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Workforce management took center stage at the recent ICCM show in Las Vegas. The surging interest in workforce management applications comes at a time when companies are battening down their call center hatches and looking for ways to streamline efficiency.
What is workforce management? In a break-out session called Strategic Workforce Management: A Panel Discussion, moderator Paul Stockford, president and chief analyst at Saddletree Research, defined workforce management as "the art and science of getting the 'just right' number of resources in place at the right times to respond to customer contacts to meet desired service goals while minimizing costs."
Some of the capabilities of workforce management applications are performance reporting, schedule adherence monitoring, time off administration, nonphone work forecasting and scheduling, multisite scheduling and tracking, multiskill scheduling, simulation of complex routing environments, and what-if analysis and planning, according to Stockford.
Members of the panel--representatives from Aspect, Blue Pumpkin, CenterForce, and IEX--joined Maggie Klenke, a partner at the Call Center School, to field questions like the following: What makes an organization a good candidate for workforce management software? Klenke answers the question with some questions of her own: "Do you have times with too much work or not enough work? Do you need to get a consistent level of staffing? Do you have more than 20 agents? If so, you're ready."
Workforce optimization manages the ebb and flow of daily call volumes into a call center. "When do we give the worst service? During the peak period when it affects the most customers. When do we give the best service? At 2:00 a.m., when nobody cares. So you want to give the same level of service all day," Klenke says.
Planning work schedules can be a little bit of an art, says Larry Skowronek, senior manager of product management for enterprise applications at Aspect, as unforeseen events will foil the best scheduling plans.
"You can't forecast straight away off of historical data," Skowronek says, adding that there are often unforeseeable external forces like bad weather or a marketing campaign that could offset the normal or anticipated call volumes.
Yet Brian Spraetz, director of marketing at IEX, says that even including unforeseen circumstances, workforce management solutions can still forecast outcomes with "a really close approximation--between 80 to 90 percent."
Workforce management vendors maintain that better staff management will yield better service. "The idea is, workforce management will get the right people in at the right time, and when you do there's a direct correlation to customer satisfaction," says Tom Aiello, vice president of sales and channel development at CenterForce Technologies.
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