Call Centers Splurge on Workforce Optimization

Faced with pressures from global competition and increasing turnover rates, call centers are looking to technology to improve effectiveness and efficiency. According to research firm Datamonitor, in 2003 call centers worldwide spent nearly $700 million on workforce optimization systems. Based on vendor projections and other industry factors, Datamonitor expects that figure to rise to $1.2 billion by 2008, led by wider adoption of nascent e-learning and agent-analytics capabilities. Workforce management and quality monitoring currently account for the lion's share of workforce optimization spending, but strong interest in the newer disciplines will drive growth rates in workforce optimization more than 10 percent through 2007. The differing areas offer views into various aspects of agent management. Automatic call distributor statistics provide a big-picture quantitative view of performance; quality monitoring offers qualitative glimpses into agent effectiveness; and agent analytics allow managers to take a complete and fair look at each employee by the numbers. Currently a relatively small discipline, investments in agent analytics will grow to nearly $120 million over the next five years, Datamonitor projects. "There's a lot of need in call centers to be able to drill down into individual agent performance," says Tom Pringle, a technology analyst at Datamonitor. "Superficially, you would expect that quality monitoring and agent analytics [overlap], but although they have similar goals to improve the quality and effectiveness of the agent, quality monitoring does it in one specific way with voice and data capture, while agent analytics looks at a whole range of sources." Although workforce management solutions for schedule optimization have been around for years, according to Pringle ongoing improvements in the agent self-service component of the programs continues to drive adoption. Software vendors are going beyond administrative tasks like shift-swapping marketplaces and implementing self-scoring mechanisms that allow companies and employees to define performance indicators, providing detailed analysis to employees. In effect, they can see their own scorecards, minimizing surprises in performance evaluations and offering immediate feedback and opportunities for improvements. In addition, Pringle anticipates that as core workforce management technologies continue to improve and mature, they will start to filter out of the call center and into other time-critical, transaction-heavy business functions. "We're seeing it in the back-office functions of banks and insurance companies," he says. "And while it's not being done yet, eventually in large transport hubs where there are jobs that are highly process-based--that could be more effectively managed."
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