Selecting A Workforce Management System Vendor

Jan 19, 2011 12:31 AM  By

Understanding what your company really needs now and aligning your purchasing decision with long-term goals are key when choosing a software vendor. Many best-of-breed companies have been absorbed by larger entities who promise a tightly integrated and seamless solution for all of your software needs.

The system packaging is attractive and the promises are compelling. But the drawbacks may be invisible until after the installation is complete.

Most top vendors have complete product offerings and their models have improved to account for multiple skill sets, locations, time zones, and channels. Schedules can now be built to 30-minute increments, or even five minutes, in some cases. Forecasting engines are now more sophisticated and use simulations that account for myriad of factors, including new product releases and special events.

Agents can manage their own schedules within defined business rules. Reporting is more flexible and prebuilt integrations have shortened the implementation cycle from months to weeks.

What’s more, most applications are easier to use and administer. Many vendors provide web-based interfaces that allow agents to report last-minute absences, as well as work from home.

While many vendors offer all of these features, they don’t all provide the same quality. During the past few years, many call centers have purchased workforce management systems that later resulted in dissatisfaction.

In one case, a well-known retailer abandoned three different packages over a six-year period because the programs lacked critical functions and flexibility to meet the call center’s needs. In another, a catalog company was prompted to switch systems because its legacy platform was unable to maintain sufficient historical call data to generate accurate forecasts.

You should understand what to expect from workforce management software and be aware of issues on each side of the best-of-breed vs. end-to-end solution debate.

Four considerations when choosing a workforce management vendor

  • Integration
    Many vendors promote integration as one of the biggest considerations in a purchasing decision. While integration is important, it should not be placed above your overall business needs.

    One erroneous assumption is that all vendors are able to integrate with other vendors’ applications. This is not true, and you should ensure that all tools are available for integration before purchasing a workforce management system.

    Some vendors claim that you will get better integration from one vendor. This is not necessarily the case because if, for example, you purchase or accept a free workforce management system with the purchase of quality monitoring software, the developers of the quality monitoring software may not understand workforce management. And this can result in a system that may not be fully functional or does not meet your specific needs.

  • Ease of use
    If you consider ease of use to be an important factor, remember that this does not always translate to quality and functionality. Purchasing a solution that your users will adopt and learn is important; however, if the system is not functional or does not meet your needs, ease of use becomes secondary.
  • Do not allow a vendor to hold you captive
    Before purchasing workforce management technology, consider whether you can afford to buy features now that you may not need for years. Look for a system that allows you to grow and add features on an as-needed basis.

    While it may be tempting to accept vendor offers that promote “one solution fits all” or offers free software, quality and functionality should be your primary considerations. Quality suffers when vendors acquire other software that is not their area of expertise.

    A staggering 78% of Pipkins’ install base is replacement systems. Choose a system that will deliver a return on investment now and support your company’s more challenging and sophisticated needs for the future.

  • Return on investment
    Today’s economy creates pressure on companies to be more diligent when spending dollars allocated to improve efficiency. Investment in a workforce management solution can provide an attractive return on investment as well as positively affect a company’s bottom line.

    Making the wrong purchasing decision, however, can result in wasted investment dollars and a system that does not meet your needs. Don’t leave money on the table by failing to staff your center properly.

The best-of-breed advantage

No single vendor can offer a complete quality solution, regardless of their claims. Marketing hype cannot change the fact that if forecasting is inaccurate, everything else will be off balance.

Using one vendor for all your software purchases limits your options for competitive pricing, locks you in to one technology system, and many times restricts your ability to pay as you grow. Consider your overall business strategy and do not allow a system to put you at the mercy of one vendor. The best decision is to choose a vendor that specializes in workforce management and understands the business needs of your company.

Bob Webb is vice president of Pipkins (www.Pipkins.com), which supplies workforce management software for call centers.