By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Projecting incoming call center traffic and scheduling enough staff to match the projections are challenging, time-consuming, and thankless tasks. And the larger the call center, the more complex this process becomes. If a staff doubles in size, the effort to generate an accurate and effective schedule can be expected to increase four-fold. Fortunately, there is software available to make this task easier and quicker. This software is known generically as workforce management software. The offerings from six leading companies are covered below:
Aspect Communications Corporation‘s offering is called eWorkforce Management. It automates the tasks involved in contact center staffing. The software determines the number of customer service representatives (CSRs) with various skill sets that a contact center will need to cover specific shifts. It then creates work schedules, assigns CSRs, and tracks performance. The schedules are based on the software’s predictions of the volume and patterns of incoming communications (voice, Web, and email), the contact center’s desired service levels, and the CSR’s own schedule preferences. Supervisors can view real-time staff activity, compare it to assigned work schedules, and be alerted with color-coded alarms when staff aren’t adhering to their schedules. They can also provide staff access to their work schedules with the option to request schedule changes, time off, or overtime using a Web browser or an interactive voice response system.
Callcenter Performance Management, LLC provides two interrelated products: Callcenter Floor Manager and Callcenter Bid Manager.
Callcenter Bid Manager (CBM) automates the shift bid process. It allows the user to download employee and schedule information from other workforce management tools, allowing the call center agents to view schedule information online and define and maintain their own schedule preferences. CBM allows the call center manager to define specific business rules that govern the assignment process. One feature is CBM’s ability to dynamically match open schedules throughout the assignment process against the preferences on file, ensuring that each agent obtains the best possible schedule. The Callcenter Floor Manager starts at $15,000 (including 200 agent licenses); pricing is progressively discounted for incremental licenses.
Callcenter Floor Manager (CFM) completes post bid tasks such as creating supervisor schedules, assigning agents to supervisors based on optimal coverage criteria, and assigning agents to workstations. Newly assigned schedules can be downloaded from CBM or other workforce management tools. These schedules can be analyzed in CFM to identify seating requirements using a variety of different scenarios. For example, the application can assign a unique seat per representative, or perform a number of “hot seating” assignments to obtain optimal utilization of workstations. CFM attempts to balance utilization of space, coverage between agents and supervisors, and seating team members near their supervisors. Pricing for the Callcenter Floor Manager starts at $20,000 (including 200 agent licenses); pricing is progressively discounted for incremental licenses. (Note: the price of the Web-enabled version is slightly higher.)
Left Bank Solutions, Inc. provides the Monet Workforce Management System. It is a forecasting and scheduling package. First, it forecasts agent requirements using service objectives and historical data, considering incoming calls, emails, and other non-call activities. Agent schedules are determined for each 15-minute period of the day, building shrinkage, maximum tolerance, and abandon levels into the forecasts. Customized shifts and schedules are then created to handle forecasted volumes after considering employee data such as availability, ranking, skill set, and other agent profile information. In doing so, the schedule can contain an unlimited number of splits or agent groups. There is also an option to manage seasonal fluctuations and holiday call volume. Cost information is provided for all forecasted shifts and agent schedules so users can produce staffing budgets. Reports can be exported to Excel and in .PDF formats; reports and agent schedules can both be sent via email.
The Monet Workforce Management System is available in a single server (stand-alone or shared) configuration for ACD integrations. Pricing is $4,995.
Professional Resource Management, Inc.’s PC-based Agent Power product helps call center managers find a balance between service level and productivity. Agent Power projects call volume and agents needed by month, week, day, or half-hour increment. It then develops agent work schedules to match projected need with agent availability using agent preferences and skills.
Pricing varies; a system for 30 agents is priced at approximately $16,000.
Symon Communications, Inc. provides Community, a Web-browser-basedworkforce management product that enables schedule planning and labor cost control. Community compares service level needs against historical and real-time data to create a schedule that attempts to balance quality and costs. Community can create schedules and forecasts, optimize staffing, and track adherence in real time. Symon claims the package is easy to use and says it doesn’t require a specialized scheduler. Community also collects and analyzes data.
It provides capabilities of larger systems, but is priced to be affordable for centers as small as 25 seats. It is scalable for various size operations. All modules are included so there are no additional costs and all modules and features run on one file server. Pricing for Community was not provided.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.
[From Connection Magazine – June 2003]