from the desk, ask permission, find certain information or get approval from their supervisor? Do they have to follow troubleshooting steps that could be made easier? You need to unload baggage from the process itself to make the call simpler, and once you decide on what to change, you train your agents and coach them on the new changes. Once this starts being implemented, everyone begins moving together toward the target the center is required to meet.

Dealing with high variation across the group: 

The other scenario is that you have variation in the AHT data with some agents at three minutes, and others at five, six, seven, etc… Why? For many reasons.

  • Newbies - New agents will take longer to complete calls. This is very normal. Just make sure there is a plan and step goals to get them to target, and that you are evaluating their progress on a weekly basis.
  • Different agent knowledge levels - Some agents know how to get tasks done faster than others and ask less questions. It could be that one group took the full three weeks of new agent training, while the other group received just two condensed weeks because you were losing service level and had to squeeze them through. It happens to the best of centers, but it isn’t recommended. Schedule in extra training to get the agents with lower knowledge levels and competency up to the standards you require.
  • Quality scoring methods are inconsistent among evaluators - There are different people evaluating agent performance and giving varying opinions to agents on how to handle calls, this creates a difference in agent performance. This disparity can be fixed by a solid calibration process so you have minimum discrepancy between how the evaluators think different call types need to be handled. (This will be the subject of a future blog post!)
  • Check hold time - Are some agents using hold time unnecessarily? Perhaps they are using it to take a breather on busy days. Such a phenomenon has been known to happen, and goes back to the above point around the center’s ability to catch such occurrences and give the correct guidance when warranted.

A good question now would be, what if, for these agents with high AHT variation, you reengineer and improve processes for calls, just as you would for a center that has low AHT variation? Would that work? Mostly no, since the “process” is already out of control. You need to get agents back in control, and then improve the process.

If, as a metaphor, your agents are soldiers, and supervisors are officers, you cannot ask the soldiers to march from point A to point B, unless they learnt to march together, turn, and follow instructions at the request of their officers! Otherwise, it’s going be a long slow march. In real-world terms, supervisors need to be working closely with agents to see where there are problems and figure out how to get them all up to the same level, whether that is stress management or competency development.

Final reflections

To repeat for emphasis, if you tell an agent to get their AHT down from four to three minutes by next week, most probably she/he will do it, but you are not sure how, and thus you expose your customers to the law of unintended outcomes. This is like asking a chef to make an omelet for 5 people with 2 eggs. You might get one, but you have no idea what else is in there, and it probably won’t taste very good.

Remember, you want to make customers happy as much as you want to be profitable. Happy customers, along with low AHTs, come through a refined contact process and well-managed, well-trained agents.


Publish Date: May 23, 2017 5:00 AM

Time is of the essence – changing priorities for customers and contact centers

When it comes to increasing satisfaction levels and sales, nothing beats making life easy for customers and releasing their most valuable asset - time.  Annica Ronquist, Head of Global Customer Operations and Services at Teleopti explores the options.

Look around you, we all lead busy lives where time is of the essence.  The evidence is clear to see with people rushing to work drinking coffee on the run and travelers on public transport glued to their mobile phones and tablets!  When was the last time you lost track of time and had to go online for a emergency grocery shop because you’d run out of everything in the house?  It comes down to too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

It’s all about time and convenience, therefore the organizations that deliver quick fixes, instant results and customer satisfaction will go on to flourish. Customers are not prepared to wait. Studies reveal that 45% of US consumers are likely to abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. Likewise a popular KPI in contact centers is first call resolution. Put simply, responsiveness and excellent customer service is a winning combination for busy, time poor customers.

What this means for the contact center
Customers now expect contact center agents to have the knowledge and authority to make decisions and fix their problems instantly.  If agents can’t achieve this, customers will go elsewhere.  The lesson is:

  • Invest in training – by self-serving, a banking customer will know how much money is in their account, but when it comes to more complex issues, such as investment advice, they will want a more personalised service. This type of call has longer handling times and requires more highly trained agents to respond successfully, build customer confidence and deliver results.
  • Have a plan B – if customers can’t find what they want online and quickly, make sure you have a back-up plan. Prominently display freephone customer support telephone numbers, enable agents to conduct Web Chat at any point and keep FAQs up-to-date and easy to find.

Bring it all together with the right technology
Technology offers a wealth of features to drive agent productivity and empower them to deliver an efficient service that releases customers’ valuable time.  Consider:

  1. Self-service – according to Professor Steven Van Bellegham in a presentation on SlideShare, around 40% of the 3,000 global consumers surveyed said they preferred to self-serve rather than have human contact with brands. As a result, over 70% of these consumers expected a self-service option to be available on company websites. For businesses, the advantage of self-service means their shop window and shop door are open all hours, every day of the year, without resorting to the expense of additional headcount.
  2. Web Chat - the latest technology solutions automatically flag up how customers want to interact. Switch agents to Chat as soon as the system tells them someone wants a Web Chat.   The beauty of Web Chat is that well trained agents can handle multiple conversations at once leading to faster response times and enhanced customer satisfaction levels.
    Consider introducing a dedicated self-service portal for priority customers including a free Web Chat service – a real competitive differentiator because many mobile providers still charge for freephone telephone numbers.
  3. Chatbots – especially when combined with applications such as Facebook Messenger, can provide anything from automated content like weather and traffic updates, to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications and live automated messages - fast. Customizable greetings mean Chatbots make it possible to offer a more personal, more proactive, and more streamlined customer experience
  4. Omni-channel – you might think you operate a multi-channel contact center environment but make sure communications are seamless and agile to deliver a truly omni-channel experience that is both swift and satisfying.
  5. Integration - with your CRM systems allows agents to track interactions from beginning to end, every step of the customer journey, to deliver a quick and personalized service.
  6. Right place, right time - maximize WFM functionality to estimate accurate forecasts of self-service usage in the future and develop meaningful training sessions to schedule the right skilled agents at the right time to answer those more challenging calls.

It’s time to answer the question: “how do I help make life easier for my customers and give them back their valuable time?” As we all know, time is of the essence – act now to empower agents, deliver a faster, more enjoyable customer experience and boost the bottom line.


Publish Date: May 5, 2017 5:00 AM

Mapping the customer and agent journey in parallel

Mapping the customer and agent journey in parallel

In light of Teleopti’s recent Avaya-partnered white paper, Brandon Rowe explores how the customer-service landscape and the role of the agent must always be considered in parallel. Brandon contemplates the essential need to react to change and nurture the agent’s journey to create exceptional customer journeys.

The world of customer service has massively changed and evolved from what it was two decades ago. Gone are the days where an 800 number was the only option for communicating with a company’s customer-service representatives. Now, the customer has multiple media choices with which to interact with a company: voice, e-mail, chat, social media and more. As the 2017 Global Customer Experience (CX) Benchmarking Report found, the percentage of voice calls handled by agents in contact centers decreased from 65.7 to 57.7% between 2015 and 2016. To keep pace with this digital transformation and provide optimal service across all touch points, the management of agents equally needs to be transforming and evolving.

Rise of self-service
Before considering the management/service agents themselves require now, it is important to first look at the expectations that are set upon them by the customer. As companies offer, and customers embrace, web and mobile self-service options, the reasons for a customer to purposefully interact with an agent have changed.

In last week’s blog, Teleopti’s Head of Global Customer Operations and Services, Annica Ronquist, discussed the rise and opportunities of self-service for customers. There was the example of how, when it comes to banking in 2017, customers predominantly use self-service options for transferring money and checking their accounts. Annica focused more on the positive possibilities for banking with self-service options, but she also touched upon how this has changed the nature of direct communication between banking customers and their customer-service representatives. Nowadays, these direct interactions only happen when there is a problem, meaning, particularly when it comes to money, there is a distressed customer on the other end of the phone/computer in need of expert advice, pronto.

Who is the Super Agent?
This shift in motive for such agent-customer contact, from everyday tasks to problem solving, has created the illusive Super Agent; an agent that has 3 types of expectation on them. In a single contact, the customer expects an agent to know all the steps they have already taken, why they are frustrated, and how to get them an answer in a reasonable amount of time. No pressure.

To help the Super Agent to meet such expectations and challenges, in a constantly changing customer service landscape, contact centers need to be investing in state-of-the-art Workforce Management software.

New tools for new challenges
Competence development can no longer be limited to a supervisor going into a room, listening to live calls and taking notes to later discuss with an agent. Nor is it reasonable to expect a manager with a spreadsheet to adequately juggle multi-skilled agents who are dealing with omnichannel interactions. Five-year old WFM solutions that are still predominantly based on voice and Erlang C models don’t include the necessary updates to accurately forecast, schedule and monitor today’s omnichannel Super Agent.

So, what do these new tools need to include?

Multi-channel readiness – Being ready to deal with multi-touch customer interactions means there are three factors that must be offered in a modern WFM solution.
1. The option to calibrate different service levels according to channel type.
2. An ability to dynamically load multi-skilled agents into the staffing modules so that agents can work on multiple activities and be used for overflow between channels.
3. Overflow automation to know when to switch agents from email to chat, or when it is more important for them to stay on email, based on SLAs (service level agreements).

Expandability to business needs – A WFM suite shouldn’t just offer one-set option that is inflexible for growth and means there is a large degree of wastage in what has been bought versus what is actually used. Instead, the option of add-on modules means a WFM suite can be custom created to business needs; optimizing management capabilities and reducing unnecessary expenditure.

Efficient monitoring – Quality Monitoring systems can now be responsive to certain ’trouble’ criteria - e.g. multiple transfers and unusual length - rather than based on random selection and hours spent on manual analysis by supervisors. Plus, with the rise in online transactions and CRM, screen monitoring is fast becoming the new form of quality control. This helps supervisors to monitor and nurture agent performance in an efficient, multi-channel manner.

An agent-focused approach – Agent preferences provide employees with an active voice in the scheduling progress. Similarly, offering tools such as gamification in the workplace gives agents the ability to engage in a fun, game-like environment that has been shown to not only help lower attrition and boost motivation, but provide real-time insights into their performance without needing a managerial overview. The ability to invest in more and more agent-focused modules ties in with this idea of expanding a WFM solution to fit the needs of the center.

As companies face the ongoing digital transformation of their customer service, a roadmap of how each channel fits into the overall customer journey is needed. There should also be the foresight of what all this means for the agent experience, as their journey is likely always to impact the customer journey.

The key is to help the Super Agent to fly, not flee.

Download Teleopti’s Avaya-partnered white paper with Sheila McGee-Smith ‘Optimizing the Agent Journey to Perfect the Customer Journey’ to explore this subject in greater detail.


Publish Date: April 11, 2017 5:00 AM

Guest Blog: 22 signs you need a (new) WFM solution

Connor Bourke, CEO of Optima WFM, a leading provider of managed WFM services, returns with his second guest blog for Teleopti this week. Connor explores the 22 signs that your company is in need of a WFM solution.

A successful contact center can’t run on uncertainty or guess work. ‘That’s just the way it is’ doesn’t have to be a reason to stay the same and miss the opportunity for improvement. If you have ever said, heard or thought any of the below, maybe it’s time to start your WFM search:

  1. “Hiring decision are based upon gut feel and knee jerk reactions, or simply replacing attrition - not on future forecasts of demand and our ability to meet that demand.”
  2. “Our standard response to missing service levels is to simply hire more staff.”
  3. “I applied for leave, I thought it was approved” or “I am not supposed to be scheduled on Friday” are common explanations for absenteeism.
  4. “I thought I was supposed to start at 9” is a common explanation for coming to work late.
  5. The answer to “How many staff do we require”, “How many did we schedule” or “How many do we actually have on the phone” is “not sure.”
  6. “We can’t explain why the service level was missed on Monday.”
  7. “Our shrinkage, AHT and occupancy targets are based more on guesswork than analysis.”
  8. “Service levels vary greatly within the day and from day to day.”
  9. “Our schedules are determined more by when employees want to work than when they are needed.”
  10. “Some employees love their schedules, others hate them.”
  11. “All our staff are full time because we have never really considered part time staff.”
  12. “Whenever our employees or management ask us to do something different we cannot tell what the impact will be on service levels.”
  13. “Coaching sessions are always being cancelled due to high volume.”
  14. “Whenever we have training or team meetings the call queue blows out.”
  15. “We are always in ‘all hands on deck’ mode.”
  16. “Employees are always complaining that their schedules are being changed.”
  17. “Supervisors cannot coach agents because their schedules are not aligned.”
  18. “We have 3 people on the night shift because that is how many we have always had.”
  19. “We looked at getting serious about WFM - but we feel it is too expensive.”
  20. “We spend all this time on creating a plan but we have no idea if anyone follows it.”
  21. “Payroll is always wrong because we don’t know who was in the center at what time.”
  22. “We paid a lot of money for this software but nothing improved.”

If one or more of the above seem familiar, WFM can provide the solution, one that will cost you less, not more, and will improve the performance of your contact center, as well as improve employee morale.


Publish Date: March 17, 2017 5:00 AM

Harnessing the strength of Teleopti WFM, Part 2: Updating agent information

Once again the blog turns its focus to more technical matters as Robin Karlsson, Technical Lead at Teleopti, offers us the second part in his ‘How best to use Teleopti WFM’s API’ series, focusing on agent information.

In the first blog of this series we showcased how to make the initial connection with the API and how to extract some basic agent information. In this second blog, we’ll introduce the concept of making updates to agent information in Teleopti WFM.

To issue an update you’ll mostly use the InternalService.ExecuteCommand() and send in the appropriate command object. The available commands are grouped in a separate namespace in the CHM reference file provided by Teleopti. Each command will require a different set of input parameters defined on the object itself.

Some of the older modification commands are still available as separate functions directly on each service.

You’ll need permissions to open the People tool for the selected agent if you wish to update that agent’s details. Otherwise you’ll receive a ‘permission denied’ exception. The permissions are changed and granted in the Permissions module in the regular Teleopti WFM client.

To update the email address of an agent we first need to input the details and then issue the update. It can be achieved using a simple query to input the agent into the system using the ID we previously got when inputting the whole team and then modify the email address and send the agent’s profile back to the API.

var organizationService = new OrganizationService();
var agent = organizationService.GetPersonsByQuery(new GetPersonByIdQuery { PersonId = “{892B0DB4-415B-45D8-A61A-3E4DB401AB20}” }).First();
agent.Email = “”;

As you can see, organizationService.GetPersonsByQuery() will return a list of people. However, when we use the query GetPersonByIdQuery it will return either 1 or 0 agents as the PersonId is unique. In the example code above, we anticipate that we’re getting one agent back, but you can of course add a check to reveal whether we got an agent in the response.

Another example is to set values in the customizable, optional columns in People. It requires setting more things in place and using the newer InternalService.ExecuteCommand() to change the values. Please note that the column must exist before you can apply the value. If the column or person doesn’t exist, you’ll get an exception back from the API.

var internalService = new InternalService();
var result = internalService.ExecuteCommand(new SetPersonOptionalValuesForPersonCommandDto {PersonId = “{892B0DB4-415B-45D8-A61A-3E4DB401AB20}”,OptionalValueCollection = new[] {new OptionalValueDto {Key = “ShoeSize”,Value = “42”} }});
if (result.AffectedItems == 1)
//The update of the optional column value was successful

Most of the details in People can be changed in a similar manner. There are also more advanced commands available, for example, ‘modify schedules’ and ‘reflect changes in employment conditions’.

Like for every part of this series you’ll find the sample code on Teleopti’s official GitHub repository available at


Publish Date: March 10, 2017 5:00 AM

Workforce Engagement Management – what does it really mean?

Olle Düring, CEO of Teleopti outlines 3 steps to put the Voice of the Employee at the heart of your contact center

According to world-leading industry analysts Gartner, “organizations need to assess the potential needs, expectations and aspirations of the next generation of employees within their contact centers.  The impact a motivated and engaged employee can have, not just on operational performance but also on the customer experience, should not be underestimated.”  The growing awareness of the strategic role played by staff in customer engagement centers is fast becoming a real wake-up call to the industry.

Traditionally, contact centers have taken a customer first approach to service and relied on Workforce Optimization (WFO) technology to drive agent and operational efficiency.  The seismic shift happening now puts the spotlight firmly on what Gartner refers to as the “Voice of the Employee (VoE)” and is triggering changes in technical innovation.  Welcome to Workforce Engagement Management (WEM) – the next stage in the evolution of WFO – where functionality focuses on placing staff at the center of everything through sophisticated recruitment and onboarding, coaching and e-learning, interaction assistance, task assignment and performance and gamification.

The latest transition from WFO to WEM is reflected in Teleopti’s own journey and the increasing need for a humane focus when managing employees.  Over the past few years, we have added various complementary employee engagement features such as competency/skills management and gamification capabilities to our core Workforce Management (WFM) platform, a move that has not been lost on Gartner.  For the first time, Teleopti has been positioned as a Niche Player in the Gartner 2017 Magic Quadrant for Workforce Engagement Management.  Our customers also value the changes we’ve made and today, 135 of the 800 organisations who use Teleopti have expanded to WEM.

Why now?
You might ask yourself, why now?  Certainly, advancements in automation and self-service are elevating the role of the contact center agent.  The time will come when only the most complex or sensitive enquiries will be handled by agents giving them the power to make or break customer relationships and raising the bar for those looking for a career in customer service.  At the same time, as baby-boomers retire and the next generation of Millennials take their place, the rules of the game have changed.  With higher expectations of career progression combined with a satisfying work/life balance, the quality of the customer experience is often inextricably linked to how organizations engage and motivate their staff. 

Three steps to successful workforce engagement management
Transitioning from simply optimizing your contact center staff to truly motivating and engaging them is easier than you think but will ultimately make a real difference to the overall customer experience.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Where are you now? – Begin by creating a benchmark.  Canvas your staff to find out what makes them tick and how they can feel like respected contributors.  Then, develop a series of objectives and ideal outcomes to put your plan into action
  2. Give agents the right tools – Technology is a powerful enabler.  Give your staff the right tools, the type of employee engagement features that empower them to manage their day-to-day roles effectively and accommodate their own unique style of working as well as the task at hand.  Look out for unique lifestyle scheduling, agent self-service and gamification offerings.  Make successes visual and public, communicate with staff digitally and via social media and coach using methods that work best for each individual
  3. Substance over style – Finally, choose a technology partner that has a track record in providing end-to-end WFM solutions and can use their knowledge, expertise and heritage to help maximise your investment and transition painlessly to a full WEM framework. 

The truth is that WEM is not an option, it is a necessity!  A well-thought out WEM strategy improves operational performance and elevates employee engagement.   Follow these simple three steps to blend customer requirements with the voice of the employee and create your best ever contact center.


Publish Date: February 17, 2017 5:00 AM

Contemplating the 10 key questions of change management, for the contact center and company

Here at Teleopti we realize that implementing our WFM solution, or any, can be a challenging process, because change of any type, even a positive one (which we believe introducing WFM is), can be scary. Whether a company is using WFM software for the first time ever or having to get used to a different WFM solution, understanding the process of change, that it is something that needs time and good management, is essential in making the transition a successful one.

In this blog I shall walk you through ten questions that I think are important to ask when contemplating change in your organization. I will look at what change management really is, along with what handling change well, or badly, means for the employee and the company. In doing this I will consider the value of change management more broadly, but also connect back to what this means for contact centers moving to a new WFM solution.

1. What is change management?

It is important to note that change management is more than just a structural, tick-box way to achieve a change of behavior; it extends past a set time plan. It takes time, transparency, compassion and common sense to lead someone, such as an employee, from their current situation to a desired future state. A big part of this requires clarity and time-taking, and thus the overall process of change management, is the involvement of the people actually affected by the change.

2. Why does a company need change management?

Change happens all the time and the changes are coming faster and faster. As companies grow more and more economical, there is a greater amount of money to spend but it also must be used more wisely. With innovation, everything is progressing at a quicker pace, so changes are happening more regularly, all of which have to be adapted to. Indeed, businesses are undergoing changes at a much higher rate than they did 10 years ago. Simultaneously, the modern customer expects that everything, including their customer service interactions, should go faster, but without any drop in standards. All people, all companies are now in a hurry. The next change is around the corner, so you need to be ready with an environment of acceptance rather than an environment of fear. If change isn’t well managed, then there will be panic and disorder and more time will actually have to be taken making the change happen, costing the company money it should be spending elsewhere.

3. What situations might need effective change management?

There are a range of changes that require thoughtful, effective leadership, both purely within the company, and because of external changes that are affecting how the company operates:

  • Internal changes: Company reorganization; New managers or colleagues; New working methods and systems; Centralization; Expansion. Or, a new WFM solution.
  • External changes: Customer requirements; Digitalization.

4. How do I affect inner change?

There is no difference whether you are trying to affect inner change in the company or inner change in the employees of a company, they are one and the same. The changes that are happening in a company are happening to the employees, and how the employees feel about that change will shape the attitudes of the business and thus whether there is a successful change, or not.

Subsequently, whether talking to management or agents and teams, it is important to discuss change in an understandable, easy way. It is essential to inform and involve employees about a change happening very early on in the process – such as the implementation of a new WFM solution or module – so that the change becomes something natural to them. They will see it as something easy, rather than too big. Failure to involve them makes it something scary.

5. Why are some employees so hostile to change?

People are different, and respondent differently to the same situation, some people are rapid to accept change and others try to push change away, either rejecting or ignoring it. It depends on who they are as a person, their current situation, and what changes they have been through before – those more exposed to change are often the more accepting as it becomes a norm to them. Thinking back on my own history as an employee, the changes that felt the worst and that my colleagues and I responded negatively to were the changes that were badly handled. In a big company, you have HR and Communications departments, but sometimes the structure of working with change is there but not in a tactical, humane way. A well-structured plan might look good on paper, but the communication with the employees is bad, the tick boxes are checked but employees are forgotten. You have to really involve people and talk to them, whether individually or in a group.

Disconnection between managerial decision makers and those that the change truly impacts will incur hostility to whatever change is coming up. Therefore, such key figures (e.g. agents) should be informed, always. Even when there is nothing new happening, just say that, as then they are always being kept in the loop. Silence can give employees the time to imagine the worst, which will spread like wild fire. Best to avoid the Chinese whispers.

6. How quickly can I get through a cycle of change?

There is no set average for a cycle of change, within company or within person. Like any project, the timescale is specific to what needs to happen and dependent on all those involved. Allow enough time and eventually all those affected will accept the change, whether positively or ambivalently, we are curious by nature.

Yet of course you still need to have a set timeline for a change management plan, like any project, with a multitude of activities that include the employees e.g. tutorials and group discussions. These activities really do work, they just need to be scheduled and have the time to happen, let employees have the time to talk – this input can be invaluable. Equally you then have a wealth of advice/possibilities to help the change happen: both the negative and positive feedback. Once you have listened to and worked with that feedback then the change, and its reaction, becomes a lot more positive.

7. What is the difference between project management and change management?

A project can be ‘SMART’ (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound), which is more of a plan of doing things, whereas change management should focus on the people involved in the project. With change management, a timeline exists but there is also the more person-oriented focus of understanding people, and communicating with them. Change management, as well as having set activities, is slightly less ‘measurable’ or ‘time-bound’ as it is also an attitude, so it is ongoing, something that is with the managers and the company all the time.

8. How should change management impact the daily life of managers?

Change management will continually affect managers, during the day, almost all days, as it isn’t limited to set projects that come along, but, as I noted in the above question, a leader needs to have this mentality with them all the time. There needs to be an effort to always communicate with and involve employees, so that you are keeping them ready for any change that presents itself. If people feel they are seen and heard, then they feel positive about the company and their role. This attitude will really make a manager a leader, as those that they are responsible for will want to follow them. Stand behind your employees, and they will stand behind you. Tell them when they are doing well and when they aren’t doing the best that they could – just don’t ignore them and then expect them to be responsive.

9. What action points should I take when trying to implement change?

  • Invite people into the process – set up individual or group activities.
  • Communicate the goal and discuss what it means to the individual, the team and the company
  • Listen - and take actions based on what you hear.
  • Ask questions - get underneath the surface of people’s reactions and feelings. Find out what they need to be committed, and how you can help.
  • No blame – accept all feedback; do not judge it.
  • Don’t promise things you cannot deliver.
  • Create the plans and time to make the change.
  • Communicate – create a continuous dialogue. Provide information/facts and stay neutral.
  • Celebrate every successful step

10. As a project consultant, how do I use change management with Teleopti WFM and its customers?

My primary focus is on project management at Teleopti yet I take the process and attitude of change management with me as I go and meet customers. I make sure to only use it in small ways so as never to offend the customer by telling them how to run their company. After workshops and training I will always say that it is important to quickly communicate what has been done and what the next steps will be, making sure that agents and forecasters etc. are aware of the transition to Teleopti WFM. I give managers examples of this communication and the possibility of taking a small group of agents and creating a project with them, so as to make them ambassadors for the change. I will never force these options, saying “you have to do this or that”, but I offer examples to help them achieve change quickly by involving agents. So far, the customers that I have met and talked about this with have only ever been positive about my examples and approach to introducing the software change.

To conclude, based on these 10 questions and answers, here are the three cornerstones of change management that any center or company looking to implement a successful change (WFM or otherwise) should remember:

  • Participation – All employees need to be to be invested in the process of change, those overseeing it and the people affected by it.
  • Communication – Avoid crossed wires and hostility by making the project as open as possible, keep agents in the loop and involved.
  • Time – Don’t rush a WFM implementation or your employees’ exposure to it, give it time and you will save money and effort in the long run.

If you remember these three things in your daily life as a manager then change doesn’t have to become a huge, intimidating project, but an open conversation.


Publish Date: February 10, 2017 5:00 AM

Harnessing the strength of Teleopti WFM, Part 1: Getting connected to the system, and your team

This week the blog takes a technical turn as Robin Karlsson, Technical Lead at Teleopti, walks us through how best to use Teleopti WFM’s API. This is the first of three blogs from Robin on harnessing the strength of Teleopti WFM for integrations.

In order to create integrations with other systems there is an API available in the Teleopti WFM product. Indeed, some of our customers are already using it for schedule exports or agent synchronization. So as to showcase the possibilities that come with using the API I’ll guide you through a three-part blog series, the first of which will have us establishing a connection with the API and extracting some details on the agents in a certain team.

The second blog post will cover the creation of a small application where team leaders will be able to update some basic details for the agents. The third and last blog post in the series will cover a brand new feature that enables an integration where the schedule information is always up to date.

To be able to connect to the API, you’ll require some sort of client that can understand and talk with web services. The specification of the API is available at an endpoint using a standard called WSDL. I’ll use our demo environment in the cloud in this series, but you can use any environment you might have at hand. You’ll need to have a valid user account for Teleopti WFM to be able to use the functions mentioned further on in this post.

Throughout the blog post I’ll use C# syntax in the example code, but the basic principles are the same for Java or any other client language you want to use.

Firstly, we need to make the reference to the database you’ll be using here display as ‘tenant’ on the result, together with the business units that are available for the current user. That response from the web service call will also tell you if your password has expired or is about to expire when a password policy is in place.

var service = new TeleoptiCccLogOnServiceClient();
var result = service.LogOnAsApplicationUser(“user”,”pw”);
if (result.IsAuthenticated) {
var businessUnit = result.AvailableBusinessUnits.First();
var tenant = result.Tenant;

After the verification that the user’s Teleopti WFM authentication details were fine we need to select the business unit to use further on. As we don’t keep state of users on the server side, the business unit can be altered on each new request. The business unit to work with is included in the header information of every web service call.

Now we’re ready to perform some real operations. In Teleopti WFM we have the concept of groupings of people; some are included dynamic ones, and others are custom created groupings. We will use the included dynamic grouping for business hierarchy. That one will give us all the teams, and the employees within them, that we have access to for a given day. The unique identifier for business hierarchy is hardcoded to be “6CE00B41-0722-4B36-91DD-0A3B63C545CF”. The code below will use that to get a list of all available teams for Today.

var organizationService = new TeleoptiOrganizationService();
var availableTeams = x.GroupPageGroupsByQuery(new GroupPageGroupAtDateQueryDto { GroupPageId = new Guid(“6CE00B41-0722-4B36-91DD-0A3B63C545CF”), QueryDate = new DateOnlyDto { DateTime = DateTime.Today } });

The QueryDate parameter will be used to filter out information that is based on different date ranges. Team membership in Teleopti WFM is based on dates. To get only the teams which currently have the team members that we have access to, we specify the date to search for as today’s date.

To find detailed information about the employees in the given team, we must create a new query using the team information from the query above.

var employees = organizationService.GetPersonsByQuery(new GetPersonsByGroupPageGroupQueryDto { GroupPageGroupId = team.Id.Value, QueryDate = new DateOnly { DateTime = DateTime.Today } });

Each employee is given in the form of a PersonDto object. To see what exact information that includes, you can use the chm-file from the SDK Toolkit provided by Teleopti – or simply use the auto-completion feature in your development environment to check what’s available.

Stay tuned for the next part of the series, where we’ll be updating some basic information for the employees! As will be the case for every part of this series, you’ll find the sample code on Teleopti’s official GitHub repository, available at


Publish Date: January 13, 2017 5:00 AM

Guest Blog: The managed services model – A revolution for the contact center industry

Connor Bourke, CEO of Optima WFM, a leading provider of managed WFM services that offers a combination of cutting-edge cloud-based technology solutions and highly experienced management, discusses the benefits and growth of the managed services model.

What complex and difficult challenges can we in the contact center industry expect to face as a result of the rapid changes our industry is experiencing? More technology choices than ever before are on offer, either via on-site deployment or in the cloud. Offshore and nearshore alternatives are presenting themselves at an increasing rate. New customer contact channels are developing that make customer service outlets a lot more than just “call” centers. In addition, outsourcing vendors are offering more and more options in more and more specialized areas. All of these make it easier and cheaper for both our customers to reach us and for us to service our customers’ needs.

Now a new revolutionary change is presenting itself – the Managed Services Model. Firms have the option of maintaining their own captive contact centers, or setting up new captive offshore centers, keeping the provision of customer service in-house, but outsourcing the highly technical and specialized areas such as technology management, data analytics, knowledge management and Workforce Optimization. Outsourced contact center vendors are able to follow their own business model by concentrating on their core product and sourcing expert talent to manage the support functions.

One of the key areas where this revolution is happening is in the field of Workforce Management (WFM).

Olle During, CEO of Teleopti, predicts that “workforce management as a service will grow quickly” and describes it as “a very attractive offer for contact centers.”

So what are the benefits of managed WFM services?

  1. Access to Talent
    In many markets the industry is growing and changing too quickly for many support functions to keep up. Hiring such expertise and truly staying ahead of the game can be difficult and costly. Managed WFM can give all contact centers access to the industry’s brightest talent.
  2. Economies of Scale
    As mentioned, talent is expensive. Technology can also come at a high price. Both are even more difficult to afford in the small to medium-sized market. Purchasing both technology and expert labor together as a bundled service can allow contact centers to spread that cost and take advantage of significant economies of scale.
  3. Cost savings
    These economies of scale can lead to significant cost savings. Being able to keep your customer contact center on shore but take advantage of offshore labor rates in support areas can lead to even bigger savings without compromising on the quality of service you offer your customers. All of which comes without foregoing the local knowledge and understanding that only onshore call center agents can provide.
  4. Access to Technology
    Maintaining state of the art technology platforms means upgrading regularly, choosing the right supplier each time and spending a lot of time and money, not to mention constantly retraining support staff. WFM as a service means getting access to the latest technology through a service provider that enjoys a strong relationship with technology providers and is able to always stay at the cutting edge. Alternatively, if you have already invested in technology, a managed WFM services provider can offer you expert knowledge and experience in the use of that technology.
  5. Scalability
    Software licenses and WFM staff are generally required on a per-agent basis. However, your staffing levels vary dramatically throughout the year and can be subject to significant spikes, troughs or long-term growth. Managed WFM as a service allows for a degree of scalability that cannot be easily accommodated internally.
  6. Independent recommendations on resourcing
    If you outsource your customer service, particularly to multiple vendors, then determining exactly to what degree your vendors should be staffing can present conflicts. Per-call pricing motivates outsourcers to err on the low side, putting service quality at risk while per-hour pricing motivates them to err on the high side, increasing costs. Multiple vendors will often result in a lack of holistic enterprise-wide planning and real-time management. A provider of WFM as a service will have an objective and holistic view aimed at balancing service levels and cost.
  7. Adopting new channels and new technologies
    As contact centers offer new channels and adopt new technologies they will face new challenges. A manager that has successfully implemented this change for other contact centers can reduce the amount of trial and error.
  8. Experience
    No matter what challenges you are facing in your contact center, you are not the first. Someone else has encountered that problem before and solved it. WFM as a service provider allows you to delve into a wealth of knowledge and experience garnered from numerous industries and clients.

Managed WFM services offers contact centers, whether in-house or outsourced, no matter how large or small a new opportunity, the benefit of technology, expertise and cost savings that would not generally be within their reach. The result of utilizing these opportunities is more efficient contact centers, greater customer satisfaction, higher employee engagement and significant cost savings.


Publish Date: January 5, 2017 5:00 AM

What does ‘uberization’ mean for today’s contact center?

Magnus Geverts at Teleopti explains how to turn ‘uberization’ to your advantage using the latest WFM technology to motivate staff and keep customers happy

The term ‘uberisation’ is fast becoming part of modern language and comes from Uber, a ride sharing app enabled by GPS and mobile technology that has taken the international transportation industry by storm.  Uber owns no cars but is already the world’s largest taxi firm and the concept is catching on with AirBNB, an online accommodation market place which owns no hotel rooms, and Alibaba, an international trade site that carries no stock.

So what does this all mean?

Well, according to learning experts Lumesse, ‘uberization’ is “pushing flexibility up the agenda” with research indicating that “70% of the working population in the UK will be mobile, flexible workers by 2020.”  Today, people want to work their own hours, choose where they work and do so without the restrictions of formal direct supervision in a traditional office setting.

Nothing new but the world of work is finally waking up!
Interestingly, the concept of uberization is nothing new.  Many, smaller service companies have long taken a virtual approach to running their businesses, with people working from home, using technology to connect with each other and relying on a serviced office for the occasional client meeting.  Even the independent contractor model adopted by larger companies to increase their agility has been around for years and could be considered a form of uberization.

So why now?
Through a culmination of thought and circumstance coming together, the concept of a virtual workforce or ‘uberization’ is becoming real.  Original suspicions around home-working where managers dreaded losing control, or feared their staff would become a team of slackers, have largely disappeared.  The popularity of mobile devices and advancements in security make flexible working far more reliable.  Add to this the opportunity to cut costs and remote working make the perfect business case for CFOs looking to get as much value as possible into their tight budgets.

The future is here
Imagine having a pool of people who work for different contact centers at different times and sell their services to the highest bidder,  choosing who they work for and when?  Sounds scary, doesn’t it, but just think of the benefits from a business perspective.

As a contact center leader, wouldn’t you want agents who are available when you need them?   Suppose you had the power to tap into a global sea of talent that might exist in the far-flung reaches of the world, collaborating in worldwide virtual teams?  The right resources in an instant, at the right time and at the right cost!

Putting a price on agent engagement
Contact centers are no longer the modern equivalent of a place for blue color workers.  Agents now have specialist knowledge and valuable customer service and technology skills they can trade.  They know their worth, are dictating their terms and can name their price.

At a recent Teleopti customer conference in the US several speakers made the point that contact centers are no longer the occupation of choice for students putting themselves through college.  Not so long ago the options were either a burger bar or a contact center.  Now, with the growth of online businesses needing delivery drivers, packers and warehouse staff and of course Uber, the choices for part-time and evening work have increased.

Add to the mix the trend for more routine tasks in contact centers dealt with via automation, including tried and tested Interactive Voice Response (IVR) as well arise in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Chatbots there is a stronger case for this new way of working. Only the most complicated tasks will be handled by highly skilled but flexible humans – making agent engagement more important than ever before.

Technology to the rescue
Fortunately, help is hand.  Take advantage of the latest Workforce Management (WFM) solutions to enable:

  • Easy access, anytime, anywhere – agents quickly log into the system from home or on the move to check their schedules, see who they are working with and let their manager know when they are available for work.  The younger generation, in particular, will value using their smart phones to access the system and change their working patterns day-by-day, week-by-week
  • Self Service – agents simply click and choose when they want to work.  Managers might not be able to accommodate every request but agents will receive an instant response, every time!
  • Intelligent resourcing – at the click of a mouse and using historical data, planners can accurately predict how many agents they will need, the skills they require and pick and choose the right team from their virtual pool of talent.  They can even support short shifts or split shifts, something that isn’t always possible in a traditional contact center employing a set number of people at set times of the day
  • Notifications – need extra agents at the last moment? Simply issue email or SMS notifications to people with the right skills to find out if they can work at short notice and so plug in any gaps
  • Adherence – no employees? No problem!  Managers can keep in control of their virtual contact center environment and monitor agent adherence wherever they may be.

There is a growing belief that agents with a greater say in how they work demonstrate higher performance levels that impact positively on customer satisfaction.  But be careful to choose the right virtual agents, find ways to keep them connected and train them extensively.  Finally, support them with WFM technology to make your transition to the world of ‘uberization’ a smooth and successful one.


Publish Date: December 16, 2016 5:00 AM

Turn on the trust to deliver outstanding customer service

Seven strategies for building trust in contact centers from Magnus Geverts of Teleopti

Every year I get the opportunity to meet with hundreds of leaders from contact centers from all over the world. What makes some of them more successful than others? It’s fair to say that processes can go a long way to help deliver outstanding customer service, however they can never make up for poorly trained or de-motivated individuals. The difference between good and great often comes down to employee engagement; your frontline people are the front door to your organization, why not trust them to do their job and deliver so much more?

The truth is that leadership style can be a major obstacle to trust. Of course, managers need to set the overall direction but processes should be there for a reason, rather than the reason for being. Fortunately the latest workforce management (WFM) solutions typically include features to support employee engagement and motivation. For example gamification, real-time communication and agent empowerment help to build trust by introducing some fun and giving agents control over their work-life balance. Mobile apps make it easier for agents to access schedules wherever they may be, again increasing the transparency of contact center operations and allowing for timely feedback, for example to holiday requests. All of these features help to build trust and agent engagement.

Include the seven strategies below as part of your planning for 2017 to unleash the potential within your contact center and release a wealth of positive business outcomes:

Capture the voice of the frontline – agents know your customers best. Why not develop focus groups that give agents regular opportunities to discuss pain points, customer frustrations and how to make the service experience, and even your products infinitely better? Consider putting in place feedback meetings to elicit informal suggestions but make sure you close the loop on all ideas to maintain effective feedback and build morale

Put training higher up the food chain – once you’ve hired the right people, inspire and enthuse them with a comprehensive induction program that covers corporate strategy and culture as well as their day-to-day tasks.

Never under-estimate the power of mentoring. Pair up recent graduates with seasoned professionals. A multi-generational contact center team is a healthy one where all parties learn from each other, keeping boredom at bay, skills refreshed and staff motivated.

Be sure to develop a portfolio of learning styles to accommodate different ages. This can be a mixture of traditional in-classroom training or online and interactive
e-learning and e-coaching delivered during quiet times. People learn in different ways and allowing agents to choose what works for them builds trust and self-esteem.

Set clear targets – and make them visible to everyone. Advanced WFM reporting and dashboards provide a real-time snapshot of employee and team performance against specific contact center Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or customer Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in a fair and transparent way.

Measure the right things – and what is important to you to spot trends and identify any group problem areas rather than one-off events that just make individual agents feel singled out, deflated and demoralized.

Combat stress – nothing is worse than overwork and stress to make staff run for the hills. Maximize the latest forecasting technology to right-size your contact center for the future. Running a series of ‘what if’ scenarios can predict staffing needs for regular seasonal fluctuations like Christmas, Bank Holidays, new marketing campaigns and ultimately your organization’s long-term business plan.

Flexible working – recent innovations in self-service capabilities allow agents to trade shifts, voice their preferences for overtime shifts and request time off. Setting auto-approvals means staff don’t have to wait till the next day for an answer should their managers be out of the office or on holiday themselves.

Elevate the status of the contact center – efficient contact centers staffed by well trained professionals are good for business. Trusted agents work closely with other departments to get the answers and support they need to think outside the box and come up with their own ideas for delighting customers. They have the power to make or break new business wins and keep customers coming back for more. Managers should promote the successes of their team to senior executives to elevate the role of the contact center and gain additional trust and respect.

I believe 2017 is the year when customer service organizations will ditch the command and control approach so often applied in contact centers for one that truly focuses on customer service and trusting staff to deliver it. By adapting the strategies above, you can enjoy the rewards of improved productivity and increased customer satisfaction in one fell swoop.


Publish Date: December 1, 2016 5:00 AM

Maximizing the potential of multi-generational contact centers

Tommy Palomäki at Teleopti says it’s time to embrace the multi-generational revolution by attracting, nurturing and retaining the brightest contact center professionals, whatever their profile

According to the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), “for the first time in history, our workforce is comprised of four generations, and that will jump to five by 2020!”  Many headlines talk about engaging Millennials, who are typically between the ages of 18 and 35.  Admittedly, they account for almost 50% of employees today, but what about the other half of the working population?  High performing companies excel at attracting and retaining the brightest, most passionate people, inspiring them with a common culture, whatever their profile or age.

Each generation comes with its own unique perspective on the workplace and shares different career aspirations.  Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 typically prioritize work over personal life, whereas today’s Millennials demand a high work/life balance, are confident and expect immediate recognition and rewards.

For today’s contact center leaders, this presents an exciting, albeit challenging, conundrum. Creating a successful multi-generational contact center lies in harnessing the unique talents of every age-group. Don’t delay!  Here’s a five-point plan to put you on the right track.

Re-think your training environment – what appeals to the younger generation might not bring out the best in experienced, more mature individuals. Be sure to develop a portfolio of different learning styles, a mixture of traditional in-classroom training and online or virtual sessions including the latest gamification techniques.

Pair up recent graduates with seasoned professionals.  That way, both parties benefit as Millennials have the opportunity to explain their intuitive understanding of the digital age while learning valuable skills that only experience can bring from their older colleagues. Meanwhile, in an age where those approaching middle or retirement age can feel left out, mentoring can boost self-esteem and make them feel valued.

Keep staff motivated – once good team-work is in place, it can be marred by an inequitable approach to goal-setting, appraisals and rewards. Make the most of advanced workforce management (WFM) reporting and dashboards to provide a real-time snapshot of employee and team performance against specific contact center key performance indicators (KPIs) or customer service level agreements (SLAs) in a fair and transparent way.

Similarly, use automation to make life easier and more interesting for contact center agents.  Simple tasks such as brochure fulfilment and utilities meter reading can be handled by technology, leaving staff with time to devote to complex enquiries or the chance to turn around unhappy customers by delivering a personalized service.

Everyone wants to feel involved, whatever their age.  Create a work environment where agents feel part of everything from the company mission, to their fellow team members and the customers they serve.  Actively gain their feedback for important decision-making through regular focus groups, where management listen but don’t necessary speak.

Introduce the latest gamification features to motivate employees, provide a forum for sharing top tips, encourage healthy competition and reward individual and team performance in a fun environment.

Social media – love it or hate it, social media is here to stay and the whole contact center needs to understand it and make it work.

Think age before beauty!  Don’t fall into the trap of using your youngest team members to deal with social media enquiries.  Older staff are more likely to have well-honed customer service skills and in-depth knowledge of your organization’s products.  Social media can be learnt in a matter of weeks; years of experience take far longer!

Flexible working – think technology and place, as well as working hours. The benefits of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) scheme may mean your tech-savvy younger generation flourishes with multiple apps, working from more than one device and in various locations.  While at the same time, mature workers will benefit from the use of technology they know and trust.

Using self-service, agents are empowered to control their own schedules, select breaks and lunches, swap shifts, and request time off with immediate feedback from their manager.  This means that older members of staff, for example, might apply for earlier start times while the younger members recover from their nocturnal social whirl and will perform at their best later in the day!

Work closely with Human Resources – contact center managers should work with HR to build an environment that makes them the employer of choice for all generations with clear career paths and continuous training, a real competitive differentiator. Benefits shouldn’t just be financial.  Is the office warm enough, are the chairs comfortable?  Perhaps you could offer a free breakfast every day, birthdays off and plenty of social events, including funding for different groups i.e. cycling, singing etc. to make everyone feel connected.

Nothing is worse than overwork and stress to make staff head for the hills.  Maximize the latest forecasting technology to right-size your contact center for the future.  Running a series of ‘what if’ scenarios can predict staffing needs not just for regular seasonal fluctuations like Christmas or upcoming new marketing campaigns; they can strategically support your organization’s long-term business plan.

The rewards of developing a slick and success multi-generational contact center are exponential:  enthusiastic staff, lower attrition levels and recruitment costs, happier customers and healthier profits.


Publish Date: November 18, 2016 5:00 AM

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