Will Hosted Solutions Change the Workforce Management Paradigm?

Labour is the single biggest expense in the operation of any call or contact center representing two thirds of the total budget, yet thousands of centers today still rely on ‘by guess and by golly’ methods of scheduling staff. Of course many large and well run centers employ robust ‘best of breed’ workforce management solutions from companies like Aspect, IEX, Blue Pumpkin and Pipkins.

But where does that leave the smaller center operators? All too often they stare at the weeks’ schedule, hoping that this weeks volumes will not be too dramatically different so they don’t have to adjust anyone’s schedule or hope for new staff.

There are numerous work-arounds, rules of thumb and guesstimates of volumes that are employed by smaller centers. There are also a number that are employing the erlang add-in for Excel to map and forecast demand. But the big challenge for small center still remains “who do I get to work, when, to meet our service level?”

A recent ACA Research survey in contact centers over 100 seats indicated that they rated workforce management the most fundamental component of performance optimization. The same survey showed that centers of less than 100 seats aren’t utilizing workforce management as much as they could. Price has historically been the biggest single barrier to smaller centers using workforce management tools effectively. Workforce management when employed effectively can result in significant efficiencies and generally sees labor productivity improvements of 7.5% to 12%. On a center with a labour budget of $3.6 million annually a 7.5% improvement represents $270,000 in savings.

Today there are an ever increasing number of players offering Hosted solutions. These companies allow you to ‘pay as you play’ and thereby eliminate the hundreds of thousands of dollars of cost that big box solutions can cost. As you would expect of course the Big Box players do offer some features and capabilities that the hosted solutions can’t match, but what can you expect for a few dollars a month per agent?

(insert erlang calculations chart)

There are a number of specific benefits that a hosted workforce management solution can provide. These benefits include;
 Lower total cost of Ownership,
 Reduced operating costs,
 Scalable environment,
 7x 24 access and availability,
 Robust and reliable infrastructure,
 Enhanced features such as;
• SMS notifications,
• Shift swapping,
• Holiday and vacation management,

One of these solutions came across my desk recently and I was impressed. Scheduling Staff Inc. offers a robust erlang traffic calculator that provides all of the functionality we would look for in a calculator. It also has the ability to build your day and week in day parts that display consecutively on the page…no more cutting, copying and pasting or re-keying! What is more the resultant data maps quickly and easily to your staff availability pages allowing you to ensure that you assign the appropriate staff to meet your volumes and service level commitments.

There is an old adage, “you get what you pay for”, but I believe today that hosted scheduling and workforce planning solutions are rewriting the cost paradigm. TRG has built custom staffing and scheduling systems for clients. But the new hosted solutions will likely meet the needs of most small centers at a price and payment terms and an ROI worth looking considering and trying. The activities of full time analyst working in Excel can be dramatically reduced, saving headcount. Companies can delay or forego altogether capital expenditures in a big box solution by leveraging a tool such as these hosted programs. Of course the prices may vary, but Scheduling Staff Inc. offers their solution for $2.40 (US) per agent scheduled per month, and this is only applicable after a 60 day free trial.

You can visit the Scheduling Staff, Inc. site here.
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