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Call center workforce optimization is a business operations strategy using AI-powered analytics, trend forecasting, employee engagement tools, quality management features, and high-level automation to boost call center productivity, improve agent performance, increase customer/agent retention rates, and manage risk/resource allocation.

Call center WFO helps businesses lower operating costs, improves the agent scheduling process, and identifies opportunities for automation. WFO components like AI speech and text analytics, live agent coaching, performance gamification, and third-party integrations eliminate communication silos, streamline workflows, and improve the customer journey.

This post defines workforce optimization for call centers, explores essential features and benefits, and introduces top WFO software providers.


Compare contact center software from top providers



What is Call Center Workforce Optimization (WFO)?

Call Center Workforce Optimization (WFO) is a SaaS solution that increases agent productivity and performance levels, automates routine business processes, and identifies the root causes of common call center problems. WFO encompasses Workforce Management (WFM), Quality Management (QM), Performance Management and Workforce Employee Engagement (WEM.)

  • Workforce Management is a WFO feature using multiple forecasting algorithms, historical and predictive analytics, and adherence monitoring to optimize the agent scheduling process
  • Quality Management evaluates the agent and customer experience using AI interaction analytics like customer intent and sentiment analysis, real-time KPI threshold alerts, and keyword tracking
  • Performance Management includes in-call coaching tools, agent scoresheets, real-time omnichannel KPI service level alerts, and interaction analytics to evaluate the efficacy of agent training materials, improve the customer journey, and identify top performers
  • Workforce Engagement (WFE) uses wallboards and performance gamification, team collaboration tools, and customizable dashboards to increase agent satisfaction, decrease agent turnover, and create opportunities for employee recognition


How Does WFO Work in a Call Center?

In a call center, WFO works by monitoring up to 100% of customer-agent interactions across voice and digital channels. It integrates with third-party software like CRM systems, helpdesk solutions, and campaign management/marketing tools to provide a single source of truth for all call center activity data.

WFO then uses Natural Language Understanding (NLU), machine learning, and text or speech analytics to:

  • Identify common keywords, phrases, customer support topics, and trends in agent behavior
  • Conduct root cause analysis, customer sentiment analysis, and intent analysis
  • Create KPI benchmarks and performance standards
  • Predict future trends in call center contact volume, customer behavior, buying patterns, peak times, etc.
  • Suggest optimized agent schedules and more efficient call flow paths
  • Provide in-call insights and suggest next steps to agents
  • Continually improve the customer self-service process
  • Evaluate, understand, and optimize the agent experience


Why is It Important to Optimize Workforce in Call Centers?

Only 33% of American employees report being actively engaged in their work–meaning nearly 70% of your call center workforce is just going through the motions.

Workforce Management software addresses the main causes of employee dissatisfaction: unbalanced workloads, inconsistent training, a lack of performance feedback and recognition, and mind-numbing repetitive tasks.

Optimizing your call center workforce has many benefits, including:


Better Operational Efficiency

WFO call center software improves call center operations and efficiency by:

  • Optimizing schedules, creating suggested schedules, allowing agents to bid on/trade shifts, and request PTO from a desktop/mobile app
  • Streamlining apps into a single, customizable interface to eliminate app switching
  • Providing a 360-degree view of real-time call center activity
  • Automating repetitive tasks like agent scheduling/schedule adjustments, post-call notes, CRM data input, IVR call flows, etc.
  • Using insights from AI analytics to identify workflow bottlenecks, increase first call resolution (FCR) rates, shorten average handle time (AHT), and lower customer hold times
  • Sending customizable live KPI alerts that allow managers to proactively address workflow issues before they slow down business processes


Maximized Agent Productivity

Workforce Optimization call center software maximizes agent productivity without overburdening employees thanks to features like:

  • AI Agent Assist
  • Task management with automated task creation/assignment
  • Time tracking
  • Real-time schedule adjustments
  • Automated customer follow-ups
  • CRM integrations with live CTI screen pops


Improved Customer Experience

Workforce Optimization tools improve the customer experience by shortening customer journeys, offering omnichannel customer service and support, and providing high-level 24/7 self-service via IIVR.

Because WFO integrates with CRM systems and helpdesk tools, customers won’t have to repeat their issue to multiple agents–and can pick up their interactions right where they left off. Advanced customer survey features make customers feel listened to, while proactive notifications and automated follow-ups make clients feel like a priority.

Optimized schedules and intelligent routing strategies ensure customers are always connected to agents with the skill sets needed to assist them–without having to spend hours on hold.


Reduced Employee Turnover

Call centers implementing effective employee engagement strategies from WFO software are 60% more likely to have highly engaged, motivated agents–which translates to a significant decrease in employee turnover.

WFO solutions increase employee retention rates by:

  • Providing consistent, detailed performance feedback via agent score sheets, in-call coaching from managers, and custom evaluations
  • Balancing workflows to prevent individual agents from becoming overburdened
  • Giving team members greater control over their own schedules
  • Fostering employee recognition via wallboards and gamification
  • Allowing employees to have their voices heard via custom agent surveys
  • Integrating with chat messaging, video conferencing, and whiteboard apps to increase team collaboration


Cost Savings

WFM solutions return an average of $12.24 for every dollar spent–offering a major return on investment.

Effective workforce management optimizes schedules to eliminate the costs of overtime pay or having to hire additional agents. Features like AI Agent Assist and other automation capabilities lower the average cost per call, while actionable insights improve resource management.

WFO identifies opportunities for upselling and cross-selling, reminds agents when to prompt customers to reorder, and allows for more effective market segmentation. It also increases customer retention, helping call centers avoid the expenses of onboarding new customers.


Adaptability and Scalability

WFO software is highly scalable, accessible on desktop and mobile devices, and works in any location with an Internet connection–ideal for remote and blended teams.

New or small businesses can opt for pay-as-you-go WFO pricing models, while enterprise-level teams can choose annual pricing for an additional cost savings. Tier-based plans and individual feature add-ons prevent call centers from wasting money on features they don't need.


Key Components of Call Center WFO

The most essential workforce management features for call centers are:


Workforce Management (WFM)

Call center workforce management is a WFO strategy that uses multiple forecasting methods, predictive analytics, and historical data to optimize agent schedules and predict future staffing needs. WFM automates schedule adherence monitoring, intraday management, and real-time schedule adjustments to meet customer demands. Desktop and mobile apps give agents access to time tracking tools, PTO management, and shift bidding, meaning employees have more control over their own schedules.


Quality Management

Call center quality management and assurance is the process of reviewing AI interaction analytics to optimize the customer service and support process.

WFM Quality Management features include customer sentiment and intent analysis, keyword tracking, utterance evaluations, speech+text analytics, live KPI alerts, and CSAT/NPS scoring. Customer surveys provide high-level insights into customer behavior and expectations while identifying areas where more agent training is needed.


Performance Management

Basic performance management tools include real-time call monitoring, call whisper, call barge, and call recording. WFO software adds more advanced features like agent screen recording, custom agent scoresheets, automated post-call evaluations, and in-call coaching via chat messaging.

Performance management features like AI Agent Assist empower call center agents with actionable, relevant CRM or internal knowledge base during live calls. PM also helps managers evaluate customer satisfaction levels, provide personalized feedback to agents to improve performance, and identify top performers.


Call Recording

Call recording is a quality assurance and performance management tool that captures on-demand or automatic recordings of voice calls.

Agents and admins can review call recording notes, transcripts, and recordings within the WFM interface. Reecordings can be sorted by date, client, department, and custom filters.

In workforce management, call recording features include automated real-time transcription, post-call summaries, recording comments, and recording playlist creation. AI analytics capture call recording and transcript data, providing detailed insight into the customer experience and support quality.


Employee Engagement

Employee engagement tools are designed to increase agent retention, improve agent satisfaction, and encourage team collaboration.

Key workforce engagement capabilities include performance gamification, employee recognition and rewards, wallboards, and a customizable agent interface with live push notifications. Some call centers may include UCaaS features like real-time chat messaging, video calling, whiteboards, and file sharing/co-editing as a part of their employee engagement package.


Best Practices for Effective Call Center Workforce Optimization

Although effective call center workforce optimization doesn’t happen overnight, there are several best practices that will speed up the process, keep employees engaged, and improve customer satisfaction.

Best practices for call center WFO include:


Focus On The Employee Experience

Today’s call center managers understand that nothing can make up for an unhappy, uninterested workforce. WFM platforms put the employee experience first–even ahead of CX.

Use WFM features like wallboards and gamification to motivate agents with rewards, recognition, and friendly competition. Allow team members to manage their own schedules as much as possible, and look for WFM features that enable remote/blended work.


Identify Opportunities For Automation

Whether it’s a simple Interactive Voice Response call menu or complex customer self-service via Interactive Virtual Agents, the best way to keep call centers efficient is to automate as much as possible.

Eliminating manual tasks like data entry, post-call disposition, scheduling, and evaluating call recordings/transcriptions saves time and reduces employee burnout. Automation frees up agents to focus on upcoming projects, make more sales calls, and provide more personalized customer service.


Collect Feedback From Agents+Customers 

Most WFM software includes customizable customer surveys in a variety of formats: open-ended questions, multiple choice options, rankings, and ratings. AI analytics automatically create lists or word clouds of popular words and phrases from surveys, making it much easier to identify areas for CX improvement. Admins can automatically send out post-call customer surveys and opt to share answers with agents.

Collecting employee feedback is just as important as customer engagement. Managers can discover workflow bottlenecks they didn’t know existed, evaluate the effectiveness of training and coaching materials, and uncover opportunities to boost employee satisfaction and agent engagement.


Continually Run Analytics

To get a more holistic view of call center activity, agent behavior, and CSAT levels, it’s essential to consistently monitor analytics and reports. Automate report generation at preset intervals, check real-time activity analytics throughout the day, and enable KPI push notifications for performance-related alerts.

Always switch up metrics, KPIs, and forecasting methods to identify new opportunities and ensure important issues aren’t overlooked.


Consistently Evaluate Training Materials

Though AI, automation, and gamification help improve employee performance, it’s essential to continually evaluate and update training materials–and ensure they’re consistent across departments, channels, and roles.

Especially if you’ve noticed a sudden drop in CSAT/NPS scores, call center training materials, not the agents themselves, could be to blame.

Always update internal knowledge base content, regularly review agent scripts, and ensure nothing is outdated or inaccurate. Incorrect materials create an inconsistent support experience, frustrate customers and agents, and damage your business reputation.


Invest in Workforce Optimization Software

Workforce optimization software gives call centers instant access to essential WFM functionality, offers scalable pricing options, and integrates with third-party platforms. In many cases, CCaaS platforms will include basic and advanced performance monitoring, quality assurance, and WFM features as a part of their bundled plans.

Let’s take a look at some of the top call and contact center software with WFM capabilities.


Contact Center Software With WFO Tools 

Most cloud-based contact center software includes Workforce Optimization feature suites as paid add-ons or as an included feature of top-tier plans.

The best CCaaS+WFO providers include:

Provider Pricing Top WFO Features  Best For
Five9 5 plans from $149-$229/month Performance gamification and wallboards, call summaries Enterprise omnichannel contact centers that need to automate the customer support process to keep pace with high call volumes
NICE CXone 6 plans from $71-$209/agent/month Best Pick scheduling technology, Engagement Manager Small/new call centers that need to optimize available agents because they can’t afford to hire additional ones
Talkdesk CX Cloud 4 plans from $75-$125+/user/month Utterance Audio Player for agent performance evaluation, Talkdesk Conversations Call centers in the financial/government sector looking for a security-conscious, all-in-one solution
Genesys Cloud 5 plans from $75-$155/user/month Employee Hub dashboard, Customer Interaction Toolbox Call centers struggling to streamline ticket management, especially across multiple channels
8x8 XCaaS 3 quote-based contact center plans Speech and Text Analytics, schedule forecasting Teams needing a highly scalable UCaaS+CCaaS solution
Nextiva 4 quote-based contact center plans Social media management, Nextiva Customer Surveys Call centers focused on collecting detailed customer feedback after almost every interaction


Improve Your Call Center With WFO

Workforce optimization is an essential part of effective call center management and overall customer retention. Call center workforce optimization solutions can be purchased as standalone tools, or as a feature suite of contact center software.

When evaluating the right provider for your business, consider:

  • Available third-party integrations
  • Platform security, guaranteed uptime, and customer support options
  • Onboarding assistance and end user training
  • Included vs add-on features
  • Overall ease of use and feedback from current user reviews
  • Mobile WFO app capabilities
  • Contract length and pricing options