How to Choose a Workforce Management System

Today’s workforce management (WFM) systems can help call centers accomplish more work, at a higher level of service, and at a lower cost. These automated systems save substantial management and clerical time, and also reduce labor costs by optimizing staffing resources.

You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of WFM: In Part 1 of this three-part series we looked at the basic functions of a WFM system and in Part 2 we explored how to justify the cost of installing one. But how do you go about selecting the right WFM system for your call center?

That’s what Part 3 is all about: Here are the general guidelines to follow when choosing a WFM system:

1) Cast a large net. Invite all qualified vendors to present their products. Insist on a detailed demonstration and ask questions about how their system would meet your center’s needs. Look for a full range of functionality in addition to ease of use.

2) Talk to other users. At a minimum, talk to four or five other organizations similar to yours (in size and equipment platform) that have implemented a system. Visit at least two of these and talk to managers about the benefits they have received as well as the day-to-day users about ease of use and customer support.

3) Consider vendor support. Workforce management software systems are not simple, off-the-shelf packages. They typically require specialized training and ongoing consultative support to make the most of their capabilities. Ask about documentation, training, and access to customer support. It is also important to understand what to expect about future upgrades and enhancements.

4) Don’t be swayed by sticker shock. Prices for workforce management systems cover a wide range, depending on whether you are considering a single module or a comprehensive integrated system. Some of the more comprehensive packages may seem expensive, but do not lose sight of the fact that each agent employee may have a fully burdened cost of $30,000 annually or higher. Saving just a couple of employees’ labor expenses can quickly cost justify the most expensive package.

5) Plan for a successful implementation. During the purchase process, it is critical to communicate and motivate everyone in the center to participate in the process. While implementing workforce management results in a more efficient operation and a less stressful environment in the long run, such an implementation may mean a cultural change for agents, supervisors, and management in the short term.

The largest potential benefit is more efficient scheduling, but in order to accomplish this, some agents’ schedules will have to change. It is important to devise a strategy to accentuate the positive effects and to include everyone in the process.

Penny Reynolds is a cofounder and senior partner with The Call Center School, a Nashville, TN-based consulting and education company.