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4 ways AI and Workforce management tools will improve the lives of agents over the next 5 years

Published 26 July 2023

A new era in workforce management is upon us. Automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and personalized schedules will revolutionize the way teams are managed. In an increasingly remote work landscape, support managers are facing challenges in fitting together the puzzle pieces of individual agent preferences. However, with the infusion of AI into workforce management (WFM), team schedules are becoming more personalized, optimizing for individual agent preferences while meeting business needs.

Zendesk is investing heavily in AI and WFM with the recent acquisition of Tymeshift. Below we explore the transformative power of AI.

1. The perfect schedule for every agent

With the rise of remote work, more agents have flexibility and the desire to work non-traditional schedules. However, when support managers are building team schedules, individual agent preferences often fall to the bottom of the priority list. Individual team members might make requests like these:

  • “I’d love to spend more time on chat than email, I find it way more fun.”

  • “I need time to wrap-up some complex tickets before I take PTO next week, these will be difficult tickets to hand-off.”

  • “The morning shift is ideal for me so I can pick-up my kids from daycare at 3pm.”

As AI infuses WFM, team schedules can become more personalized. This will involve taking into account the preferences of individual agents like shift-preferences, appointments, vacations, and work-loads. The end result will be a schedule that optimizes for individual preferences while still giving managers the tools to ensure business needs are being met. Happy agents provide the best support for customers, and personalized schedules will go a long way towards ensuring agent morale is high.

“Creating the perfect schedule for every agent is the holy grail. It will foster a sense of empowerment and ownership, as agents feel valued and recognized for their unique needs and preferences.”

– David Birchmier, former Tymeshift CEO, and current Director, WFM Strategy and GTM, Zendesk

2. Hyper-targeted training will help every agent level-up their skills

Data on schedule adherence and overall productivity will allow managers to easily identify agents who need additional coaching. No longer will managers be forced to manually sift through tickets to get a rough gauge on agent performance. Instead AI models will automatically sort through all the necessary data: schedule adherence, agent productivity, customer sentiment. The output will be a custom tailored action plan to help each team member improve. The same methodology makes it simple to identify high performing agents.

For example: Let’s say your AI-powered WFM detects after 60 days that a specific new agent spends 3x longer processing returns than experienced agents, whereas most new agents ramp faster. Managers can step in and set up a coaching session between that junior agent and a high performer to provide the training on best practices and shortcuts to reduce average handle time.

The end result is managers spending less time analyzing past performance and more time actively coaching and upskilling their team. This leads to employees who feel cared for, and it also delivers business results through higher quality support.

3. Agent well-being will become easier to measure

Forward-thinking leaders understand that a happy and engaged workforce directly translates to improved customer satisfaction, increased productivity, and reduced turnover. As a result, agent well-being will take center stage when making critical decisions regarding workforce management and intelligent CX strategies.

Traditional methods of gauging agent sentiment, like surveys, are helpful but incomplete as they don’t provide any measure of engagement with the work. The future gauge of agent well-being will complement surveys with data gleaned from support activity like idle time, schedule adherence, occupancy rate, and other metrics that measure agent engagement. As a result, burn-out detection and prevention will be automated, and provide early indicators of team frustration. This comprehensive view will help leaders reduce turnover and understand what drives agents to be both highly productive and highly fulfilled.

“Recognizing the intrinsic connection between agent morale and the quality of support, organizations can build a foundation that thrives on empathy, care, and dedication to both customers and employees alike. We believe that prioritizing agent well-being is not only the right thing to do but also a strategic advantage. Happy agents lead to happy customers and long-term business success.”

– Matt Price, SVP, Zendesk Labs

4. Interfaces will become more conversational

As AI continues to evolve, WFM interfaces will become more conversational and capable of answering human-centric questions. Support leaders are often faced with making tradeoffs between adjusting headcount, quality of support, and the impact on agent morale. In the future, admins will be able to ask questions and get answers in a natural way, without having to learn a complex interface or build sophisticated models in spreadsheets. A support admin will eventually be able to ask questions about their WFM the same way they interact with generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard. For example:

Question: What if we change our operating hours from 24/7 to 9 am – 5 pm? What would be the impact on wait times?

Reply: Based on your forecast model, moving to 9 – 5 will increase wait time for voice by 80% from 45 sec to 81 sec. For chat wait times will increase chat by 25% from 120 sec to 150 sec.

Question: What’s the impact on SLA violation and agent morale if we increase headcount by 10%?

Reply: Your current SLA violation rate is 12%, and your agent satisfaction score is 85%. Your average agent ramp time is 45 days for a new agent to reach median productivity. Therefore 45 days after increasing headcount, your SLA violation rate is projected to decrease to 4%, and your agent satisfaction score will likely increase to 92%.

“Conversational interfaces have a ton of potential to help distill complex WFM into something simple and more human.”

– David Birchmier, former Tymeshift CEO, and current Director, WFM Strategy and GTM, Zendesk

This conversational approach to WFM will make it easier for support admins to gather critical information to make more informed decisions about the impact to teams and their customers.

The way we manage our workforce is changing rapidly. As businesses embrace the advancements in workforce management enabled by automation, AI, and personalized scheduling, they will be fostering a culture of empowerment and ownership. By prioritizing agent well-being, providing targeted training, and leveraging conversational interfaces, organizations will unlock the potential for exceptional support and customer satisfaction. As the future unfolds, the collaboration between technology and human-centric approaches will continue to shape the way we manage and optimize our workforce. Join us on August 2nd, 2023 for the What’s New Webinar, where we’ll discuss AI and how Zendesk approaches workforce management. Click here to register.

To learn more about Tymeshift and the benefits of workforce management visit