Contact Center Workforce Management: A Mission-Critical but Flawed Tool

By Donna Fluss

In Q2 2010, DMG Consulting conducted a survey of 230 contact center, enterprise, and IT executives, VPs, managers, directors, and decision-makers from around the world to assess the market’s perception and satisfaction with contact center workforce management (WFM) solutions. The study also evaluated agent attrition, channels used by contact centers, the role of social media, and the growing use of WFM outside of contact centers.

This benchmark study is a strong “call to action” for the workforce management market. The overall level of satisfaction among users of packaged contact center WFM solutions is strikingly low. When asked to rate their satisfaction with common WFM modules – scheduling, forecasting, multisite, real-time adherence, agent self-service, administration, intraday management, multiskill, multichannel, reporting, and long-term planning – respondents returned scores ranging from a high of 3.5 to a low of 3.0, out of a possible 5.0. User disappointment was reported with all aspects of these applications, including core functionality, ease of use, and price (see Figure 1). The results of this study beg the question of why WFM vendors are not making a greater effort to improve their functionality and increase customer satisfaction.

WFM Solutions Are Mission-Critical: The good news is that 75.5 percent of contact centers use a third-party licensed or hosted WFM solution, and 84.4 percent of these organizations consider their WFM solution mission-critical (see Figure 2). Unfortunately, few respondents are highly satisfied with their WFM functionality. It’s interesting to note that all survey participants are involved in either an inbound or blended (inbound/outbound) contact centers, reflecting a gap in interest or knowledge about WFM solutions for outbound environments.

All respondents, whether currently using a packaged WFM solution or not, appreciate the many benefits WFM solutions can provide. WFM helps reduce the time managers spend forecasting and optimizing agent schedules, reduces operating expenses, and improves customer and agent satisfaction. Despite strong and quantifiable benefits, however, the top issue preventing companies from adopting packaged WFM applications is their high purchase price.

The Agent Attrition Challenge: Workforce management solutions are essential for optimizing contact center performance and reducing operating costs, but when used properly they are also instrumental in improving agent satisfaction and reducing staff attrition. Agents understand that contact centers need to modify schedules, but they also want to be treated with fairness and respect, and they expect advance notice of changes. All employees seek a work/home balance, but as many contact center agents are on the lower end of the enterprise’s compensation pyramid, it’s generally fairly easy for them to walk away when employment conditions become too onerous and find a comparable position in another company.

Figure 3 reflects the monthly attrition rates of the survey participants. Almost half of the survey participants, 48.7 percent, have an agent attrition rate of less than 5 percent monthly. While this is considered acceptable in the market, a 5 percent monthly rate represents an annualized agent attrition rate of 60 percent. One-third (33 percent) of respondents have a monthly agent attrition rate of 6 percent to 15 percent; 9.6 percent have a monthly rate of 16 percent to 25 percent; 5.2 percent have a monthly rate of 26 percent to 35 percent; and 0.4 percent of survey participants have a monthly agent attrition rate of more than 76 percent.

Learn more about DMG Consulting at www.dmgconsult.com or contact Deborah Navarra at Deborah.Navarra@dmgconsult.com or 516-628-1098.

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2010]

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