Contact centers are the primary channel by which many businesses interact with their customers and are thereby the true hub of the customer relationship. Every contact center, no matter the size, has resources focused on answering calls and possibly on responding to chat conversations and emails in as timely a manner as possible, and often within defined service-level guidelines. How each interaction is handled is critically important to sustaining customer relationships. A center's ability to respond to each customer interaction is largely based on how well management balances workload with workforce to optimally meet service objectives while minimizing costs. Execution of this balancing act is a critical factor in achieving and maintaining a desired customer experience, as well as hitting bottom line financial objectives.
For many contact centers the most important workforce management (WFM) metrics include lowering the cost of service delivery, increasing revenues, achieving higher and more consistent service delivery, increasing agent productivity, reducing operating expenses and administrative time, optimizing scheduling, improving intraday management, and increasing agent adherence. These are just some of the metrics that are addressable with WFM, but how they are prioritized, addressed, and measured is completely dependent on the environment, which is why WFM tools, processes, and metrics cannot be "cookie-cutter."
At the highest level, the majority of contact centers fit into one of two primary categories: profit centers or cost centers. Profit centers generally have different business objectives than cost centers and therefore require different workforce management metrics. As its title suggests, a profit center is typically focused on and measured by its ability to generate revenue, drive renewals, and position new or related products and services, thereby maximizing profits.
On the other hand, a cost center is more operationally focused and often serves as a customer service arm or technical support function. Therefore, one of the primary business objectives for a cost center is to minimize cost while achieving contracted or desired service levels.
Even within the same category (i.e., profit or cost) the ideal metrics can vary substantially between centers based on the organizational business model and objectives. So, although profit centers generally share the same objective of increasing revenues, they often do not share the same "metrics that matter." For example, an upscale, highly brand-conscious retail store that prides itself on delivering a world-class customer experience has different WFM objectives than an office supply store known for delivering less frills, but the most competitive prices. Thus the metrics by which their performance is gauged should be different.
The upscale retail store is not going to rank lowering the cost of service delivery as a top WFM metric. Instead, it will want to ensure that each customer is receiving the highest level of attention and service from each agent and will err on the side of overstaffing so that a consistently high-quality customer experience can be delivered without exception. Instead of being concerned with reducing average handle time (AHT), the retail store will instead be interested in metrics such as customer satisfaction, response time, and revenue per call, and will gladly accept an elevated AHT to achieve high marks in the other measured categories.
In contrast, an office supply store known for delivering competitive prices should have very different WFM metrics. For an office supply store profit center, average handle time may be a more important WFM metric, since its business is largely driven on lower margins and higher volume sales. The office supply profit center needs to focus on revenue per call, but also much more closely balance that with agent efficiency and cost reduction considerations. The office supply cost center customers likely have different expectations on factors such as response time than the upscale retailer customers, so the office supply center will be far more concerned with maximizing the efficiency of their staffing and minimizing shrinkage.
WFM metrics for businesses operating cost centers align more closely to the office supply profit center. Generally, cost centers-whether they are customer service or technical support oriented-will be most concerned with WFM metrics that concentrate on lowering the cost of service delivery, AHT, increasing first call resolution, agent adherence, and more closely managing staffing to efficiency, versus experience.
Only by taking the time to carefully consider, calculate, and then measure the metrics that truly matter to a business will centers be successful in leveraging their investments in WFM tools and solutions. No WFM technology solution can make those determinations out-of-the-box. Ultimately an organization's effectiveness and return on investment is largely driven by its ability to determine the metrics that really matter and then implement the tools to manage its contact center to those specific WFM metrics.
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About the Author: Jim Shulkin is director of marketing for Envision