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October 2010 | Volume 28 / Number 5
Workforce Optimization

Short Message Service (SMS)

Managing Workforce Needs

By Brendan B. Read


If your contact center does not yet have a workforce optimization (WFO) solution, whether a pre-packaged or integrated suite from a single or partner consortium of suppliers, hosted by suppliers or by third-party providers, or one integrated from best of breed products, do so.


WFO: comprising of call recording, quality monitoring (QM), workforce management (WFM), e-learning, and increasingly speech analytics is one of the best investments you can make. That is because WFO enables you to get the most out of your labor resources, which can represent 70 percent of your costs, by efficiently managing them via versatile and easy to use applications.


These automated solutions are far quicker to use and allows you to do more than old-fashioned spreadsheets and pad-and-paper. They are much more adept at complex tasks such managing agents with different skillsets such as Spanish and French fluency and in written communications: e-mail, SMS/text, social media like Facebook and Twitter and web chat.


“As the contact center environment gets more complex, the need for automated tools increases, and Excel-based scheduling and home grown forecasting don't cut it in a multi-skill, multi-site, multi-center environment,” points out Keith Dawson, Senior Analyst, Frost and Sullivan.


New and Down The Road Capabilities
WFO suppliers and component makers have been devising enhancements to their solutions. ASC Telecom will launch its new version of INSPIRATIONpro 9.0 quality management product later this year. The firm recently won a contract for Europe’s largest QM deployment with Deutsche Telekom, involving 33 contact centers with more 10,000 agents.


Recognizing the security and resiliency, is top of mind CyberTech’s new CyberTech 5.3 recording solution contains ‘Eraser’, a new application that lets you completely remove data from hard drives. There is also a second CTI server on the recording system, which will take over whenever the primary CTI server fails.


Rugged forecasting and scheduling functionality is being extended to more tools. For example Telrex has integrated its CallRex WFM software and Fonality’s PBXtra Call Center solution that enables CallRex to capture real-time call queue information. CallRex Workforce Management software builds a historical database of workload and work time statistics collected from the Fonality product.


There are many variables in workforce planning include employee, especially union agreements and labor laws. InVision Enterprise WFM, version 4.7 contains 40 new functions for integrated time management that help users save time and calculate working times correctly. It also has enhanced staff planning functionality. The new Absence Planner feature provides a clear overview of all scheduled absences in the selected monthly view of a given planning unit and an annual overview of the scheduled absences of an individual employee.


Marrying Speech With WFO
One of the biggest developments in WFO is the advent of versatile and affordable speech analytics either as part of or readily integrated with the rest of the solutions. These new tools, driven by powerful audio keyword search engines, enable organizations to quickly and automatically identify performance matters including cancellations, commendations, and complaints. It also detects emotions indicating annoyance or satisfaction. It can boost WFO by providing intelligence to help supervisors see opportunities to make calls shorter and more effective, thereby improving staff utilization and performance.


“Supervisors have traditionally randomly picked calls but they have to go through which ones to pick, which takes a lot of time, “explains Jim Davies, research director, Gartner. “Speech analytics gives them great calls to evaluate based on any criteria they wish to select.”


Earlier this year Envision Telephony released Envision InteractionIQ™, which simplifies speech data processing, search, and reporting. Integrated with the Envision Centricity™ WFO platform, InteractionIQ accomplishes this with tools such as filters that focus processing power on the most pertinent and relevant interactions, and enabling only filtered delivered to an inbox to expedite review.


Several speech analytics tools are now deploy phonetic audio search and recognition engines. TelStrat’s new Engage Analyze uses it in place of older and what it says is less efficient large vocabulary speech recognition (LVCSR) speech-to-text applications because is not dependent on finite dictionary and grammar models which require constant maintenance as in LVCSR. This makes it easy to accurately search for new competitors, product names, slang, and other dynamically changing terms.


The technology in Engage Analyze’s makes it possible to audio mine up to 100 percent of calls, in real time if desired compared with three to five percent of calls with LVCSR without the massive computing power in the older systems. That is because such speech-to-text systems rely on limited, statistical sampling of calls due to cost and complexity.


CallCopy has new phonetic-based speech analytics solution that promises to cut total cost ownership via an intuitive front-end that eliminates the consultant/systems integrator/dedicated analyst staff infrastructure; it is fully integrated with the firm’s CallCopy’s cc: Discover suite. Confidence scoring in the solution improves accuracy and minimizes false positives by assigning probability scores to results; scores below a user-definable threshold are automatically filtered out. CC: Discover also has the new cc: Insight Platform, a real-time performance management system that delivers comprehensive reporting and dashboards to track performance from single and multiple centers and home agents all the way down to individual staffers.


Meanwhile Verint’s new Impact 360 Advanced Speech Analytics for enterprises and the Impact 360 Speech Analytics Essentials solution designed for small and medium-sized contact centers uses both LVCSR and phonetics recognition. This is the best combination it says of both speed and accuracy, adding meaning and context to every interaction.


“The ‘Essentials’ software brings speech analytics technology into mainstream contact center operations – enabling them to experience benefits previously out of reach, all without costly setup overhead, lengthy consulting engagements and the need for interpretation by separate analyst staff, “ explains Ryan Hollenbeck, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing, Verint. Multichannel Optimization


When looking at WFO components or suites consider ensuring that they are optimized for multichannel communications. More interactions are happening by e-mail, SMS/text, web chat and by social channels such as Facebook and Twitter. For all but the most sophisticated operations, which requires and can afford highly literate agents who are adept at both speaking and writing, that generally means two separate agent groups. That is because most agents who excel at voice are poor in text. By the same token those agents who are superb at written communication are often not as effective with verbal interactions.


Managers have to therefore carefully plan agent deployment and quality management around these new channels and perform analysis on these interactions. There subsequently needs to be training and coaching on these new media.


“It is not easy to find people who excel at both sets of skills and who are willing to work in contact centers,” reports Davies.


Most WFO tools can schedule agents to handle written communications. The challenge is in integrating speech and text analysis because the way people express themselves by writing is very different compared with talking. There are specialist text analytics vendors just as there are speech analytics suppliers.


To bridge that divide speech analytics suppliers are working on programs that can handle both oral and written communications. Davies expects to see these solutions to appear next year.


“The vendors we’re talking about in WFO all of their background is in audio,” explains Davies. “They have to extensively modify their t technology. Consequently they can’t apply the knowledge they've got from the speech engines. They have to use different engines, algorithims, models, and business rules.”


Suites versus integrated solutions
There has been an ongoing trend to place WFO components into suites from single or consortium of vendors, driven business opportunities. The suites approach has several key benefits: among them improved performance, economies of scale, reduced IT costs, one-stop or easier support from these pieces being pre-fit together.





“Companies are increasingly demanding integrated, single source technology solutions,” reports Verint’s Hollenbeck. “As a result, we’re seeing a frequent shift among our customer base as they continue to invest in a unified, analytics-driven workforce optimization suite from one technology provider.”


The downsides are that you may not get the WFO solution that optimally performs for your specific environment. Also you may end up spending money for components that you do not need either for function or because you have that functionality already and they work fine. There are plenty of standalone tools out there to craft the WFO process you need.


“Though the marketplace has consolidated around several large players that have the majority of the market share in WFO, the fact is that end users still have a significant amount of leeway to put their tools together as a patchwork of different vendors' offerings,” explains Dawson. “This is true even if they are inclined towards suites, because of the many integration and partnership agreements that cover the vendor landscape.”


The makeup of and the names behind those WFO suites may be changing though. Infrastructure suppliers who presently offer WFO solutions, such as Aspect and Interactive Intelligence could be joined by their competition. Jim Davies, research director, Gartner seeing more interest by the infrastructure vendors, which adds further breadth to the single contact center offering concept.


Yet Davies also sees the potential and value of CRM vendors to connect into WFO tools. For example, automatically aligning things like the launch of a marketing campaign to agent staffing volumes, training and performance measures would help the contact center be more efficient and effective.


At the same time there are more hosted contact center platform suppliers who also offer WFO. Firms such as inContact and LiveOps provide it to their clientele.


“With a combined infrastructure and WFO suite you can have your ACD, dialer, campaign planner, call recording, workforce management in the same environment,” says Davies. “And there's going to be more firms both premises solutions and hosted who will offer it.”


Yet Davies also sees the potential and value of CRM vendors to connect into WFO tools. For example, automatically aligning functions and programs like the launch of a marketing campaign to agent staffing volumes, training and performance measures would help contact centers become more efficient and effective.


Whether by the WFO suite suppliers, infrastructure firms, CRM outfits or hosted platform providers he sees up the pipeline that more WFO solutions will be hosted in line with SaaS adoption in general.


There are handful of best of breed hosted in call recording and workforce management but as of yet nothing from the mainstream WFO vendors who offer best of breed hosted.


“They are all looking and monitoring and currently use partners but will maybe offer directly later on,” says Davies.


In making your decisions in what you want in WFO and how you want it delivered, map those features out with your supplier. GMT’s approach is to conduct value discovery and document the customer’s business drivers in a benefits measurement plan early in the sales and implementation process. This acts as the guide, explains GMT CEO Simon Angove, CEO by which his firm and his customers will define project success, which helps to ensure that all stakeholders are keenly aware of the value drivers for the project and by which success will be measured.


“The road to workforce optimization is littered with the bones of failed projects either product capabilities fall short of customers’ expectations or those customers are unable, for whatever reason, to get the desired business value out of their investment, “ explains Angrove. “This is sometimes attributable to product features but, more often than not, it has to do with ensuring that the customer can most effectively use the product in their operational environment.”


Field Service WFO
Field service WFO can get challenging because there are many unique variables that have to be monitored and adjusted such as job complexity, unexpected problems and glitches, and traffic. Suppliers are responding with more value-rich solutions:


  • Click Software is putting the finishing touches upon version 8 of its Service Optimization Suite. Version 8 will include the next generation of its ClickRoster shift scheduling and optimization solution, ClickRoster, which goes beyond the firm’s traditional field service market to support many other areas of workforce management and optimization.

  • CSG Systems has introduced automated dispatch functionality into its Workforce Express suite. It monitors technician and job status in real-time, and makes the necessary adjustments to job assignments. It also automatically re-optimizes technicians’ work plans for the current day, ensuring the most efficient route possible. The end result is less down time for the technician and a more productive day for both techs and dispatchers, who can focus on more value-added functions than monitoring techs and job statuses.

The following companies participated in the preparation of this article


Asc Telecom
www.asctelecom.com


CallCopy (News - Alert)
www.callcopy.com


Click Software
www.clicksoftware.com


CSG Systems (News - Alert)
www.csgsystems.com


CyberTech
www.cybertech-int.com


Envision Telephony
www.envisioninc.com


GMT
www.gmt.com


InVision
www.invisionwfm.com


LiveOps (News - Alert)
www.liveops.com


TelStrat
www.telstrat.com


Telrex (News - Alert)
www.telrex.com


Verint
www.verint.com


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