What is WFO?
Workforce Optimization (WFO) is a business practice that focuses on increasing efficiency and improving workforce performance. It is most prominent in contact centers where technologies are integrated to enhance customer experience and maximize overall operational efficiency. It involves the automation of processes and data visibility to solve staff-related business challenges.
WFO vs WFM
Workforce optimization (WFO) and Workforce management (WFM) are used for workforce utilization and sometimes interchangeably. Workforce Management, however, focuses on scheduling and increasing employee productivity to ensure work environments such as contact centers are adequately staffed.
Workforce optimization is instead focused on increasing contact center staff productivity, quality, and efficiency to maximize service offerings. It addresses things like staff training, development, and work quality.
Workforce optimization technology is used by call center managers to better supervise and govern staff activities while improving performance and efficiency. It helps to monitor call quality, evaluate and automate processes, and measure various metrics to ensure optimal productivity.
Technology in this area can also be used side-by-side or integrated with other contact center infrastructure software like help desks and live chat tools.
Process evaluation and optimization solutions
- Call routing technology like Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems automates how incoming and outgoing calls flow, using recorded greetings and menus to field commonly asked questions.
- Workflows are handled by a workflow management system (WfMS) which streamlines call center call processes to optimize efficiency by determining priority and paths required to ensure calls are handled correctly. It can notify call center staff about their tasks that needs to be executed within a process.
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology are typically referred to as ‘bots’ that automate human tasks. It can be applied to many business functions to handle repetitive tasks that require little human judgment.
- Average Handling Time (AHT) measures the average time to complete a transaction. A call center would measure from the initial customer contact through to hold times, talk time, to the end of the call. It might even measure how many calls it took to resolve an issue.
Self-service tools/platforms for customers
These platforms or portals allow customers to access information and complete tasks without customer service staff. Many of these platforms offer customers 24/7 access to find information or solutions to issues.
Automation systems partnered with AI to offload repetitive work
Customers tend to have the same or similar questions or requests, and these can be more efficiently resolved using Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools such as these:
- Software engagement analytics help companies gain greater visibility into how customers use their products or services based on past interactions. This helps to make data-driven decisions that achieve better outcomes—both for the consumer and the business.
- Predictive analytics uses past data to predict future decisions or actions. Businesses around the globe are recognizing the need to adopt predictive analytics platforms to improve customer experiences.
- Speech-to-text technology such as natural language processing (NLP) uses algorithms to convert spoken words to text. Bots can recognize formal or casual phrases and then direct users to the relevant solution or even auto-populate fields in the system.
- Customizable/no-code platforms allow users to develop new applications or workflows without learning or writing code. These platforms offer an alternative to hiring a dedicated developer or investing in static, pre-built software.
- Dashboards are powerful management tools that create company-wide visibility. These behind-the-scenes views can be customized base on roles and permissions to provide the relevant information at a glance.
Deploying workforce optimization technology can be done on-premise, in the cloud, or in a hybrid combination. The deployment process will depend on which of these methods is used.
- On-premise deployment takes place within a company’s office. The company’s IT department or consultants work through the deployment, but the vendor supplies the hardware, all of the infrastructures, and hardware support.
- Cloud deployments offer more scalability and enable businesses to bypass laying out large amounts of capital. Instead, they only pay for the use of an external vendor’s infrastructure, which can be adjusted as their needs change. The vendor typically provides support and security.
- Hybrid deployment means companies can have some software infrastructure on premise and some through a cloud-based software provider. This hybrid approach can be a comfortable and accommodating option, especially when it comes to customization and security.
Quality Management in WFO
Quality Management can be automated to ensure staff adhere to rules. Automation can perform quality checks based on input parameters to confirm if call center representatives meet compliance and other operational guidelines. WFO or WFM platforms can have built-in quality assurance. External quality management platforms can also connect to WFMs.
Future-Proofing the Workforce
As a result of COVID-19, 76% of customer service and support functions have 80% to 100% of their staff working from home. And 89% of service leaders forecast 20% to 80% of their workforce will still be working from home two years from now.
As more companies adopt a hybrid office model, technologies like WFO systems will become a crucial part of digital adoption strategies in the years ahead—with signs of accelerating well into the future.
Updated: March 02, 2022