Skip to Content
Service

Why Workforce Management Is Key To the Contact Center Future

If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail. Human creativity is critical in the customer service contact center. Planners must address these three things to set agents up for success.

Three people sitting around a conference table on laptop computers.
Workforce management and capacity planning are essential for positive customer service experiences.

Workforce management is the most critical — and complex — part of planning for a contact center. Without it, a work-from-anywhere team feels disjointed and its growth is stunted. Agents stop growing. Managers lack visibility. And, planners can’t plan accurately. 

Getting the customer the right agent, with the right skills, at the right time has a real impact on business revenue. That’s why the right workforce planning model is so important. 

Planners help drive critical data, insight, and decisions. In fact, 91% of customers say a positive service experience makes them more likely to buy from a company again. Companies invest in agents to create a better customer experience: 70% of service employees have received training on how to be empathetic with customers, according to Salesforce’s State of Service report.

In the contact center of the future, human creativity is critical. Agents already see this in their daily work: 77% of service agents say their role now is more strategic than it was two years ago.

In the contact center of the future, human creativity is critical. Agents already see this in their daily work: 77% of service agents say their role now is more strategic than it was two years ago.

“Service is not a cost center; it’s a business builder,” said Simon Walsh, chief operating officer, retail annuities at New York Life. “As we increase our automation and capabilities, service agents can stop doing things like copying and pasting and paper-based administrative work. It allows them to become problem solvers. And if they’re problem solvers, they can build new skills, broaden potential career paths, and create business opportunities for the organization.”

To set your agents up to do their best work — providing incredible customer service — you need the right workforce management plan in place now. 

The three elements of a connected workforce management plan 

Successful workforce management planning for the contact center has three key elements: work, capacity plan, and experts (meaning your service agents and digital assistants). I think of this as the triangle of connected workforce planning — all three sides must connect.

Illustration of a triangle with symbols for work, capacity plan, and experts at each point, and a symbol for skills in the center.
The triangle of connected workforce planning includes work (at the top), capacity plan (on the left), and experts (service agents and digital assistants, on the right). Skills (in the center) make it all work seamlessly together.

Element 1: Your work

Put simply, work is when a customer interacts with your business. 

Thirty years ago, contact centers were simply call centers. Every interaction arrived through the telephone. Today there are more channels and greater complexity. Customer service can mean self-service, where customers find the response to their questions, or AI-assisted through a conversation with a bot or a digital assistant. Or it can be agent-assisted via digital messaging, voice calls, and emails. Work comes in through many different channels: external, internal, automated, and transferred. 

As we increase our automation and capabilities, service agents can stop doing things like copying and pasting and paper-based administrative work. It allows them to become problem solvers.

Simon Walsh, chief operating officer, retail annuities at New York Life

Customers have embraced the range of service options: 74% say they’ve used multiple channels to start and complete a transaction, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report. They’ve embraced digital service: 59% of customers currently use self-service account portals, while another 23% would like to. And 43% use chatbots for simple customer service matters, while 27% are interested in doing so. 

So how do planners capture demand across every source and every channel? With dynamic, intelligent, and continuous forecasting, planning, and gap analysis, you can convert that work demand into an effective capacity plan.

Element 2: Your capacity plan

To build an effective plan, planners need visibility into the complete stream of contact center work. They need to account for agent interactions across channels, bot-based interactions, transfers between agents and bots, escalation between different agents, and asynchronous channels like email. They also need to account for conversations a customer has with a home smart speaker like Alexa or Google Home. 

Planners also need to connect the plan with the company’s business processes. This includes your business rules and policies, and your compliance rules, objectives, and preferences.  

The goal of effective planning is to show your levers for calculating capacity, whether that’s Service Level Agreements (SLAs), agent occupancy, or average speed to answer.

And finally, planning should not be a one-time process, but something that you build,  measure, then adjust. Over time, the goal is to iterate, learn, and improve.

Element 3: Your experts

The third element of your workforce management strategy is your experts. Your service agents are your most skillful experts by far. They’re the people who can respond to your customers with empathy and a strategic mindset — and hopefully retain that customer loyalty in the process. 

But you also have another set of experts on your service team: your digital assistants. The repetitious, less complicated work — tasks that do not require deep human empathy — can simply be answered by bots. This provides space for your agents to spend more time helping customers with complex concerns. It also frees them up for training when they have downtime between customer cases and calls.

To provide a frictionless customer experience, you need to line up a team with the right skills to quickly respond to diverse, dynamically shifting customer needs.

Once you’ve mapped out the experts to execute your plan, you need to use the right routing rules and solutions to assign those experts to incoming work — thus completing the triangle of connected workforce planning.

What powers this transformation? An intelligent and dynamic system with omni-channel routing to break the silos of channels, skills, and regions to help the experts — your service agents and digital assistants — attend to the right customer at the right time. Omni-channel routing connects agents and work, bots and work, agents to agents, and all the other interactions across a contact center.

Skills are at the center of connected workforce management 

We’ve looked at the triangle of work, plan, and experts. But there is a central force at the center of the triangle that makes it all work together: skills. To provide a frictionless customer experience, you need to line up a team with the right skills to quickly respond to diverse, dynamically shifting customer needs.

What are customer service skills? 

I define them as the intersection of knowledge and ability. Skills are the reason your agents can do their jobs. They’re also important to account for when planning. 

Planners need access to a unified inventory of all the work to be done and all the skills available to do it. This visibility allows planners to build a capacity plan and shift schedule that gets the right work to the right agent at the right time. With this level of visibility of the whole picture, you can blend your agents across channels and across skills for maximum utilization.

What if agents don’t have the right skills to meet evolving customer demands? 

Real-time microcoaching is the answer. With Salesforce Workforce Engagement, you can deliver short learning modules to agents via myTrailhead, our robust learning platform. Agents can complete knowledge modules and skill up based on their schedule availability. 

To provide a seamless customer experience, you need to connect the work, plan, experts, and skills in your contact center. Workforce Engagement’s powerful combination of omni-channel routing, intelligent demand forecasting, omni-channel planning, human-centric agent scheduling, and agent training, all in one integrated platform, can get you there.


Poorvi Shrivastav is a senior director of product management for Service Cloud. Shrivastav has more than a decade of experience leading global product and engineering teams. She has launched products and teams across the Service Cloud business, and she is now scaling emerging products. She’s also part of the team driving Salesforce’s Associate Product Management Program, and advises startups as part of Salesforce Ventures.

More by Poorvi

Related Stories

Astro

Get the latest stories from The 360 Blog, every week.

Get the latest stories from The 360 Blog, every week.

Enter a valid e-mail address
Select your Country
Select a state
Please read and agree to the Master Subscription Agreement

Yes, I would like to receive the Salesforce Weekly Brief as well as marketing communications regarding Salesforce products, services, and events. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Salesforce values your privacy. To learn more, visit our Privacy Statement.