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December 17, 2009

Q&A with Interactive Intelligence on WFO

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor

Workforce optimization (WFO) is hot especially when connected to performance management because it enables improved contact center operations and results, leading to cost savings and enhanced customer loyalty, and sales. These tools identify for supervisors where agents can tighten up their productivity and schedule the means such as coaching and e-learning to achieve this.

Interactive Intelligence has long been known and recognized for its innovative IP-based multichannel contact routing inbound and outbound solutions. Yet it also provides, among other features, highly effective quality monitoring and reporting and (WFO) tools. Its Interaction Optimizer product “optimizes effectiveness and achieves service goals in multi-channel contact centers from 25 agents to thousands,” says the firm. All of these functions are integrated on its Customer Interaction Center platform.

TMCnet recently caught up with Troy Plott, product manager for Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert), to discuss WFO trends. Our exchange follows:

TMCnet: Describe the relationship between contact center performance and workforce optimization. How does and how can WFO methods drive performance?

Plott: Workforce optimization (WFO) is a critical component in overall contact center performance. WFO typically includes workforce management (WFM) and quality management (QM) programs and in some cases may also include performance management (PM), speech analytics, surveying, coaching, and e-learning programs.

Depending on the size of the contact center some or all of these components are necessary to drive success, and the larger the contact center the more critical the relationship between performance and WFO becomes. WFM programs drive improvements in staffing efficiency and help maintain those improvements over time. QM programs can be used to identify and improve overall quality and customer satisfaction through increased focus on and access to data drawn from internal quality and accuracy measures, as well as customer feedback. PM as a discipline focuses the contact center on business-related goals and objectives through the use of the applications mentioned. PM includes its own views of activities and goals through reports and real-time statistics beyond that of what these other applications provide.
TMCnet: What changes do you see in this relationship between WFO and PM and what is prompting them?
Plott: The relationship between WFO and PM is becoming increasingly important as contact center leaders are urged to improve agent performance feedback and more effectively evaluate its impact on the contact center overall. This urging is due in part to the increased scrutiny of staff expenses and the current economic climate in general. In many contact centers, the largest expense category is staffing.
PM is a critical tool to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness. One example of this is schedule adherence. You can build an optimal schedule but if the agent doesn’t follow their schedule, you will need additional staff to deliver on your service level objectives. If the agents don’t know what their schedule adherence is through some form of PM (e.g. reporting, coaching, etc.) it can add unnecessary expense to the contact center. Another example specific to the current economic environment is in the collections industry where leaders have a greater need to recover more money, thus have started to use PM as a method for improving the effectiveness of collections agents.
TMCnet: What facets of Interaction Optimizer enable performance management and what is new and what is coming down the pike from you with regards to it?
Plott: Currently we have several solutions in addition to Interaction Optimizer that enable PM. These include a supervisory coaching application (Interaction Supervisor), a customer feedback survey application (Interaction Feedback), a quality monitoring application (Interaction Recorder®), and a Web portal/dashboard.
Within Interaction Optimizer, schedule adherence is the most obvious feature that enables PM. Real-time adherence (RTA) provides up-to-the-minute adherence information at the individual agent level which enables supervisors to correct adherence problems in real-time before they impact performance. Historical adherence reporting also provides a view of agent adherence over time and can be used in PM reporting and employee one-on-ones where performance is reviewed.
As for our future releases, the addition of agent schedule preferences with ranking criteria will further expand the relationship between PM and Interaction Optimizer. Supervisors will be able to use performance criteria to determine agent schedules, which can be a powerful tool in improving overall performance. In environments where performance-based scheduling is used, overall performance tends to improve as agents have additional incentive to achieve or exceed their goals for quality, productivity, adherence and other factors.

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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