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Workforce Management Software: Not Just for the Big Guys

January 29, 2010

Does your company run a small call center – with, say, 5 to 20 agents? Are you looking for ways to make your call center more cost efficient?

You might want to make the switch from spreadsheets to a Web-based workforce management system. These Web-based systems, which improve the accuracy of call center scheduling, are fast and simple to deploy – all you need are the computers and an Internet connection. There is no software to download – you simply lease it on a subscription basis.

The advantage of these systems is that they enable call center managers to forecast call volume, thus enabling them to create more accurate schedules. Since labor is the single biggest cost facing any call center, it only makes sense that managers strive to balance the number of agents with call volume. Over-schedule and you’ll have agents sitting around idly, waiting for calls to come in – under-schedule and you’ll increase hold times and customers will become frustrated.
If you’re thinking workforce management software is only for the “big guys” – call centers in the 50 seats and up range – you are mistaken. Managing fewer agents doesn’t make the job of balancing labor resources with call volume any easier: On the contrary, scheduling the proper number of agents is actually more difficult when there are fewer of them. That’s because every agent -- and every call -- has a greater effect on overall performance.

For example, if you have a 20-agent center and one agent does not show up, you suddenly have a “5 percent resource problem.” And 5 percent can make a huge difference in overall call center performance.

The problem becomes even more complex when you consider that most call centers today are actually multi-channel contact centers – meaning they also handle email and Web chat in addition to phone calls. Very often some agents are better trained (or more adept) to use these new channels than others -- therefore most call center managers strive to have only those agents which are “best-trained” to handle a particular channel working on that channel each shift.

So, if your top agent for handling email suddenly falls ill, you’re going to have a much more difficult time replacing her if you only have a small pool of agents trained to handle email to draw upon.
This is where today’s workforce management solutions offer a key advantage. These systems’ analytics capabilities enable call center managers to forecast, with surprising accuracy, how many agents are needed for a particular shift, based on call volume. This is achieved through integration with the call center ACD, or automated call distributor.

The workforce management software can draw upon the historical data captured by each of these systems and use it to predict, or forecast, what the volume will be for any particular channel, for any given shift.

Monet Software is a leading provider of Web-based workforce management systems. Its flagship offering, Monet WFM Live, is ideal for small to medium sized call centers as well as distributed or remote centers and home-based agents. Monet Software also offers an agent/supervisor portal, Monet Anywhere, which allows call center agents to “bid on” and “swap” shifts with other agents, and gives managers a Web-based administrative panel for managing the schedule from any computer.

Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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