A recent study from DMG Consulting shows that although some companies aren't completely satisfied with every aspect of their call center workforce management solution, most of them still consider workforce management to be 'mission critical' to their call center operations.
Areas where workforce management systems were lacking, according to the report were system flexibility, cost and vendor support.
First the good news: The survey of 230 contact center, enterprise and IT executives, VPs, managers, directors and decision-makers from around the world reveals that 75.5 percent of contact centers now use a third-party licensed or hosted workforce management solution. Of these, 84.4 percent consider them mission critical.
'All respondents, whether currently using a packaged WFM solution or not, appreciate the many benefits WFM solutions can provide,' the study states. 'WFM helps reduce the time managers spend forecasting and optimizing agent schedules, reduces operating expenses, and improves customer and agent satisfaction.'
Now the bad news: The overall level of satisfaction among users of packaged call center WFM solutions was 'strikingly low.'
'When asked to rate their satisfaction with common WFM modules - scheduling, forecasting, multi-site, real-time adherence, agent self-service, administration, intra-day management, multi-skill, multi-channel, reporting and long-term planning - respondents returned scores ranging from a high of 3.5 to a low of 3.0, out of a possible 5.0,' the report states. 'User disappointment was reported with all aspects of these applications, including core functionality, ease of use and price.'
While the report summary does not divulge the breakdown of users on hosted versus on-premises solutions, it is easy to assume that if there are more on-premises users represented, it would explain the low satisfaction with regard to system flexibility, ease-of-use and cost.
Not All WFM Solutions Are Created Equal
It would be surprising if users of cloud-based WFM systems pointed to lack of flexibility, considering that they are so much more flexible compared to on-premises systems. It would be equally surprising to learn that pricing would be an issue: Today's cloud-based or hosted workforce management solutions are in general offered for a monthly or annual subscription fee based on the number of seats, which means there's no up-front costs for new licenses or equipment. Although one could argue that those monthly fees spread out over three or four years might be enough to pay for an on-premises licensed system, the real advantage is the flexibility that is gained through the 'anywhere connectivity' a cloud-based WFM system delivers. And that flexibility gives companies a significant advantage in their call center operations.
For example, if you are going to be expanding your call center operations to include another location, or if you are implementing a home-based agent model, a cloud-based WFM system is ideal since it allows you to carry out these expansions quickly and easily. What's more today's cloud-based workforce management systems are highly scalable, meaning you can readily scale up or down the number of seats based on your needs. This is particularly advantageous for companies with seasonal sales cycles impacting call center staffing.
Some workforce management software vendors, such as Monet Software, have taken the flexibility of their offerings to a new level through the inclusion of agent-supervisor portals. Monet's agent-supervisor portal, Monet Anywhere, allows for real-time communication between agents and supervisors. This allows an agent to quickly notify a manager -- and all the other agents -- in the event they can't make it into work. Another agent can then pick up the shift -- or the manager can send out a request for coverage, to see if anyone is available. The result is much faster resolution of schedule conflicts compared to phone or email.
In addition, these secure Web portals allow agents to 'swap' or bid on shifts - sometimes without manager approval. So, if an agent can't make it in for a particular shift, they can send out a request to a colleague asking them to 'swap' it with them, without necessarily having to contact the manager for 'approval.'
Similarly, if an agent is looking to pick up additional hours, they can 'bid' on additional shifts for which they have not been scheduled. Furthermore, agents can make themselves available for extra shifts, in the event another agent gets sick or can't make it in, simply by indicating which shifts they are available for.
These agent-supervisor portals deliver a new level of flexibility in call center scheduling that helps drive agent satisfaction. Many agents today are part time, and as such need flexible schedules. Many of them are parents, students, retirees - or perhaps their call center job is just a part-time gig to supplement their full time salary. As a result, they often encounter sudden and unexpected events that result in them having to cancel a shift or not be able to show up on time.
With regard to ease of use, Monet Software gets high rankings for its simple, intuitive user interface. The company introduced the cloud-based version of its WFM software, WFM Live, last fall, and it includes 'a whole new look and feel - with a very polished and intuitive user interface' - as well as improved speed and accuracy for forecasting and scheduling.
Monet is also emphasizing improved ease of use: By bringing its workforce management software from a traditional hosted to cloud-based version, the company claims it has made forecasting and scheduling 'as easy and fast as using the Internet.'
If you're not satisfied with the ease-of-use, flexibility or cost of your current call center workforce management solution, whether hosted or on premises, check out Monet Software's cloud-based solution through its website. Here you can get an online tour and demonstration, plus you can download the company's Workforce Management Success Kit, offering numerous free resources to help you improve your call center forecasting and scheduling practices.
Come see how this cloud-based WFM solution stands apart from the rest.
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