By Sean Coomer
I entered the wonderful world of operational planning a number of years ago at a time when Workforce Management was perhaps at its peak in the contact center industry. Within contact centers we were realizing massive headcount saving based squarely on the fact that we could now measure, see and plan effectively for the anticipated customer demand. WFM software had started to become the standard in most contact centers and the value which it could add was at its greatest.
Prior to effective resource planning and scheduling there was a massive reliance on excel based models and a lack of detailed statistical analysis. Contact centers were in a state where the understanding of operational efficiency was based on productivity models focused on calls per agent and average handling times. The understanding of customer behavior, demand and our capability to align our costly resources efficiently was limited by our software.
The current state of WFM in the industry has seen WFM planners moving from a point where the bulk of the operational inefficiencies in headcount have been saved and to a point where we are applying the methodology to areas outside of telephony based interactions. Planning is rapidly growing in retail (your local MacDonald’s probably the best example), written and back office areas and the ever expanding Social media space. Most operational areas have established forecasting and scheduling models which are being applied with relative ease and despite the best effort of the software developers there is not a significant amount of value left to be had within the WFM industry as the majority of contact centers have an established forecasting and resource planning tool and have begun to understand what operational efficiency means hence the move to “Big Data Analytics” and “Customer Experience” tools. The return on investment for new WFM products has been on the decline.
Where to next will depend on how we are able to adjust our focus and grow the capability with the skill sets that have been developed over the years.
In my opinion the key growth points in the field of Workforce Management include:
· An increased involvement in the strategic decision making of the businesses that we are currently involved in armed with our understanding of customer behavior
· Increased delivery of business improvement and customer experience initiatives which have their roots in detailed call analytics and drive to improve efficiency and improve customer experience
· Growth into retail markets where the understanding and measurement of customer interactions within the retail environment is extremely limited.
· Social media and live chat planning.
· An increasing demand to have a WFM solution that can capture performance data and effectively plan for an omnichannel contact center where a single agent is interacting with customers on a variety of channels.
· Strategic operational partnerships to balance work load across industries a variety of businesses
Either way it’s an exciting and dynamic industry. Would be interested to hear your views on the next big thing in Workforce Management.