Adoption of workforce management software for the contact center is increasing, as more companies are recognizing the advantages it brings for managing complex multi-site, multi-channel (phone, email, IM/Chat, fax, mail, etc.) and multi-skill contact center environments.
A new report from market research firm DMG Consulting finds that 2008 was a good year for WFM software deployments: The number of agents/seats grew from 3,463,571 in 2007 to 3,719,294 in 2008, an increase of 7.4 percent.
Interestingly the research finds that growth was fastest among smaller vendors and those with stand-alone solutions. Many of these smaller vendors are listening closely to their customers and innovating and improving their products based on customer feedback. What’s more, vendors are introducing WFM modules that deliver efficiencies beyond the contact center – such as in back-office operations, remote offices or retail locations – making them enterprise-wide solutions.
And, despite the ongoing recession, things will get even better for the WFM software industry from here: DMG predicts WFM software sales will increase by 6 percent in 2009, 7 percent in 2010 and 9 percent in 2011 (which, by the way, it is predicting will be “the first full year of economic recovery”).
The advantages of WFM solutions over manual scheduling processes are well documented: These software systems help contact center managers accurately staff their centers so that the right number of agents are on hand to field the number of contacts coming in. This balancing act is critically important because labor is the single largest cost in running any contact center. If you have too many agents on hand, with not enough contacts coming in, you’ll have employees sitting idle at their desks, and you’ll lose efficiency. If you under-staff, your customer service levels will erode, and you’ll end up with customer churn and dissatisfied agents.
"The requirement to provide a better customer experience while improving productivity and controlling costs is paramount in contact centers during the recession," said Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, in a release. "Workforce management continues to be one of the most important contact center productivity tools. By optimizing the use of the new generation of WFM solutions, contact centers can reduce staff related costs by 10-20%, enabling them to come through the recession with minimum impact on service levels and the customer experience."
With today’s Web-based WFM systems, contact center managers can easily manage multiple centers and even remote agents via a single, intuitive interface. In fact, some systems let agents bid and swap shifts with other agents without manager approval. Best of all, today’s systems have analytics capabilities that allow managers to accurately forecast volume and schedule agents accordingly. Through integration with the call center ACD, historical call data can be used to predict spikes and lulls in call volume.
DMG’s 2009 Workforce Management Market Report offers in-depth analysis of the WFM market, including vendors, product functionality, technology, market trends, challenges and opportunities, market share, adoption rates, benefits, return on investment (ROI), best practices, customer satisfaction, pricing and additional uses for WFM solutions. It also covers call center management and agent best practices and has a section dedicated to long-term strategic planning. It even offers tips on how to use WFM to address challenges presented by the recession and plan for business recovery.