Agents are the heart of any customer contact center, and workflow management software for contact centers is gaining in popularity. As a result, the U.S. market for contact center workflow management software is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 74% through 2004, according to a recent report from Saddletree Research Inc.
Workforce management software allows for more efficient scheduling of agents with varying skill levels in both voice-based call centers and multi-channel contact centers. It has become a high-profile market segment as the value of human resources in the customer care industry has increased, according to Saddletree.
The software is important to contact centers "because workforce management has become a critical component of any successful CRM deployment," said Paul Stockford, chief analyst at Saddletree. "It is clear that the focus has come back to the contact center, [where] the most valuable assets are people," he said.
In multi-channel contact centers, which involve contact via the Web and e-mail, as well as traditional voice communication, multi-skilled agents are becoming more popular, Stockford said. Workforce management software allows scheduling supervisors to ensure that the right number of agents, with the right combination of skills, is scheduled appropriately.
When choosing a workforce management software package, "it's all going to depend on the operation itself," Stockford said. In general, companies should look for skill-based scheduling and a browser-based agent interface, which eases the job of the scheduling supervisor, he said. Additionally, a browser-based agent interface allows for agents to bid for shifts and swap shifts easily, according to Stockford.
"Make sure whatever scheduling package you choose lets you make changes quickly and easily," Stockford advised.
With workforce management software, a company's agents will be happier and more productive, Stockford said. "If you have agents that feel like they're being listened to, you'll have more longevity. It offers an incentive? and gives agents something to work toward," he added. For example, senior agents have the opportunities to bid on the shifts that they want, while schedules can also be built around the most valued agents.
As the demand for workforce management software has increased, so has the number of vendors offering the software, which has doubled in the past 18 months, according to Stockford. Currently there are eight vendors on the market. "Interest in the market is growing from the vendor perspective," he said.
There is also a relatively low penetration of workforce management software in U.S. call centers, with 12% of call centers using this type of application at the end of last year, according to Stockford. Shipments of workforce management software are expected to grow at a CAGR of 70% through 2004, leading to revenues of $1.2 billion by the year 2004 for vendors, he said.
"The opportunity in the market is significant," Stockford said. "It's almost like a blank canvas in terms of painting your own opportunity."
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