Perhaps more than ever before, contact centers are being tasked with ensuring employees are utilized as effectively as possible. Workforce management (WFM) systems, which help supervisors forecast budgets, schedule agents, and shed light on performance management statistics, can help get the most out of every employee.
According to new research from Pelorus Group, a Raritan, N.J.–based market-research company, the global market for contact center WFM systems continues to grow despite the recession, with sales forecast to double from $268 million in 2008 to $533 million by 2014.
Dick Bucci, senior consultant at Pelorus Group and author of the every-other-year report, says the 2008 dollar figure marks a 20 percent increase from 2006, but the final figure was likely impacted by the recession. "My sense is that [the market] grew more in 2007 than in 2008," he says. "I do believe sales of workforce management -- along with many other contact center applications -- have been relatively flat in 2008 and possibly into 2009."
That doesn't dampen his forecast for the future, though, as Bucci predicts that WFM sales will return to double-digit growth rates starting in 2010. "A large reason is that many projects are backlogged in the sales cycle at this time," he adds. "The projects are approved, but the money isn't released because the [chief financial officer] may think the outlook is fairly soft. So there's a pretty hefty backlog of projects that will be released when the economy turns around."
Adding to that is the rapid growth Bucci reports in international markets, which he divides between EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) and Rest-of-World (which includes Asia-Pacific and Japan). Between 2006 and 2008, he says, the North American region saw 6 percent sales growth, while EMEA jumped 64 percent and Rest-of-World saw 47 percent growth. "Workforce management is a fairly mature product in North America," Bucci says. "But in the rest of the world, which follows North America by three to five years, there are still fairly large contact centers not using WFM [that] will need to as their needs and economic justification increase."
That isn't to say the well has run dry in North America. Bucci says the statistics are skewed by the adoption among larger contact centers, as he estimates 85 percent of contact centers with 500 or more agents in North America already utilize WFM. "The numbers drop off when you get below 250 agents, so there is still large potential there," he says. "That's why you're seeing vendors with specific offerings for smaller contact centers. Others are going to a hosted model."
Bucci says the appeal of hosted WFM solutions -- as with many on-demand offerings -- is the perceived cost-effectiveness from the absence of a large upfront capital-budget outlay. Being able to get by without extensive technical resources in-house to support the application is another potential benefit to the hosted model.
The major players in WFM remain unchanged, according to Bucci, with Aspect Software, Nice Systems, and Verint Systems still accounting for 80 percent of the total market. Bucci also notes that a handful of Europe-based companies, including InVision Software and Telopti, are making names for themselves. "European companies do well in their home markets because they understand the local laws, regulations, culture, and language issues," he says. "I can't say that there's anybody about to unseat the majors, though."
One interesting change since the release of the previous report in 2006, Bucci says, involves the relationships between vendors and their customers -- in part because many contact center managers indicated that WFM was not living up to its promise. "I see a lot of vendors now taking the view that the product has not really been sold until the customer is fully satisfied," he says. "That means spending more time in identifying the mission of WFM, studying objectives, and helping contact centers identify the key metrics, working hand-in-hand with ongoing training and support. In my report in 2006, there was a tendency for vendors to sell the product and provide basic services, but then just go on to the next customer."
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