Study Finds Growth in Workforce Management Tech in the UK
The ways that customers communicate with the companies with which they do business has changed dramatically in the last decade. In many companies, however, contact centers haven’t changed much, and the gap between how customers want to communicate (hint: it’s not Monday to Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) and the way contact centers continue to operate (like it’s 1988) has widened. The challenge for contact center management, therefore, is to bring together employees, customers and business goals and run the contact center in an efficient, productive, engaging, value-adding and profitable way to satisfy all elements of the equation.
One of the most important steps to balancing this equation is workforce management (WFM) software. It can help the existing workforce meet customer demand in a very precise way, and help companies provide the right staff (in terms of size, availability and skill sets) to ensure customer demands are being met and exceeded. While some companies get it, and are rushing full-speed ahead with WFM solution deployment, others are still mired in spreadsheets and manual math calculations.
In a recent study entitled, “The State of Workforce Management in Contact Centers – 2017,” UK-based workforce optimization specialist Business Systems Ltd interviewed 100 contact center professionals in the UK to gain a picture of how workforce management systems are perceived and used within small, medium and large businesses across the UK.
The study found that there has been a strong increase in usage of workforce management technology in the past year. Since the beginning of 2016, respondents reported a 131 percent increase in WFM usage, with growth present across companies of all sizes. Overall, 65 percent of respondents said they are using WFM technology compared to 29 percent last year. The increasing availability of hosted solutions may help explain the growth.
“For those centers that are not yet ready to proceed with an on-premise solution (due to size, cost and/or processes), a hosted solution might be the option to gradually introduce workforce management into the life of the center,” wrote the report’s authors. “There are little or no upfront costs as you pay a monthly fee based on the number of active agents in your contact center. Regular patch updates mean you are always using the latest version of your platform – and you can scale up or down to fit your workflow.”
Among companies using WFM, intraday management was the most popular feature, followed by automated schedule optimization, holiday planning, the ability to run “what if” scenarios and, finally, automated schedule swapping among employees. The latter is an important element of twenty-first century employee engagement, and impossible with manual methods of WFM such as Excel spreadsheets.
“This year self-service functionality is gaining traction, in line with the increased focus on engaging and empowering contact center employees,” wrote the report’s authors. “Self-service gives employees decision-making context, giving them access to work schedule, leave balance, and time tracking information and allowing them to register their work preferences, availability and absence and holiday requests.”
Finally, Business Systems Ltd. noted that gamification is an up-and-coming feature that may increase adoption across contact centers of all sizes. The feature adds video game elements to enterprise software such as WFM, helping create a more fun, friendly and competitive environment in the contact center. (Employees can, for example, raises their performance level to earn points or badges or ascend levels.)
Challenges to WFM implementation, according to the study, continue to be functionality (with a rise in respondents reporting challenges this year), support quality, cost and internal capabilities. Going forward, and as contact centers transform themselves to “omnichannel” endeavors, buyers will continue to raise their expectations of their WFM solutions, both in terms of functionality and proven return on investment.
Edited by Alicia Young