It’s never been harder for organizations to predict service case volumes, and to ensure the right agents with the right skills are on the right channels at the right time. As a result, many — including Salesforce — have rethought how they run the contact center and approach workforce engagement.
According to Salesforce’s “State of Service” report, 20% of service professionals stated their organizations excelled at forecasting demand, and 22% felt their organizations excelled at staffing to meet case volume.
At Salesforce, we built our own workforce management solution, Workforce Engagement, during the pandemic to help us better forecast demand to handle case volume. And my team of 2,800 support engineers — that’s what we call our service agents at Salesforce — got to be the pilot customer.
Salesforce Workforce Engagement combines case routing, demand forecasting and planning, shift scheduling, and agent training in one integrated platform. The solution is connected to the complete view of the customer’s interactions with a business to help deliver the right agent, with the right skill, at the right time with intelligent omni-channel support. This integrated approach has never existed before, and it’s something the industry needs right now.
Our team gained insights by using a single platform to forecast, schedule, and train our service workforce. We uncovered four critical capabilities contact centers must have today to meet rising customer expectations.
Providing a great customer experience means meeting customers on their preferred service channel — in a timely manner. Eighty-three percent of customers expect to reach someone immediately when contacting a company, according to Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer” report.
To meet this expectation, contact centers need technology with omni-channel case routing. This allows you to blend your agents across channels, instead of dedicating staffing capacity to each channel. One agent could answer a voice call, respond to several chats, and answer emails all within a short timeframe.
The payoff is that customers get greater channel choice. Contact centers can move away from the old model of fully staffing a primary channel and only offering secondary channels during peak hours. In other words, when contact centers blend agents they can offer more channels for more hours with the same staffing. Since 91% percent of customers say a positive customer service experience makes them more likely to make another purchase, offering channel choice makes excellent business sense.
But to be truly successful, you need real-time flexibility to deploy agents where they’re needed.
Cross-channel demand forecasting and agent scheduling
Many companies still forecast demand and schedule their workforce in silos, by channel or skills, without looking at the big picture. That works, until you want to share or blend your agents across skills and channels, allowing one agent to handle multiple channels and lean into multiple skill sets.
Existing workforce management solutions for scheduling service staff can also be clunky. Managers export data from their CRM or digital channels applications, then import it into their workforce management solution. Next they run and distribute schedules. When something changes, they have to repeat the whole process.
To solve this problem, you need unified visibility into customer arrival patterns. You need to forecast demand across channels concurrently, and schedule agents to meet omni-channel demand. Forecasts must be continually updated to track data patterns and signals as they change in real time.
Our Workforce Engagement solution does all this. We can quickly run forecasts and schedules as needed, or run unique scenarios on the fly amid unforeseen shifts in customer demand or agent capacity. For example, a marketing promotion or product defect that affects demand, or inclement weather that affects agent availability.
A robust forecasting model driven by artificial intelligence (AI) makes the whole process faster and more accurate, allowing organizations to optimize capacity planning to improve the customer and employee experience.
Customer service training for greater flexibility
A flexible workforce may sound great. But how do you equip agents trained in specific areas to work across multiple channels and products? And how do you do it with agents working remotely?
The answer is simple learning modules that agents can do between cases. This helps you expand your capacity. With cross-skilling, you have fewer people specialized in just one thing, and can staff with increased flexibility across schedules and channels.
Upskilling and cross-skilling is paramount for flexibility, and with Workforce Engagement, it’s easy and manageable. Modules from myTrailhead, our online learning platform, are sent to support engineers through omni-channel routing just as cases are routed. Agents can increase their skills during idle time, instead of getting pulled from the floor for all-day training.
Real-time visibility into performance, from anywhere
It is very challenging for contact center supervisors to help agents solve customer issues in a remote work environment.
Workforce Engagement solves for this. At Salesforce, we can see dashboards and contact center performance metrics from within the console or even on a mobile device.
It’s not often you get to build a product in the midst of a dynamically changing business environment. That’s one reason we’re so excited about Workforce Engagement: it was created amid the kind of wild and unpredictable circumstances it’s designed to help you navigate. Workforce Engagement helps you better forecast demand and schedule agents to handle rising case volumes, and also train your agents to meet customer needs. We think you’ll find it as useful for optimizing your contact center today as we have.