By Bob Webb, VP Sales
If you are considering purchasing a workforce management system, you need to be aware of all available options. A major consideration is choice of vendors. There are basically two vendor options: best-of-breed companies who specialize in workforce management; or end-to-end solution providers who bundle workforce management with other software solutions. This is an important consideration because it can ultimately mean the difference between profit and loss.
Many end-to-end vendors promise a tightly integrated and seamless solution for all of your software needs. The packaging is attractive and the promises are compelling; however, the drawbacks may be invisible until after the installation is complete. One of the most important considerations when choosing a workforce management vendor is the ability to produce an accurate forecast. The importance of accurate forecasting cannot be overstated. Accurate forecasting is the foundation of call center scheduling, and without it, over- and understaffing will occur and impact the profitability of a contact center.
Accurate forecasting that takes into account all the historic and future dynamics requires a sophisticated forecasting tool. Not all forecasting tools perform the same. Only the most sophisticated systems can perform correlated forecasting — that is, forecasting for specific events such as catalog drops or other marketing events that cause wide fluctuations in the volume of calls that must be processed. No single methodology is optimal for all circumstances; however, four factors should be taken into consideration: the amount of historical data available; the nature of the data; the forecasting period; and any special events or campaigns.
Workforce management systems should save money and increase efficiency in your call center. Making the right purchasing decision is important for companies who are looking to upgrade or implement new technology. Today’s economy places additional pressure on companies to be more diligent when spending dollars allocated to improve efficiency. Many contact centers are still scheduling agent hours through costly and inefficient manual methods. Investment in a workforce management solution can provide an attractive return on investment as well as positively impact a company’s bottom line. However, making the wrong purchasing decision can result in wasted investment dollars and a system that does not meet your needs.
Understanding what your company really needs now and aligning your purchasing decision with long-term goals is critical when choosing a software vendor. There are four important factors in making a smart purchasing decision:
Many vendors promote integration as one of the biggest considerations in a purchasing decision. While integration is important, it should not be placed above your overall business needs. One erroneous assumption is that all vendors are able to integrate with other vendors’ applications. This is not true and you should ensure that all tools are available for integration before purchasing a workforce management system. Some vendors claim that you will get better integration from one vendor. This is not necessarily true because if, for example, you purchase or accept a free workforce management system with the purchase of quality monitoring software, the developers of the quality monitoring software may not understand workforce management. This can result in a system that may not be fully functional, and/or does not meet your specific needs. Many best-of-breed solutions provide easy integration and more data sharing capabilities with other vertical software products because of database structures and vendor collaboration.
- Ease of use
One feature that some vendors emphasize when promoting their workforce management solution is ease of use. If you consider this to be an important factor, remember that ease of use does not always translate to quality and functionality. Purchasing a solution that your users will adopt and learn is important; however, if the system is not functional or does not meet your specific needs, ease of use becomes secondary.
- Do not allow a vendor to hold you captive
Before purchasing workforce management technology, consider whether you can afford to buy features now that you may not need for years. Look for a system that allows you to grow and add features on an as-needed basis. While it may be tempting to accept vendor offers that promote “one solution fits all” or offers free software, quality and functionality should be your primary considerations. Beware of companies offering free workforce management solutions. Choose a system that will deliver a return on investment now and support your company’s more challenging and sophisticated needs for the future.
- Return on Investment
If you do not select a best-of-breed system, whether you’re buying a standalone package or a so-called end-to-end solution, it may have too many limitations to deliver the results you’re looking for. If the forecasting or scheduling is not sophisticated enough or if you’re doing too many processes manually, you are essentially leaving money on the table by failing to staff your center properly. Some vendors claim that return on investment (ROI) can be achieved in less than a year, or even within the first six months of purchase. ROI is subject to many variables, including how it is calculated. Workforce management is a wise investment that provides a strong ROI while increasing efficiency in the call center.
No single vendor can offer a complete quality solution regardless of their claims. Quality suffers when vendors acquire other software that is not their area of expertise. Using one vendor for all your software purchases limits your options for competitive pricing, locks you in to one technology system, and many times restricts your ability to pay as you grow.
When you choose a best-of-breed workforce management vendor, you are choosing:
- Solutions created and implemented by scientists and software engineers who understand workforce management software and work to continuously improve its effectiveness
- Ability to buy features as you need them
- Customized solutions to fit your business needs
Consider your overall business strategy and do not allow a solution to put you at the mercy of one vendor. The best decision is to choose a vendor that specializes in workforce management and understands the business needs of your company.