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Article 8 min read

Workforce optimization: The ultimate guide for 2024

Workforce optimization makes processes more efficient and employees more productive and gives more flexibility to your bottom line. Learn more about it below.

By Hannah Wren, Staff writer

Last updated March 8, 2024

What is workforce optimization?

Workforce optimization (WFO) is a business strategy that combines workforce management (WFM) and quality assurance (QA) principles to maximize workforce efficiency. WFO intertwines performance data, emerging technologies, and coaching to help employees, departments, and businesses operate at peak performance.

Businesses today walk on a tightrope when it comes to customer service and efficiency. On one side, a capable workforce is always available to meet consumer demand. On the other, there’s a profitable balance sheet. Leaning too far in one direction compromises the other, so organizations must find balance to get across to safety. That balance is workforce optimization.

Businesses can use WFO to optimize their operations, customer experience (CX), and balance sheet simultaneously. In this guide, we cover workforce management in detail so you can traverse the tightrope of your day-to-day operations.

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Key components of workforce optimization

Workforce optimization combines two key components: workforce management and quality assurance. Here’s how these variables mix to form a comprehensive WFO strategy.

Workforce management

Workforce management is a set of processes and technologies a business can use to manage employees and resources, optimize productivity, and ensure the organization complies with laws and regulations. Some essential components of WFM include:

  • Forecasting: accurately predicting future staffing needs based on historical business trends and anticipated customer demand
  • Scheduling: assigning employee shifts and ensuring there’s adequate coverage during peak periods
  • Real-time activity monitoring: monitoring employee schedules and customer demand hourly, allowing teams to make on-the-fly adjustments when necessary

Workforce management ensures the right employees are in the right place at the right time to optimize efficiency, labor budgets, and customer satisfaction.

Quality assurance

In the scope of WFO, customer service quality assurance (QA) focuses on reviewing conversations to improve your support team’s performance and increase customer satisfaction. Some important components of QA include:

  • Scoring/evaluation: assessing support agent performance based on the quality of support interactions, customer surveys, workforce management metrics, and more
  • Actionable feedback: providing constructive feedback to employees based on prior scoring gives them a pathway to improvement

Quality assurance can boost productivity and employee engagement. It can also ensure that agents deliver an outstanding customer experience time after time.

Benefits of workforce optimization

Workforce optimization brings a host of benefits to an organization. Here are some of the most important ones you should be aware of.

A bulleted list details the benefits of workforce optimization.

Increased operational efficiency

Workforce optimization helps businesses maximize their workforce’s productivity and increase operational efficiency. With forecasting, workforce scheduling, and real-time team management, companies can align staffing needs with anticipated workloads. This ensures they have the right amount of employees on call to deliver good customer service.

Improved customer experience and loyalty

Every organization should prioritize the customer experience, and workforce optimization can help achieve CX goals. For example, managers can use WFO to ensure every employee receives comprehensive training, which can result in reduced wait times, personalized service, and a consistent CX across channels.

Organizations can also lean on AI-powered reviews that speed up the QA process—giving them the feedback they need to improve their processes. All of this, in turn, can enhance customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

Reduced costs

Workforce optimization makes an organization more efficient, causing a noticeable impact on your bottom line. For example, workforce managers can use AI-powered WFO tools to forecast optimal staffing needs for agents. This can lower labor costs, ensuring enough employees are working to optimize the CX but not enough to impact the budget negatively.

Enhanced employee satisfaction and development

Businesses can use a workforce optimization model to identify team training gaps, opening the door for implementing training modules and prioritizing employee growth. Additionally, WFO fosters clear communication and opportunities for performance feedback. Employees who feel like their employer is invested in their future may show more dedication and satisfaction in their role.

How to achieve workforce optimization

There’s no clear pathway for achieving workforce optimization—what works for one business might not for another. That said, there are a few things you should do to ensure you get the most out of your WFO efforts:

  • Define clear objectives: Before enacting a new WFO plan, establish clear and actionable objectives. Whether they’re CX-focused or profit-oriented, defined goals will guide your optimization efforts.
  • Promote collaboration: Don’t develop your strategy in a silo. Encourage all relevant employees and departments to weigh in on your WFO strategy and identify any inefficiencies in your current operations.
  • Leverage technology: Resources like workforce management software can streamline your efforts and push optimization even further.

Organizations can create an efficient workforce optimization philosophy by adopting these strategies.

Explore our WFO capabilities

We are proud to add WFM and QA features to our wealth of CX capabilities. Contact sales to learn more about our AI-powered WFO tools.

Workforce optimization strategies and best practices

There are several best practices you can follow to get the most out of workforce optimization. Here are some of the most impactful.

A bulleted list details the best practices of workforce optimization.

Adopt a customer-first mindset

Businesses must adopt a customer-first mindset before optimizing scheduling or training employees. Being customer-first means putting the customer at the center of organizational decision-making rather than purely focusing on products or profits.

This can involve understanding your customer’s expectations, analyzing their feedback, and aligning training and performance goals with customer satisfaction. When prioritizing the customer, you’ll naturally make the best operational decisions for your business.

Optimize your hiring and onboarding

Quality managers can mold even the most subpar candidate into a five-star employee, but it’s much easier if a business hires quality individuals from the start. Look for candidates with the values and customer service skills that align with your organization, regardless of experience level.

After hiring the right people, ensure your employee onboarding process is as smooth and efficient as possible. Ensure you give them the right materials and lean on QA to deliver systematic feedback and targeted coaching. This empowers your new hires to hit the ground running and deliver a great CX.

Empower your employees

Consider investing in tools like workforce management software to empower your employees. These tools can assist them in the following ways:

  • Giving them a clear, detailed view of their schedule
  • Providing timely notifications that alert them to new tasks
  • Allowing them to manage time-off requests and swap shifts with other employees

Additionally, WFO tools can help on the QA side as well. QA software makes it easy for managers to provide targeted coaching and monitor performance trends to see the impact of that training. Overall, you can support your employees and enhance their skills by arming them with the right tools.

Collect accurate data

Accurate data is the cornerstone of effective workforce optimization. Poor data reporting leads to poor strategy, and effective WFO processes and tools can give you more accurate insights.

For example, with WFO software, you can automate your reporting to:

  • Keep track of real-time key performance indicators (KPIs) to identify notable performance.
  • Spot bottlenecks in your customer experience.
  • Understand the true relationship between your metrics, performance, and what leads to the best outcomes.

Utilize AI and automation

Intelligent automation and AI are leading the charge as the next generation of customer service. Use this technology to analyze your total coverage rather than using manual processes that rely on a small subset of your whole. You can also use AI to automatically identify patterns in datasets, provide actionable insights, streamline routine tasks, and more.

For example, businesses can use AI to assist their QA when reviewing customer support conversations. AI-powered filters can analyze dialogue based on quality, tone, level of service, and more. This means managers can pinpoint potentially problematic interactions without sifting through every recording.

Regularly review and improve

Workforce optimization isn’t a set-and-forget approach. Regularly analyze performance metrics, customer feedback, and industry trends to identify areas for improvement. Committing to this process can ensure that your WFO strategy is consistently up to date and most effective for your business.

Frequently asked questions

Improve your workforce optimization with Zendesk

Workforce optimization is a crucial business strategy that combines workforce management and quality assurance to help you traverse your organizational tightrope. It’s especially important for optimizing your customer support operations.

That’s why we offer a wealth of WFO capabilities to help Zendesk customers enhance the agent experience, improve productivity, and reduce service costs. Our AI-powered workforce management can automate forecasting, scheduling, reporting, and more. Meanwhile, our QA tools help support teams automate their operations so they can drive more revenue, boost customer satisfaction, and reduce churn.

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