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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
June 2007 - Volume 26 / Number 1
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Ten Solutions To Common Problems With Workforce Management Implementations

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director, Customer Interaction Solutions


Over the years, you’ve probably read a lot of articles about the most important things to consider when buying workforce management. You probably know them by heart: get executive buy-in, form a task force to determine needs, be sure integration will be easy, don’t buy features you don’t need, etc. You’re probably tired of hearing them. You also probably found that, last time around, even after due-diligence, you ended up with a solution that still didn’t quite meet your needs.

Your problem: Last time you bought workforce management, the company you bought from forgot your name 20 minutes after they left the building and has now unlisted its phone number.

The solution: Consider the values of your future partner.
Consider your purchase of workforce management software as the beginning of a project instead of the end, and the start of a hopefully strong relationship with your WFM vendor. As soon as implementation begins, you’re left not just with the software, but with the people who support it, and they’ll make a huge difference in
your success.

Selecting the right vendor is therefore critical.The most powerful software is
useful only if it is properly installed, and users are well trained and continuously supported. Contact centers understand what customer service is all about, and you should expect the same attitude and spirit from your vendor. When selecting a vendor, ask the following:

• How long does it take for the vendor to answer requests?
• What are the vendor’s policies around product evolution?
• Does the vendor have an
established users’ group, and how often does it meet?
• What do the vendor’s current customers have to say?

Your problem: The solution looked
great in the brochure, and at the scripted demo at the trade show, it seemed like it was made for your company. Strangely enough, once you’ve gotten it implemented in your call center, you’ve discovered that it was really designed for companies warehousing and shipping government surplus cheese in 1982.

The solution: When viewing vendor demos, make sure the vendor can demonstrate how their solution will meet your objectives, operational needs and specific future needs.

Armed with your prioritized business needs, you can approach software selection with confidence. All you really want to
buy is software that satisfies the vital items and that meets specific future needs you have also labeled as vital. This kind of prioritization proves invaluable during the many vendor demos you are likely to be subjected to.
If you can obtain software for the same price that includes the vital items and a few desirables, that may be the best option. But if you have to pay more to obtain merely desirable functionality, why bother? Or worse, if a salesman puts on an Oscar-worthy performance extolling the virtues of features you have already labeled as unnecessary, you won’t be swayed by the interest of the moment. (Ignore the IT guy gasping “That’s soooo cool!” at the end of the conference table.)

But take things a stage further. Demand that each of the vendors on your short list actually demonstrate how their solution will meet your specific objectives and operational needs. This step should be visual, not oral — you want to see it with your own eyes, not hear yet another round of vendor promises. The one that can demonstrate the fulfillment of your vital needs at the best price will be the best candidate.

Your problem: The vendor’s ROI calculations were achieved by no methods known to modern mathematics…or even astrology or tarot cards.

The solution: Compare vendors’ estimated ROI to your own.
Factor in decreases in agent labor hours, operational hours to forecast and schedule across the entire contact center enterprise, and an increase in calls handled and service levels. You will probably be handed ROI workouts by the various vendors and some may include some gifted statistical “adjustments.” It’s easy to be impressed by these, but safer to stick to numbers you can trust – your own. So have in hand your own numbers and see how the various tools and offerings work out under your own ROI model.

Keep in mind that the cost associated with a workforce management solution is more than just hardware and software. Therefore, it’s important to understand all the initial costs and ongoing expenses up-front. For example, the company may need to add workforce planning staff or be required to upgrade the ACD as part of the project. Keeping things like this in mind will ensure everything has been budgeted, and the company is fully prepared for the associated expenses.

Your problem: The total cost of ownership (TCO) was calculated by someone who finds balancing his own checkbook tricky.

The solution: Factor all possible hidden costs into your TCO.
When estimating the total cost of a workforce management (WFM) solution, it is important to identify all of the costs, both upfront and ongoing, that feed into the overall TCO. These include the following:

Cost of software licenses. If the solution is not pre-integrated with the ACD, it is important to include the cost of any required “connectors” needed to interface the software with the ACD.

Cost of additional hardware. Are additional servers required? Additional database licenses? Additional hardware also implies addition maintenance costs.

Cost of services (this can often be more than the software). Best practices consulting should not be skimped on, and the amount of training required for resource managers, supervisors and agents will, in part, depend on whether the WFM solution is part of the applications they are already using on a daily basis, or if it requires becoming familiar with an entirely new set of user interfaces.

Cost of integrating the WFM package into the ACD solution. This can be quite high, and take a significant amount of
time unless the solution is pre-integrated. Also this is a recurring cost as the integration may need to be redone whenever
either vendor releases a new version of
its software.

Cost of maintaining data. With a third-party product, dual maintenance is required for data gathered across users, queues, skills, workgroup memberships, etc.

Cost of service. A multi-vendor solution can lead to delays in service while it is determined whose piece of the solution is causing the problem. It also requires maintaining and paying for multiple service contracts.

Your problem: The workforce management solution was designed to operate
well only in a perfect world, complete
with unicorns, leprechauns, agents with perfect schedule adherence and other
fairy tale creatures.

The solution: Pay attention to schedule adherence issues.
Schedule adherence and conformity are critical concepts to consider when selecting WFM software. These concepts can be seen as the point in the process where schedules come to life. Agents are human beings, and behaviours, practices and other activities will fluctuate now and then. Effective WFM software will consider agent adherence over a period of time — not only in real-time.

WFM software vendors should be able to provide historical adherence and conformity data (ratios and details). Such data will ensure fairness and effective agent management and help avoid simply creating a “police” climate. Truly effective WFM software will provide reliable facts that enable fair and accurate agent evaluations.

Many vendors claim real-time adherence, but not all solutions are equal. Any significant lag-time between an agent going out of adherence and the notification and display of that event will drastically reduce the value being provided.

It is also important to consider the quality of information being provided on adherence. Does it indicate only that an agent was in or out of adherence, or does it provide details as to whether or not he or she was early or late transitioning from one activity to another, and what the agent was actually doing while out of adherence?

Additionally, the solution should be able to recognize adherence events that were out of the agent’s control, such as a meeting running long. Look closely at the mechanism used to do this. If it involves editing the schedule, then critical information is being lost. Instead, look for an easy-to-use interface to mark adherence events as excused, and why.

Your problem: You actually believe all your agents are going to come to work every day. The author may be contacted at
[email protected].

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