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  • How AI and automation help contact centers be agile in the COVID-19 era

    960 640 Paul Chance

    By Paul Chance, NICE

    As widespread shutdowns went into effect, contact centers had to make an overnight shift to remote work – a significant undertaking in an industry that has historically relied on physical office spaces to bring together and manage the agents who are critical to solving customers’ needs. Agents and contact center leaders, many of whom were taking their organizations remote for the first time ever, learned and adapted on the go.

    Now, with many organizations starting to make plans for reopening and thinking about how they can adapt to a multitude of different in-office or remote work scenarios, it has become clear that new strategies and technology tools are needed to help contact centers stay agile.  There’s a lot of uncertainty about the future, and contact centers must put the right solutions in place to be able to react swiftly as business conditions change.

    In this environment, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are making nimbleness a reality for contact centers by helping leaders adapt scheduling, planning, hiring, forecasting and intraday management to in-the-moment changes.

    AI-driven workforce management enables more accurate decision-making

    When AI is embedded into workforce management, contact center leaders gain tools that can accurately predict outcomes in a wide range of scenarios and take much of guesswork and time out of lengthy planning and research needs.

    • Long-term and “what-if” planning. With so much in flux today, determining the right staffing levels needed to meet specific KPIs is particularly challenging. AI makes it easy to incorporate a multitude of variables and specific business requirements into long-term planning and empowers contact centers to problem-solve between staffing requirements and performance gaps. Its meticulous predictions increase long-term forecasting accuracy by 6 to 10%.
    • Hiring the right agents. The lack of face-to-face interaction right now adds a new layer to hiring – how can contact centers make sure they’re choosing the right people? With AI embedded in workforce management, contact centers can use voice analysis to objectively assesses candidates’ aptitude, engagement and performance and determine which candidates are likely to be high-value employees.
    • Forecast accurately and effectively. Forecasting typically takes substantial research and knowledge of the contact center as well as deep expertise in numerous forecasting methods. AI-driven workforce management enables managers to focus their efforts on higher-value tasks by assessing which forecasting methods will be the most accurate in a given situation, pinpointing unseen patterns in data and automatically adjusting to new circumstances – ultimately increasing accuracy and efficiency.
    • Simulate real-world scenarios. The downstream impacts of staffing decisions are incredibly difficult to predict manually, but AI and machine learning can demonstrate exactly how changes to on-hand agent skills, call prioritization, routing and other variables impact service levels.

    Automation makes real-time contact center schedule changes possible

    In today’s rapidly changing business environment, customer demand can change in an instant – and so can the available pool of agents. Automation empowers contact centers to simulate impacts on KPIs throughout the day and several weeks into the future, after the schedule is published. It enables automatic adjustments to meet customer demand without overstaffing or understaffing.    

    • Fix staffing gaps. As staffing needs change throughout the day, automation within workforce management solutions identifies variances that lead to overstaffing and understaffing. It then brings staffing in line with contact center business needs by automatically offering agents shift swaps, voluntary time off, extra hours and more – but only when changes will benefit the business. There’s no need for heavy monitoring or intervention by a manager.
    • Increase agent engagement. Automation enables contact centers to eliminate some of agents’ biggest frustrations, such as missed shift or overtime opportunities, a lack of flexibility in their schedules and slow approval for schedule change requests. This increases agent engagement, a top driver of productivity, which is essential right now given the distractions agents face at home. 

    Whether a contact center is fully remote, working from the office or some blend of the two, the ability to adapt quickly is essential right now – and AI and automation make it possible to do so with workforce management. Learn more about how technologies are empowering contact center agility right now in our ebook on Leveraging AI and Intelligent Automation in the WFM Suite.

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