This article details the results of the most recent SWPP and QATC quarterly survey on critical call center management topics. In this survey, which focused on workforce optimization (WFO), just over 200 call center professionals representing a wide variety of industries participated and provided insight into numerous workforce optimization questions.This survey was previously done in the 2005 and 2008 (only with SWPP members) and we will compare the responses from the earlier survey to this most recent one.

Participant Profile

In this 2013 survey, the most participants (39%) are from large call center operations with over 500 seats, followed by 15% with 201-300 agents. Thirteen percent have 101-200 agents or 51-100.

The industries represented in this survey are heavily weighted to the Financial and Other categories with Insurance and Health Care each having more than 20% of the respondents.

Primary Role in the Call Center

The 2013 survey requested information about the primary role of the respondents within the call centers due to the joint survey process of the two associations. Prior surveys on this topic included only workforce planners and are most reflective of those views. In this case, 65% of the respondents are in workforce planning, 11% in quality assurance, 4% in training, and
the remaining 20% are supervisors, managers, or other roles.


Current Tools

The following chart show the evolution of WFO components in the call center.

In both the 2005 and 2008 surveys, over 90% of the respondents already had workforce management software while in 2013, that percentage dropped to 85%. Between 81 and 84% had quality monitoring software in each survey. However, the biggest differences seem to be in the newer systems. There is substantial growth in e-learning systems (37% in 2005 versus54% in 2008 and up to 63% in 2013), dashboard reporting (from 37% in 2005 to 58% now), and automated customer satisfaction measurement tools (19% in 2005 versus 39% in 2008 and 2013).

Hiring and recruiting tools have remained fairly constant between 43 – 49% and simulation remains low rising to only 13% over the 10% in 2005. Some of the change in this area is probably due to the changed demographics of the respondents including personnel from a variety of areas within the center
versus the early studies that only included the workforce planning personnel. However, some genuine growth has occurred in the utilization of the newer system offerings.

Systems Provided by Same Vendor

Around three-quarters of the current technology systems in the call center were provided by separate vendors in both 2005 and 2008 but that has dropped to just over half in 2013. As more sophisticated systems are developed, the perceived benefits of integration among the vendor products appears to influence the choices to purchase them from a vendor whose products are already in place in the center. However, many centers are
constrained by their legacy systems or just prefer to purchase the best tools they can find for each application, regardless of integration issues. Another influence is the total number of systems owned by each center is larger overall making it more likely to have more than one from a single vendor.

Favorite Features of Systems The survey participants were asked for favorite features of each system they currently have in their center. For workforce
management systems, many noted the reporting options available, the availability of real-time information, and agent selfservice options. For quality monitoring systems, screen capture was overwhelmingly the favorite feature. Also mentioned were the features in e-learning systems that allow users to tie courses to KPIs and tie into the workforce management software. For hiring and recruiting tools, participants liked the features that
automatically scheduled candidates for interviews, and did posthire analysis. For dashboard reporting, respondents mentioned allowing the agents to receive feedback daily and to see an overall view of multiple call centers’ performance simultaneously. They also liked the consistent feedback received from an automated customer satisfaction measurement tool, and that with simulation tools, new hires get a real feel for customer accounts. These have not changed substantially over the three surveys except that there is a higher ranking for integration of systems as a favorite in the 2013 survey.

Other specific comments included:

  • Currently in process of transitioning over to a new vendor and my favorite feature upon completion of the installation WILL be the integration between WFM & QM systems—currently we are performing a lot of duplicate work and we are not scheduling for training/e-learning, which will also be utilized within the new system.
  • Dashboards bring all the separate pieces of data together into one big picture.
  • The features are very different on each tool, however the common denominator is the tools make us more efficient.
  • The WFM feature I like best is the capability that allows agents to schedule their own PTO.
  • eLearning has streamlined our cross-training process.

Systems Next in Purchasing Plans

Desires for the next system purchase have changed significantly over the years and somewhat due to the change in the respondent demographics. As new systems are acquired and the market reaches higher levels of saturation, they tend to show up less on the “next system desired” questions. It is interesting to see increases in almost every category of system between 2008 and 2013 and this may be a function of the recession and the limitations on purchasing plans that now may be loosening a bit.

Benefit of Acquiring Technology from Same Vendor

“Simpler implementation” was the primary benefit of acquiring new technology from an existing vendor in all three surveys with 28-29% each time and “less infrastructure” required has also remained steady at 11 – 12%. However “no benefit” rose from 14% to 20% and “minimal data entry” fell from 19% to 14%. “Having one vendor to manage,” which was third in 2005, was second in 2008 and 2013 but fell from 24% to 21%.

Drawback to Acquiring Technology from Existing Vendor

Some respondents still feel that they will sacrifice “best in class” capabilities when they purchase from a single vendor. The percentage that noted this as the primary drawback rose from 34% in 2005 to 42% in 2008 but dropped back to only 29% in 2013. The notion that you are more locked into a single vendor has remained between 21 and 23% in all three surveys while no drawbacks has risen from 10% in 2005 to 24% in 2013. Concern over changes in one application affecting others fell from 31% to 20% between 2005 and 2008 but rose to 22% in 2013. Overall, it appears that the specific drawbacks noted by the respondents have remained relatively steady over the entire survey period but the percentage who note that there are no drawbacks has risen significantly.

Features Not Currently Available

Survey respondents were asked what features they were looking for that were not available from the current vendors yet. Here are some of the responses from the most recent survey:

  • Better long range staff planning tools.
  • Comprehensive long-term capacity planning integrated with short/medium term data already existing in current requirement building.
  • On-site continuous learning included in the pricing.
  • Better training options.
  • A way to reset skills to home position automatically at end of shift.
  • More editing ability to individualize for different departments.
  • Report templates that can be set up once to access ANY set of tables to produce ANY report desired, saved, and rerun at will.
  • Cloud-based so it is available for globalization to cut down on capital expenses and management of hardware.
  • Easier integration with other tools so systems can ‘play nicely’ with one another.
  • Performance scenarios that work in reverse (we know we need 1000 agents but we are only budgeted for 925, what will be our resulting performance/SL results?).
  • Better email and chat integration with call volume to optimize staff for multiple skills.
  • Outbound forecasting tools.
  • Central support so when issues arise, you can talk to someone who specializes in that application, as well as how it will affect the other applications.

Capabilities Not Needed

Participants were asked what workforce optimization capabilities vendors were pushing that were of no use to them. Here are some of the responses:
• Cookie-cutter solutions that every business is expected to fall into just because we are call/contact centers.

  • Integrated solutions that are not fully developed.
  • Stuff that provides a lot of features that we necessarily don’t need that takes the cost out of our price range.
  • Products that sound great but don’t work as promised.

Overall, there are few features noted that were not useful, but a great deal of emphasis on getting what is being sold to work as expected.

Other Comments about the Workforce Optimization Market

We asked for any other comments about the workforce optimization market, and got some interesting answers:

  • Stop the hard sell and just be honest. We can see through the sales pitch and the hype.
  • I want a polished product suite rather than a mix of products joined together.
  • Emphasize the need for a tenured, professional WFM team to use the tools.
  • While flexibility and simplicity may be an oxymoron, that is exactly what we are looking for.


Since 2005 the marketplace has moved steadily in the direction of workforce optimization with many centers owning two or more of the individual system components that typically fall in the definition of WFO. However, there appears to be more promised in the sales and marketing than is delivered with many looking for better training and support and easier integration among the products from the same vendor as well as between multiple vendors.