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New Gen Workforce Management

New Gen Workforce Management

The contact center workforce management (WFM) market has finally come to life. A new generation of WFM solutions has entered the market during the last couple of years, accompanied by new features, capabilities, architectures, services, pricing and delivery models. A growing number of the newer WFM applications are coming from other countries. This has introduced a fresh perspective that is changing the way vendors are approaching the WFM challenge.

Europeans Enter the WFM Market

The emergence of a growing number of solutions from Europe is altering the competitive landscape. European WFM solution providers have different priorities from their US counterparts. While they certainly have to address forecasting and scheduling, European vendors also dedicate significant resources to handling country-specific work rules, including government regulations and the requirements of unionized shops.

Accuracy is a Costly Concern

The accuracy of the forecasts generated by WFM solutions is an area where innovations are anticipated. The algorithms used in most WFM solutions err on the side of slight overstaffing, to ensure that the department’s service level is met. Investments are expected to improve the accuracy of multi-channel forecasting.

Ease of Use Matters

Hundreds of contact centers have purchased a WFM solution but use it infrequently, if at all, because they find it too difficult to operate. Others utilize only a limited amount of the functionality available in their WFM solution. A number of the newer WFM entrants have put a great deal of effort into delivering user interfaces that make it easy for customers to use their applications. DMG expects to see a great deal more innovation in this area over the next few years.

Multi-Channel is Growing in Importance

Most contact centers handle phone calls, although a growing number address just emails and chats. All of the contact center WFM solutions address calls, and all of the vendors claim to handle emails and chat sessions, as well. Some of these claims are legitimate and others are not. Few of the solutions do a good job of handling social media interactions. The multi-channel capabilities of WFM solutions have become an area of differentiation among the solutions.

Inbound/Outbound Environments are Increasingly Common

In the recent past, inbound contact centers handled predominantly incoming calls, and outbound shops concentrated on improving their outbound connect rates. Outbound shops have finally begun to realize the importance of handling the inbound calls that result from outbound messages, and a growing number of inbound shops are starting to get involved in proactive customer care. These changes require managers to properly plan and optimize both inbound and outbound activities. DMG expects to see continued investment and innovation is this area over the next few years.

Hosting is Coming on Strong

The availability of cloud-based WFM solutions is helping to increase this sector’s adoption rate. Many managers who were interested in using a WFM solution but did not want to get something expensive and hard to use can now try cloud-based WFM without having to make a major up-front investment or long-term commitment.

Back Office is the New Front Office

Executives are starting to realize that applications that can reduce staff-related costs of operating areas as complex as contact centers can also be applied to improve the performance of back-office functions. Additionally, contact centers are taking on more of the tasks that were traditionally handled by back-office groups. Although a growing number of contact center WFM vendors claim to provide this functionality, the reality is different from vendor claims. DMG expects the back office to become a very significant growth area in the next 3 to 4 years.

What This Means for Managers

There are now enough solutions with varying capabilities in the market to allow managers to find an application that meets their needs. And while there is plenty of variety, it is important to note the differences among the offerings. Managers may need to make trade-offs when they select a solution. The contact center WFM market has come a long way in the last three years, but more progress and investments will be required before these solutions are welcomed enthusiastically by managers, instead of being considered a necessary evil.

To learn more about the WFM market see DMG Consulting’s 2011 – 2012 Contact Center Workforce Management Report at www.dmgconsult.comor call Deborah Navarra at 516-628-1098. This 343-page Report is designed to help managers select the right WFM partner, product and acquisition model.

Ask the Experts

I read your article “Use Social Media Proactively,” and I’m very interested in setting up a social media strategy for my small business; please send info or provide guidance on how to start the infrastructure and the potential costs involved.

DMG helps companies build social media strategies, but we generally know quite a bit about the client when we do the work (as we build customized strategies). When a client identifies itself as a small business, it generally means that they want to keep their costs as low as possible. Here are a few generally applicable suggestions with that in mind:

  1. Find out from your customers and prospects how they like to keep informed, and then use the networks that they prefer.
  2. If you don’t have internal expertise, hire a college student or part-time person with expertise in social media.
  3. Pay attention to branding. Even if you’re doing this on a “shoestring” budget, take the extra time to incorporate your branding into your communications.
  4. Be consistent – don’t start and stop. If you decide to use Twitter, for example, use it consistently.
  5. No matter what networks you use, respond on a very timely basis. Folks who use social media expect an immediate response; delays are not acceptable.
  6. While social media is a more informal mode of communication, do not fall into the trap of being too casual. All communications should be well-written and adhere to social norms.

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