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April 13, 2005

Call center investment in workforce optimization technologies to be in excess of $1 billion by 2006

As call center numbers continue to multiply, it will be imperative for CRM providers to ensure all interactions between customer and call center agent are always of the highest quality standard. Datamonitor's Tom Pringle considers the role workforce optimization technologies (WOT) can play in addressing efficiency and effectiveness in the call center environment.

By CBR Staff Writer

Call centers stand to gain huge benefits from utilizing WOT. According to Datamonitor, the emerging performance management solutions represent the ultimate evolutionary step in terms of the four broad categories that constitute WOT. Valued at over $800 million in 2004, Datamonitor expects global revenues from call center investment in WOT to be worth in excess of $1 billion by year end 2006.

Better management, happier agents

The global squeeze on cost continues. Call centers are being asked to do more with less. Cross-sell, up-sell, improve customer service, answer phones faster, the list is endless. WOT can help. These solutions fall under four broad categories:

– Quality monitoring, the recording and analysis of telephone and data interactions between customer and agent;

– Workforce management, the efficient scheduling of human resources in call centers;

– Agent analytics, the analysis of agent performance using data from call center sources;

– eLearning, the online delivery of training to agents to improve their performance in key areas.

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These solutions form component parts of an interlocking and inter-dependent solution chain for call centers. Their aim is two-fold: to improve the efficiency of call center operations, and to maximize the effectiveness of agents working in the call center.

Satisfied customers and happy agents should be the goal of any call center manager. Call center agents in environments which are inefficient are likely to deal with angry customers who have been subjected to long wait times. Customer frustration also rises when agents are not fully aware of the products they deal with, or the systems they use to deliver information. Workforce management can help deal with the scheduling of agent resources, while quality monitoring, agent analytics and eLearning can address the agents’ skills.

Call centers that adopt a solution to address efficiency and effectiveness are helping develop a new field, performance management (PM). PM is built on two founding principles, efficiency and effectiveness. This is not a case of chicken and egg; efficiency is the first step in optimization of call center operations. Workforce management is the means by which this is achieved, and it is important for two main reasons:

– Efficient operations are the foundation for any attempt to optimize call center operations

– WFM is an important source of information for other WOT components, for example, the scheduling of eLearning or analysis of agent performance against targets.

Agent analytics and quality management vendors to compete

If any vendor group could argue their solutions most closely matched the criteria of a PM solution, it would be agent analytics vendors. Through their position as a data hub, they draw information from not only call center core technologies, but also other WOT solutions including both ‘hard’ (agent adherence, etc.) and ‘soft’ (quality management scores, etc.) metrics. However, agent analytics vendors tend to be small and specialized.

In contrast, quality management vendors are significantly larger in terms of revenue and customer bases than all of the other WOT component vendors. They also have some of the longest established relationships with their customers. They are, therefore, likely to attempt to exercise control over the entire WOT market.

Continuous assessment and analysis of the global WOT market indicates the pace of change is accelerating. While 2004 may be considered the year of establishment, Datamonitor expects 2005 to be a year of accelerated growth and technological advancement in the WOT market. As success stories spread in this industry, adoption among call centers will continue to rise.

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