Avoiding Buyer’s Remorse for Workforce Management Systems

By Bob Webb

Having buyer’s remorse over the purchase of an appliance, an article of clothing, or even an automobile is one thing. Remorse over spending tens of thousands of dollars on a software system that was supposed to make your life easier is quite another. Buyer’s remorse isn’t the result of one or two bad choices – it’s a compilation of multiple mistakes that only become visible after the software is implemented.

Some common reasons for software purchasing mistakes are:

  • Lack of pre-planning and not adhering to a budget
  • Buying features you may not need for years
  • Using a “follow the crowd” mentality
  • Succumbing to the idea that one solution can fix all your problems

Software is a tool, not a magic bullet. As any craftsman can tell you, a tool is only as good as the person using it. Overbuying software is just as financially dangerous as under-buying, and overbuying is the biggest purchasing mistake companies make. This includes buying software that is complex, difficult to implement, does not match current or future business needs, or exceeds their budget. Overbuying can also result from exaggerated vendor promises.

Buyer’s Remorse: Avoid buyer’s remorse by following a few simple steps:

Understand the Importance of What You Are Purchasing: In the contact center world, workforce management software provides a foundation for all other services. If a workforce management system is not functional or does not gather enough data to generate an accurate forecast, other software becomes secondary.

Many companies purchase software based on features only, ignoring other critical factors such as scalability and flexibility, which includes the software’s ability to grow with their company and meet ever-changing needs. If the technology does not match your ability to implement and manage the software, the result is a purchasing mistake and wasted resources.

Don’t Follow the Crowd: If you buy into the idea that “bigger is better” or because a vendor has more customers they must be superior, you risk making a purchase that does not fit your needs. The market is competitive, and vendors position themselves in the most favorable light through revenue reports, analyst ratings, magazine endorsements, and sometimes, exaggerated claims. Due diligence is important, but understand your needs and ensure they are being met.

The best method of vendor evaluation is customer referrals. Ask about promises made versus promises kept. Examine nuances that make a difference in functionality and performance, such as how frequently the software is upgraded and how changes in the software will affect your organization. Additionally, inquire about customer service and software support.

Evaluate Your Vendor: The quality of the vendor is as important as the quality of the software. Some companies have been acquired and their products merged with other solutions outside of their area of expertise. A company may have a solid reputation for developing their own solutions but lack innovation and functionality with acquired software. Vendor considerations should also include longevity factors as well as the likelihood of the company being acquired and merged into an organization with which you have no prior relationship.

Signs of a Purchasing Mistake: Common problems that constitute purchasing mistakes involve inaccurate forecasting and an inability to generate requirements at the interval level. These problems often result from inadequate scheduling algorithms. Accurate forecasting uses several components, including the amount of historical data available, the nature of the data, the forecasting period, an infinite number of different service objectives on one or more work streams, and algorithms that reflect real life customer behavior.

A workforce management system should be able to maintain several years of historical data in order to generate an accurate forecast. Bottom-line criteria for a functional workforce management system include:

  • How much data can it store and use?
  • Can it account for inflation due to abandoned calls?
  • Can it recognize seasonal fluctuations and growth trends?
  • Can you input special event information and apply correlation factors?

The biggest clue that you have made a purchasing mistake is experiencing over-staffing or under-staffing. Both scenarios are deadly to bottom-line revenue. Idle agents or unanswered phones lead to disastrous business results through wasted labor expense or customers lost to poor service.

Responding to a Purchasing Mistake: If you have buyer’s remorse and need to take action, what should you do? Should you just work with what you have, or replace it? This is a difficult decision, and companies have few good options.

The likelihood of your vendor providing a viable solution is low because they put you in this precarious situation in the first place. If a solution is offered, what are the chances of success, and how long will the process take?

Replacing a workforce management system can be costly and frustrating, but it may offer the best option. Before replacing a system, though, ensure that the original software was implemented correctly and all users are adequately trained. Poor training can result in underutilization or software not meeting service levels.

Workforce management is based on science and should be approached from a scientific perspective. Systems with time-tested and proven algorithms are most likely to produce forecasts that eliminate scheduling errors such as under- or overstaffing. Avoid buyer’s remorse by taking the time to carefully evaluate your business needs before investing in a software solution.

Bob Webb is VP of sales at Pipkins, Inc., a supplier of workforce management software and services to the call center industry, providing forecasting and scheduling technology for the front and back office.

[From Connection Magazine May 2013]