Workforce Management Expands, But Fails to Satisfy All

The workforce management (WFM) market for contact centers continues to grow at a solid rate, as more businesses seek to improve overall customer service by providing employees with everything needed to deliver a quality experience.

According to a study recently released by DMG Consulting, the contact center WFM market grew by 15 percent in 2007, and this year is shaping up to be even better: DMG predicts that 2008 will be the best year in the history of the WFM market, with an expected 20 percent growth rate.

But there are other ways of analyzing how businesses incorporate WFM processes and solutions. Customer Relationship Metrics, a company with a focus on contact center industry research, began collecting data on Monday for its second Workforce Management Practices Study (WMPS). Jim Rembach, senior vice president of Customer Relationship Metrics, says a second study is warranted due to the expansion of the WFM market as well as compelling statistics from last year's inaugural study.

"From a benchmarking perspective, it really is insightful to see how different organizations are utilizing processes and tools in addition to how they're managing their workforce and improv[ing] the performance of their workforce," Rembach says. This year's study, he adds, will provide that comparison: "We need to see how we've done from then to now."

Key findings from last year's WMPS include:

  • An 88 percent penetration rate of licensed WFM software to support the scheduling function;
  • 52 percent of respondents did not use licensed WFM software to support performance reporting;
  • 25 percent did not use licensed WFM software to support forecasting;
  • respondents placed more emphasis on accessibility metrics than on efficiency and WFM effectiveness metrics; and
  • 37 percent of respondents were not satisfied with the WFM process, while 41 percent were not satisfied with the available WFM software.

Rembach says the number of dissatisfied respondents was surprising. "A lot of people were very dissatisfied with processes and products, and that was shocking," he recalls. Even though the market is expanding and more solutions are being offered, Rembach believes those two developments alone will not ease dissatisfaction. "If we don't do these types of studies and take intelligence for the betterment of the industry as a whole, the rate of dissatisfaction is going to increase. We need to be proactive and try to improve [the] level of dissatisfaction."

Bearing this in mind, Rembach says there is more collaboration from vendors this year: The second study is endorsed by the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals, while InVision Software, Verint, and Calabrio are joining as sponsors. "The sponsors we have are committed to taking things to a higher level," he explains. "Not only [with] delivery of their products but also [with] any types of services and education they can deliver. [They want to] have a higher-performing workforce management process."

While results are difficult to predict at the outset of any study, Rembach says he's confident about one aspect of this year's efforts: "I am expecting, for one thing, greater participation from the industry as a whole -- because it correlates with the growth of the market. More and more organizations are starting to implement more structure and invest in more tools in order to manage their workforce."

As the WFM market continues to expand and more products and innovation flood the space, Rembach says it's important to remember what the original focus of the technology was supposed to be all about. "As a whole, what does 70 to 80 percent of all our industry investment go into?" he asks. "People. And yet, what is one of the biggest systemic problems with our industry? Low morale and [high] turnover -- because performance management systems managing 70 to 80 percent of our investment are maybe not necessarily flawed in their creation, but flawed in the way we implement them and utilize them. We need to fix that."

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