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Contact Center Workforce Management is NOT Optional

Contact Center Workforce Management is NOT Optional

Workforce management (WFM) is one of the most important productivity tools used in contact centers, and is considered mission-critical in many operating environments. However, due to the complexity of many of the earlier WFM solutions, adoption has been slower than it should be. But after more than 30 years, this is finally changing. There are now more WFM solutions available than ever before, and they vary greatly in their complexity, ease of use, functionality, accuracy, and a great deal more. Contact centers of all sizes can now find a solution that will meet their needs.

DMG Consulting encourages all contact centers with more than 25 agents to use a WFM solution. Now that many WFM solutions are available in the cloud, they are a lot easier to acquire and implement. Contact center managers can try an application and, if they don’t like it, they can easily cancel their contract and move on to something else. The cloud is helping to change the dynamics of the WFM IT sector because it has made this mission-critical application more accessible and cost effective for contact centers of all sizes.

Millennials are Changing Staffing Requirements

As Millennials, or Generation Y, enter the contact center workforce in droves, they are altering the well-established workplace structure. Millennials have different expectations; they are highly protective of their work/life balance and are not willing to sacrifice their personal lives for their job. It was never a good idea to ask agents to constantly alter their schedules (unless they were a flex team) to meet the changing needs of the organization. In the past, employees made some effort to accommodate these requests; but no more. Millennials do not see the benefit of sacrificing for companies that are not committed to them. Contact centers require WFM solutions that can enable them to find an appropriate balance between the need to optimize their contact center’s performance and their staff’s need to prioritize their personal lives.

Back-Office WFM Solutions are Available

As recently as three years ago, there were almost no good solutions available to help companies forecast and schedule back-office activities. Companies had a couple of options to address this challenge – they could build these capabilities themselves; use business process management (BPM) solutions where they received a framework that they could customize (with a great deal of time, effort and cost); or they could take a contact center solution and try to apply the erlang-based algorithms to challenges that they were never designed to address, such as backlog. Now, there are a couple of WFM vendors who specialize in back-office WFM, as well as a growing number of contact center WFM vendors who claim to have this functionality. DMG expects to see a great deal more activity in this area, as our research shows that the size of the back-office sector is three times the size of the contact center opportunity.

New WFM Functionality will Enhance your Operating Environment

What this means is that if you have not updated your WFM solution in the past three years, it’s time to invest in a couple of really important modules – scheduling functionality that allows prioritizes agent preferences over department optimization, and self-service capabilities that allow agents to pick their own schedules, request vacation time, swap work hours and automatically approve changes. If you’re satisfied with your current WFM solution and vendor, then it makes sense to upgrade to a newer release that has these advanced features, if one is available. However, if a new and improved release is not available, if upgrading is equivalent to installing a new solution, or if it’s too expensive, then it’s a good idea to take a fresh look at the market competitors.

For a detailed analysis of leading and contending contact center WFM solutions, see DMG Consulting’s 2012 Contact Center Workforce Management Market Report, released in May 2012.

Ask the Experts

Question:
Is it a good idea to deploy auto-answer/auto-response technology in the call center? How often does this technology misinterpret customer inquiries? We are concerned with whether or not the technology will alienate our customers.

Answer:
There are two categories of auto-answer and auto-response software: email-based solutions and speech-enabled applications.

Many companies use auto-acknowledgement systems to let their customers know that their email has been received, and to set expectations about when they will receive a full response. This is a very effective application. Using email auto-answer systems to provide full responses is a different issue. While it serves the purpose of responding to customers on a timely basis, these systems do not always address all of the issues in the customer’s email and are known for missing the point if their accuracy threshold is set too low. However, if it’s set too high, the percentage of transactions that are fully automated will be lower than most organizations want. These applications are continuing to improve and are being used by a growing number of companies. Vendors that provide these solutions include Kana and eGain.

Phone-based auto-response systems, when used properly and for the right application, can be very effective. Using an auto-response system as a call router, for example, can deliver significant benefits to organizations and be very satisfying for customers, as the accuracy rates are often very high. Speech-enabled interactive voice response (IVR) systems can also be very effective when they are used for the appropriate applications and are scripted properly.

No matter how good the technology, quite a few people still do not like this type of automation. We recommend that if you adopt auto-response technology, allow customers to choose whether or not to use it and make it easy for customers to reach live call center agents from any point in the application.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.