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Study Shows Workforce Management Still Underutilized in Contact Centers, Despite Growth

 
August 18, 2008



In the world of contact centers, one of the most valuable, yet underused solution is that of workforce management. Robust workforce management solutions have proven to be able to streamline operations, maximize employee work time, forecast for peaks and valleys in call volume, enhance productivity and provide a better overall environment.

 
Sponsored by InVision Software (News - Alert), carried out by Customer Relationship Metrics and endorsed by SWPP, the recently published study, “Workforce Management Practices in Contact Centers” delivered results on numerous topics that include Performance Metrics, workforce management resources utilized, investments, processes, tools and satisfaction with all of the topics for contact centers in North America.

Those workforce management processes analyzed in the study comprise forecasting of contact volumes, converting forecasts to required agents, scheduling of agents, intraday forecasts and schedule adjustment. It also focused on managing the agents’ schedule change requests, staff planning and budgeting in addition to real time adherence monitoring and performance results reporting, and satisfaction with WFM practices and tools.
 
The data collected in the survey made it clear that although workforce management takes on greater significance in all sized contact centers, companies continue to barely tap the low efficiency potential of their workforce management tools and techniques.
 
The importance of workforce management (WFM) is apparent in the increase in dedicated employees responsible for many operations within the WFM process. Contact centers with more than 500 agents raised their full time WFM positions from 17 to 24 between 2006 and 2008 – a 41 percent increase.
 
Medium-sized contact centers have also shown an increase in the last two years of expanding their WFM staff. Contact centers with less than 100 agents have dedicated 2.5 WFM positions on average. There has also been an increase in forecasters and intraday managers since 2006.
 
“In contrast, 10 percent of all respondents claim that they do not perform intraday forecasts and schedule adjustment at all”, states Peter Bollenbeck (News - Alert), CEO of InVision Software, in a Monday statement.
 
“This especially applies for small contact centers with less than 100 agents (53 percent) but is also the case in 18 percent of medium-sized with 100 to 500 agents and in 12 percent of big call centers, having more than 500 agents. Bollenbeck adds: “Also real time adherence monitoring, which is key for optimized intraday scheduling, is not performed by 14 percent of all contact centers.”

Third party solutions are used for adherence monitoring in 90 percent or more of the call centers, except those with less than 100 agents – they stand at 70 percent. Scheduling is the second operation where licensed party solutions are most commonly used.

At the same time, the study found that manual approaches and spreadsheets are still very popular among contact center managers. In fact, 38 percent use these tools for forecasting, especially in small contact centers. Another 22 percent use them in terms of performance reporting.
 
It is also important to highlight that this study found that one third of big call centers also use manual tools or spreadsheets for performance reporting as well as for their forecasts and for converting the forecasts to agents. In total, only 13 percent of all respondents use licensed software solutions for the forecasting.
 
“At this point, it becomes plainly visible that many contact centers have not yet realized the efficiency potential of workforce management”, said Bollenbeck. “The implementation of specialized WFM solutions which are exactly tailored to the operations explored in the present study cannot only provide support in saving costs related to traditional scheduling.”
 
“Particularly the forecasting, the converting of forecasts to required agents, but also intraday scheduling as well as performance reporting can be realized in a very cost-effective way with the help of professional solutions like InVision Enterprise WFM (News - Alert) –increasing the quality of the whole workforce management process at the same time,” Bollenbeck added.

WFM solutions have a significant amount of value to add to the contact center, but many are still falling short of maximizing the full capability of their solutions. One step in the right direction really falls to the vendor to educate the contact center on how to extract this value before the solution is ever installed.
 
 
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Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.