Call centers’ spending on various workforce optimization technologies (WOTs), valued at approximately $800 million dollars last year, will increase to more than $1 billion in 2006, a new study conducted by independent market research firm Datamonitor reports. The analysis, based on briefings involving several vendors in this sector, also concludes that these investments will allow these organizations to enhance employee performance and improve customer service.
Workforce optimization technologies really consist of four different components, said Tom Pringle, Datamonitor technology analyst and author of the study. These four components are workforce management, which is scheduling and planning of agent resources in call center environments; e-learning, which is delivering content and learning breaks to personnel’s desktops; quality monitoring, which is recording some or all of the calls that come into the call center for later analysis by management or team leaders to assess performance of staff on the phone; and agent analytics, which is taking different metrics and different systems that measures performance of both individual employees and the overall call center.
The extent to which a call center will use one or a combination of these components depends on its structure and needs. For example, a company that has multi-site call-center operations with a centralized scheduling function to plan operations at various locations probably will require a solution distinct from that of a business with a single facility. “Different companies do different WOTs,” Pringle said. “Really, it’s about getting a solution that fits the requirements of the call center.”
There are two principle aspects in which call centers can expect to benefit from adopting one or more of these components, Pringle said. “The key one to start with is efficiency. Scheduling agent resources has in some senses been left to an Excel spreadsheet or Post-It notes stuck at management desks. What workforce management does really is helps assess the requirements based on the flow of calls into the center and the availability of agents’ skills to handle different types of calls. It might not just be a call they’re receiving, but it could be e-mail or a Web chat as well. It can help schedule resources to match more closely the demand placed on a center. Clearly, if you have too few agents, you’re going to end up with very frustrated customers, whereas if you have too many agents through poor scheduling, you’re obviously going to be carrying more costs than you have to.
“The other area is effectiveness,” he added. “There’s not much good in having an agent who doesn’t know quite how to handle a particular kind of call. This is where quality monitoring can help identify those areas an agent might need help with. E-learning can help plug the gaps. If there’s application on the desktop they’re not 100 percent familiar with, that would be spotted through quality monitoring and agent analytics, and you could use e-learning to pass that information on to that agent. It can also be used to positively assess agent performance as well. It’s not just about being the bad guys. It’s about making sure the agents are properly assessed on their performance.”
Although the workforce management and quality monitoring components are already somewhat established in call center environments, e-learning and agent analytics have begun to pick up steam as well. Pringle predicts that all four categories of WOTs will continue to grow in the coming years as awareness of them rises. “This market, as a recognized market, is still developing,” he said. “One of the things we’ve seen going into 2005 is much greater recognition from call center managers and decision makers of the availability of these technologies.”
For more information, see http://www.datamonitor.com.