Plugging the call center gap

Despite the advent of workforce optimization technologies in recent years, Witness Systems says, many contact centers are still run like they were two decades ago.

SINGAPORE--People form the weakest link in contact center performance, but technologies in workforce optimization can be deployed to address this shortcoming.

According to Bill Durr, principal solutions consultant at Witness Systems, many contact centers today are still run like they were 20 years ago, even though there are already technology that would allow processes to be more efficient.

"It's the same old processes, with people serving as linkages between those processes," Durr said. "The premise of workforce optimization (WFO) is that things converge on a single platform, with a single database and graphical user interface."

WFO is essentially a framework for call center managers to ensure quality of service, optimize workflows as well as manage staffing needs, such as recruitment and training.

For example, he said that Witness Systems' Impact 360 software encompasses services and features that span much of the WFO framework including workforce management, quality monitoring, performance management and e-learning. The product was brought under the company's fold through its acquisition of Blue Pumpkin Software in 2004.

Durr said it is difficult to quantify the cost savings from WFO because it involves a combination of technology and strategy similar to CRM (customer relationship management) deployment, though contact centers can usually expect cost savings of around 15 to 20 percent.

"WFO is not just focused on what's inside the contact center; it's really about tools that let the management team improve customer satisfaction," he said. "That will generate more profits--and that's the big picture."

In September this year, Impact 360 was certified to work with Avaya's Proactive Contact 3.0 call center software.

Asked if call center software makers may start their own WFO product lines in future, Durr said: "I don't think they would choose to reinvent the technology."

Still, he did not discount the possibility that Avaya might acquire WFO specialists if it is serious about penetrating the market.

According to a research note from Gartner, while Witness Systems has a good foothold in workforce management and supports most elements of the WFO framework, the company is not "best-of-breed" across each of them. For example, recruitment functionality--a component of WFO--is evidently absent from the vendor's product line.

While Durr agreed that recruitment is part of a WFO strategy, he declined to speculate on whether Witness would include that component eventually. "Perhaps that will occur in the future," he said.

According to a Datamonitor report last year, the worldwide WFO market is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.1 percent through to 2009. The overall market size is expected to exceed US$1 billion this year.

Stephen Abraham Loh, Asean regional business manager at Witness Systems, said the company is growing by about 15 to 20 percent in Asia every year.