Understanding workforce optimization (WFO) in the call center

Donna Fluss, President, DMG Consulting LLC

Workforce optimization (WFO) is an emerging technology in the call center that combines recording, quality management (QM) and other call center technologies to optimize call center performance. In this introductory article, Donna Fluss, president and founder of DMG Consulting, discusses WFO, the WFO technology market and the applications found in a WFO suite.

@55455 Call center quality management (QM)/recording suites -- also known as workforce optimization (WFO) suites --are valuable to the enterprise because they deliver actionable insight that can help optimize the call center.

While recording and quality assurance (QA) -- the core capabilities of these suites -- are well established, leading vendors are constantly innovating in response to the evolving needs of their customers.

By the end of 2007, the overall

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WFO market had reached $2,389 million in revenue, and growth has continued in 2008 despite the economic slowdown. With $982 million of revenue directly attributable to call centers, this remains one of the fastest-growing technology sectors. DMG Consulting expects the overall QM/recording market to grow by at least 8% in 2008 and 7% in 2009.

The competitive landscape for WFO software

The WFO sector is a global market with more than 45 competitors. The solutions, pricing and vendor specialties vary widely. The WFO competitive landscape continues to change, driven by industry consolidation, ongoing globalization, new entrants and innovation. Despite the dominance of the two market leaders, Verint and NICE, many other vendors have strong and differentiated offerings designed to meet the needs of call centers of all sizes.

The WFO suites

Complete WFO suites include eight functional modules (see Figure 1). The core modules are recording -- either time division multiplexing (TDM) or Internet Protocol (IP)-based -- and quality assurance (QA). Recording systems log calls for regulatory compliance, protection against lawsuits and quality review. QA applications are used to determine how well call center agents adhere to internal policies and procedures. Additional modules include:

1. Workforce management (WFM) – forecasts and schedules agent staffing needs.

2. Agent coaching – allows call center managers to communicate with agents and assist them in improving their performance.

3. eLearning – learning management tools that allow training courses to be created, issued and tracked.

4. Customer surveying – Web and interactive voice response (IVR)-based solutions for creating, issuing, tracking and analyzing customer feedback.

5. Performance management – helps align call center activities with enterprise goals; also provides scorecards and dashboards to help improve the performance of the call center.

6. Speech analytics – captures, structures and analyzes customer phone calls to identify the reasons behind customer calls.

Figure 1: Workforce optimization suites

Source: DMG Consulting LLC, August 2008

In the last couple of years, enterprise back offices and branches have begun to use WFM, recording and, to a lesser degree, QA modules to improve operational performance. This trend will continue because these solutions offer quantifiable benefits for many operating areas in an enterprise.

What's new with WFO

New applications are generating investments in the WFO market. Speech analytics has captured the attention of call center managers and enterprise executives because it provides actionable insights that can greatly reduce operating expenses, enhance business processes and improve the customer experience. Call center performance management solutions are helping to better align the goals of the call center with those of the enterprise while continuing to improve departmental productivity. The growing need to build a customer-centric organization that can use service as a strategic differentiator is driving investments in surveying and feedback solutions.

Final thoughts

It's time for call centers to prioritize revenue generation while continuing to fulfill their traditional but essential service role. As call centers' responsibilities expand and evolve, new tools, namely analytics, will be needed to facilitate the transition. Watch for the WFO vendors to deliver these valuable solutions in the near future.

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