Why 2009 is a good year for Work Force Optimization
There are not a lot of areas within service and support technology expecting growth this year, but there are a few. I had a chat yesterday with Chris Musico at CRM Magazine who wanted to know if I agreed that Work Force Optimization (WFO) was one of the few growth areas for service and support technology in 2009. And I definitely agree.
So what exactly is WFO? This encompasses the whole soup-to-nuts suite of skills based scheduling for support employees, eLearning, and a whole array of quality monitoring (QM) capabilities, such as phone and screen recording. WFO is available from specialists (Verint, Nice, LiveOps) as well as telephony/call center vendors (Genesys, Aspect, Cisco, Avaya).
We started hearing from some larger members mid-last year that they were investing in WFO for the first time. We even had a mini-collab between our SMB members about what products they were using for sophisticated agent scheduling. Why has this technology, formerly thought of as only used by large consumer call centers, suddenly ‘crossed the chasm’ to technical support and B2B support? I think there are three primary reasons:
- Complexity. The complexity of tech support has grown immensely, with highly specialized roles assigned to particular customers, and dedicated liaisons between support and development, sales and pro services, etc. The good old days of a dedicated product support team working 8-5 is no longer realistic in many heavily matrixed environments. This complexity can’t be scheduled or optimized using spreadsheets, so WFO scheduling solutions come to the rescue.
- Remote workers. Having more remote/at-home workers is a huge trend due to the economy. Not only do you avoid the overhead of an office, but you can hire qualified workers in less expensive parts of the country. But obviously having remote workers opens up a big can of worms as far as hiring, training, coaching, monitoring, etc., and WFO/eLearning/QM are the only/best solution.
- Convergence. We’ve been talking about the convergence of tech support/field service/pro services for a while now, and there are more examples every day. Tech support reps are now doing dual roles in many organizations, and with the economy forcing more cuts and consolidation, this will only increase. Level 3 techs may suddenly find themselves doing “fly to site” visits or field service calls; a tech support product expert may be assigned to a pro services project taking them out of the office for 3 months. Again, the paradigm of 8-5 dedicated product support teams is no longer valid, and today’s dual roles can’t be planned for or executed effectively without WFO.
Besides all of this, leveraging QM software makes sense to improve customer retention in a down economy. If you want to better understand your current satisfaction scores and identify areas to improve, nothing will help you find the trouble spots faster than listening to calls and watching the screen cams of agents who receive low satisfaction scores. You can instantly identify support techs needing customer service skills training, as well as find reps struggling to complete certain processes or use certain desktop applications. Anything you can do to better understand the customer experience is a good thing when maintenance renewals and repurchase are critical to success.
My 2009 Member Technology Survey is out for all three associations: AFSMI, SSPA and TPSA. If you are a community member of one or more organizations, please take a moment to complete the survey. I’ll soon have some real data about where investments are being made in 2009, and I’ll be back here to report the findings! Thanks for reading!