Survey Results

Each quarter SWPP surveys the workforce planning community on critical workforce planning topics. Over 220 call center professionals representing a wide variety
of industries participated and provided insight into this quarter’s survey on the use of WFM tools.

Survey Participants

Fifty-three percent of the respondents in this survey work in centers with over 500 agents. The rest are representative of a wide variety of sizes from under 50 up to 500 agents. The financial, heath care, and insurance industries drew the largest number of participants, but all other industries are also well represented.

Forecasting Tools

Respondents were asked what tool is used for forecasting. Almost two-thirds indicated that they use a commercial WFM software. However, almost one quarter use spreadsheets with the remainder using a home-grown tool, some other tool, or no tool at all. Depending upon the size and complexity of the operation, forecasting can be challenging without some kind of tool to assist the process. Where there are marketing campaigns, weather impacts, and other business drivers that impact the volume and handle time of contacts, adjusting the staffing plan is generally needed.

Scheduling Tools

When asked what tools are used to support the scheduling process, 85 percent of respondents indicated that they use a commercial WFM tool. For any center with hours longer than a single shift can cover, a mix of full- and part-time staff, or a significant level of complexity in the scheduling rules, the need for some tool to aid the process is clear.

Intraday Performance Tools

The respondents were asked what tools are used to manage intraday performance, and the responses closely track with the use of scheduling tools. Slightly more centers are using tools other than the commercial WFM software or no tool at all.

Tracking and Monitoring Schedule Adherence

The survey further explored the management of the agents’ adherence to their assigned schedules. Once again, 86 percent of the respondents use a commercial software tool to track whether agents are following the planned schedules.

Length of Time With WFM Software Tool

The respondents who indicated that they are using a commercial WFM software package were asked how long ago the tool had been installed. Over half indicated that the software had been in place more than 5 years with another 18 percent indicating 3 to 5 years.

Timing of Last Upgrade

Respondents were asked when the last upgrade had been done on their WFM software. Slightly less than half indicated it had been done in the last year, but almost two-thirds have done it within the last 3 years. The vendors of these products generally do new releases on a regular basis to add new functions and fix problems users have uncovered. Keeping the tool up to date may require a change in hardware and generally comes with new training on the capabilities that are changed and added. This potential cost should be included in the center’s annual budget so that the system does not become obsolete.

Last Training by WFM Software Vendor

Along with the need to keep the software itself up-to-date, the staff needs to be fully trained on the product as well. It is common for the full training to be provided to the staff in place when the tool is first installed, but less common for new personnel in the WFM team to get the training directly from the vendor. More often the existing staff trains the new personnel which can lead to limitations in the utilization and even errors being handed down. When asked how long it had been since the last training by the vendor, 64 percent indicated that it had happened in the last three years. However, more than a quarter of the respondents indicated it had been more than 5 years ago or they simply didn’t know when it had happened last. Vendor training is another item that should be included in the department’s annual budget to ensure that these expensive and sophisticated tools are used to provide the greatest value.

Customer Satisfaction Levels

Slightly over half of the respondents indicated that they are either very satisfied or satisfied with their WFM software tools. However, one in four respondents indicated they are neither satisfied or dissatisfied and 19 percent are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. It would be interesting to compare the dissatisfied respondents to those who have not upgraded or had vendor training recently to see if there is a correlation.

Agent Access to WFM Software

Respondents were asked if agents are allowed to access the WFM software to check schedules, do trades, etc. Almost 90 percent are allowing this access with another 5 percent planning to add it soon.

Greatest Challenges

Respondents were asked to identify the greatest challenge in their WFM processes today. The answers are widely varied including the more common issues below:

  • Tool is complex and difficult to use
  • Not linking the tool to other systems to track time off, payroll, scheduling QA processes, etc.
  • Multi-skill and multi-channel forecasting and scheduling are inaccurate and cumbersome
  • Communication with operations staff is not working well
  • Lack of accountability of operations staff to the plan
  • Sub-par training from vendor – learning more from the community
  • Outdated product and no budget for upgrades or training
  • Lots of manual data entry due to limitations in the automated options
  • Inadequate staffing in the WFM department
  • Aligning business needs and agent desires
  • Closing Comments

Based on the responses above, the adoption of WFM planning tools is widespread although there are still a significant percentage of centers working from spreadsheets and other types of processes. Given that the foundation of the entire WFM process is an accurate forecast, it is disconcerting to see the percentage of organizations who perceive that these tools cannot meet their needs. Scheduling and managing the intraday processes seem to be more heavily utilized than the forecasting.

The challenge of keeping the tools up-to-date and the staff fully trained on the capabilities continues to be one of the major difficulties for most respondents. Building upgrades and staff training into the budget can help to ensure that these sophisticated tools provide the return on the investment that supported the purchase decisions. It can also avoid (in some cases) the perceived need to change vendors to achieve some result that might well have been available in the existing tool. However, users working with the vendors to identify and develop new capabilities is an ongoing need for users and vendors alike. It is a team effort to achieve the best results for these complex tools.