Written by Robert Leitch.
When corporate contact centers are understaffed, it affects the customer, who may have to wait on hold or have trouble getting the help they need. The last thing any company wants is poor customer service, but it can be difficult to predict how many employees are needed in a contact center at any one time. With hundreds working in each center, even a small shift in call patterns can result in a chaotic rush to cover shifts. WorkFlex Solutions in Cincinnati, Ohio, has created software that helps contact centers automatically solve their staffing issues by empowering employees to manage their schedules.
WorkFlex Solutions’ software is a real-time database of call volume data and employee schedules, intended to be used by both contact center managers and their employees. Forbes Magazine recently named the company’s technology one of their “Five Predictions Shaping the Future of Customer Experience for 2016.” For managers, the system can tell when the center will likely experience a higher or lower volume of calls than originally forecast, helping them proactively implement staffing adjustments. For employees, the software takes projected staffing variances and offers pre-approved schedule changes through a mobile app. The app notifies them when additional hours are available, or if there is an opportunity to take-time off.
“Until now, administrators have dealt with schedule change requests manually, which is extremely complicated and time-consuming to make so many employee schedules work together,” said WorkFlex Solutions CEO Larry Schwartz. “With our technology, over half of scheduling gaps are solved by the agents before a manager even knows they exist.”
Schwartz developed the idea for WorkFlex Solutions after working in computer manufacturing, an industry that has been using an automated supply chain system for years to track orders and optimize workflow. After moving to Cincinnati to work for a large customer care company, he realized that the same kind of intelligent automation approach used by the manufacturing industry could be adapted to help solve a lot of the staffing issues that arise in contact centers.
“If something changes in the manufacturing supply chain like a last minute increase in a customer order volume, you don’t’ see people running around in a mad dash to contact parts vendors to expedite shipments,” said Schwartz. “The software automatically adjusts vendor supply-operations workflow, and I knew there was a market for this kind of software in contact centers after seeing the difficulties caused by manual staffing change processes.”
After receiving $1.5 million in seed funding in 2010 from CincyTech, a southwest partner of Ohio Third Frontier, WorkFlex Solutions enhanced its technology and began to expand its client base. The company boosted its sales and marketing efforts with another round of funding from CincyTech in 2014 and has now grown to over 30 employees with offices in Cincinnati, Dallas and India. Schwartz says he took advantage of events with CincyTech like entrepreneurial speaker sessions and startup CEO meetings to help WorkFlex Solutions evolve.
“They provided us with good counsel and connections within the community. CincyTech supports job creation in the area and generally has a more long-term investment view than other seed investors,” said Schwartz.
WorkFlex Solutions is starting to explore other industries that can leverage their employee schedule-change technology and has received interest inquiries from hospitals, restaurants and retailers. Schwartz says the company owes much of its success to the support it receives from the Cincinnati entrepreneurial community.
“Many of those who have been through the startup process are willing to share their experience,” said Schwartz. “Many entrepreneurs face a lot of the same problems, and they come together in Cincinnati to help each other.”