As dynamic as call and contact centers can be, it is not unusual for agents to be overloaded with calls one minute and playing solitaire due to lack of call volume the next. This type of work flow is neither productive nor conducive to driving revenue increases and controlling costs.
It is in this type of situation where workforce management makes sense, as it is focused on making agents as productive as possible. Put simply, workforce management ensures that there are plenty of agents on hand for peak call periods and that these agents are not sitting idle during lower volume periods through accurate forecasting and optimization call center scheduling.
Traditionally, call center scheduling was approached with a spreadsheet. The challenge, however, was that this manual process was merely guesswork by an experienced manager and it left too large a margin of error by neglecting to consider all variables that can lead to peaks and valleys in call volume.
In addition to trying to properly schedule agents for predicted periods, managers were also spending a good deal of time monitoring agent performance. Between scheduling and monitoring, the manager had little time left for other management tasks. The manager has gone from a leader to a scheduler, spending as much as 80 percent of his or her time on trying to properly staff the call or contact center.
One common myth in the workforce management arena is that these applications are suitable only for the larger call centers. A reason for this belief is the exorbitant prices that many vendors charge for their solutions where packages can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. In a multi-sourced, multi-site environment with hundreds of agents, this type of solution could easily return a savings in total cost of ownership, even if the initial cost appears high. For the smaller call center, however, a solution in that price range is not even in the ballpark for consideration.
For the small call center market, there are many solutions that can cater to their specific needs and at a cost that will meet their smaller budget. The Monet Workforce Management System from Left Bank Solutions
, for instance, provides customers with capabilities like forecasting and scheduling, agent occupancy, exception planning, availability calendar, reporting, shift creation and ACD integration, all for under $20,000.
For those small call centers believing that even this investment is too high considering that the spreadsheet method is working, it is important to keep in mind that most customers report a reduction in center costs within a matter of days and annual profitability increases as much as 20 percent.
In such a situation, it may be up to the vendor to help the call center leaders to identify the need or even create the need. Something that appears to be working in the small call center now may not be scalable and also may not be able to help drive the potential increases in profitability. Both can hinder growth and as competitive as the call center industry can be, no center can afford either one.