Customer Experience Metrics, Cloud Delivery Drive WFM Demand

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A couple of weeks ago I received a call from Leonard Klie at CRM Magazine.  He was writing an article about how customer experience could be maximized and wait time in the queue could be minimized given the current state of contact center solutions.  The idea for this story came about as a result of an old idea that seems to be once again rearing its ugly head.

About a month ago EE, the U.K.’s largest digital communications company, began offering customers the option of jumping to the front of the contact center queue in exchange for a small fee, in this case about 80 cents.  Leonard was calling asking for my opinion regarding how a contact center could optimize a customer experience in terms of offering reasonable wait times without resorting to the airline and hospitality industry hat trick of charging customers an additional fee.  Happy to share my opinion, as all analysts seem to be, I told Leonard I thought the answer to the problem wasn’t in charging fees, it was in efficient utilization of the contact center’s workforce management solution.

It’s no secret that there are lots of workforce management programs in the installed base today that are severely underutilized.  A lot of that underutilization is a result of turnover among administrators and the loss of knowledge about a particular workforce management solution that often goes with them when they leave.  Underutilized workforce management software means inaccurate forecasting scheduling, which means not enough agents in seats, which means longer queue times which means… you get the picture.

But, you say, what about all those contact centers that don’t have workforce management software because it’s too costly for their small operation?  That argument has been nullified by the advent of contact center workforce management in the cloud.  With the shift from a software purchase to a software service, the cloud has made workforce management software financially feasible for contact centers of virtually every size.  Small contact centers are no longer excluded.

According to the survey of end users Saddletree Research conducted in conjunction with the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) at The University of Southern Mississippi at the beginning of the year, workforce management market penetration has reached about 73 percent.  The majority of those without workforce management solutions tend to be contact centers with 50 or fewer seats – those contact centers that typically found workforce management software to be too costly for their small operation.

It’s also interesting to note that of those contact centers currently using workforce management software, about a quarter of them indicated their intent to replace that software with something newer sometime this year.   There are a surprising number of older workforce management solutions still being used by contact centers.  It’s not unusual for me to hear, during the course of a normal conversation, an NACC member mentioning something about their Blue Pumpkin system.  Even though these systems have been in place long enough to be fully depreciated two times over, users hang on to them due to the cost of replacement.  Workforce management in the cloud makes this concern obsolete.

As Mike Bourke said in a recent Aspect blog post, workforce management has for decades been the most valuable tool in the contact center’s low cost/high productivity arsenal.  (See “Taking Workforce Management to the Cloud” blog post of 11/11/14).  Taking workforce management to the cloud only increases its value proposition.

In a nutshell, I believe the answer to minimizing customer wait time in the queue and optimizing the customer experience lies in the efficient utilization of the contact center’s workforce management software.   For those previously excluded from the world of workforce management due to the prohibitive cost of the software, workforce management in the cloud means that this scheduling software is now within the financial reach of any contact center no matter the size.  For those contact centers hanging on to old, potentially obsolete workforce management systems, workforce management in the cloud enables any contact center to have state-of-the-art software without the previously required capital outlay.  No excuses.

Problem solved.

Hear more from Paul Stockford at the Saddletree Research Blog