Slides are available from our webinar on Software as a Service: WFM in the cloud along with all of the Questions and Answers.
Many people are still using spreadsheets to forecast call volumes and to schedule employees. But this is a very inefficient and time-consuming way of working.
There are numerous workforce management (WFM) software packages on the market but historically these have required large capital investment in software and hardware, which puts them out of reach for many organisations that would benefit from them.
A new generation of workforce management software is starting to hit the streets. Rather than being based on-premises, feature-rich WFM solutions are now being delivered ‘in the cloud’ using a Software-as-a-Service subscription model – enabling contact centres of all sizes to quickly get the benefits of WFM without the need for heavy IT projects or scary capital investments.
- 5 Tips for Workforce Management – Jonty Pearce, Editor, Call Centre Helper
- Cloud Computing and Contact Centres – Martin Hill-Wilson, Brainfood Training
- Introducing WFM in the cloud – Chris Dealy, Invision Software
Topics to be discussed
- What is cloud WFM?
- What are the benefits of cloud WFM?
- How is cloud WFM different to on-premises WFM?
- How is cloud computing different to hosted / ASP WFM?
- What about security and integration?
- How much does it cost?
This webinar is provided by Call Centre Helper and is being sponsored by InVision Software.
Questions & Answers:
Audience Q1: What other cloud-based solutions are you using?
Attendee A: E-mail ticket system
Attendee B: Blue Pumpkin
Attendee C: We are not using cloud computing at present.
Attendee D: CRM for @home users
Q2: I’m interested to know how many agents a call centre needs to have in order to get the benefits of cloud WFM? At what point should a business look to move away from using spreadsheets etc. and move onto a WFM solution?
A2: Whenever you have sufficient staff that the problems of planning cannot be seen in ‘two dimensions’.
If you have a lot of staff that is an easy question to answer. As you have fewer then complications of:
- Mix of full and part time
- Extended hours of working (in to the evening or weekends)
- Mix of telephone skills
- Mix of non call work (Email; snail mail; faxes; etc.)
- (and different competencies)
Should lead you to look at WFM solutions.
Look at this very simple scenario:
- 5 days (Monday to Friday)
- 25 employees
- 1 activity (inbound calls)
- Possible start times at 08:00, 09:00 and 10:00
325 possible plans = 847,288,609,443 schedules
So that’s with only 25 agents working a very simple set of shifts.
Even if I think my centre is simple and even if the plan only takes me a couple of hours a week I could still benefit from using cloud WFM not just in terms of my time spent but with better effectiveness and consequent increased service levels.
Q3: Would like to get Panel’s view on importance of moving away from spreadsheet WFM in a small to mid-size contact centre. Clearly here budget for funding is lower and low volumes make calculations more awkward not to overstaff whilst achieve SLAs.
A3: The only useful point I can make is that from my own research wfm can make sense from as few as 25 seats upwards. You might choose to disagree! Secondly, the trick is to find a solution that works for your sized centre i.e. that’s an important part of your due diligence.
Q4: Instinct is lack of investment in training on WFM, so still elements of it are ‘black art’ to planners as they may have used other systems in past. If they can’t justify where a number came from 100% they don’t always trust it – so it’s back to Excel where they control the model – right or wrong
A4: This is quite a common consequence of either, as you say, incomplete training or inflexible systems. With InVision iWFM the forecasters can control all elements of the calculation so this shouldn’t be a problem.
Q5: What do you class as an agent? Is this every person that enters iWFM?
A5: Anyone doing work in the contact centre whether calls, emails or back office. From point of view of licences, this is anyone who has joined the staff and their leaving date is either undefined or in the future.
Q6: Chris mentioned that with the Cloud it is scalable, thus capacity can go up or down when needed. Does this mean we, as a customer, should on forehand basically forecast when we would need a higher capacity from the cloud?
A6: The ‘cloud’ technology will scale the processing resources as demanded by our customers on a real-time basis. Hence, if more people need to use the application at the same time today our computing platform will just provide the power needed! iWFM enables customers to flex the number of agents on a monthly basis.
Q7: How does this cope with a multi-skilled contact centre with differing campaigns that have differing SLAs and staffing requirements? All too many Wfm systems can really only cope with single skill contact centres.
A7: We now have a number of customers who have a variety of campaigns and skills – both multi-skilled telephony and front office/back office challenges. Our proprietary Multi Activity Scheduler can cope with all the combinations.
Q8: In terms of companies winning new contracts and scaling up their use of cloud wfm, are there any issues with multiple IT servers, software used by the client sites etc.?
A8: No there are no limitations associated with hardware on the customers’ premises.
Q9: How well does iWFM integrate with CRM for agents attending to tiered skills at the same time (i.e. order taking vs. promotion handling)?
A9: iWFM can take data regarding work undertaken from any system including CRM systems.
Q10: What level of historic data do you need to factor in for this to be an effective tool? And how is historical call data imported into iWFM?
A10: Historical data can be imported from a spreadsheet – although ideally we would capture call data directly from the ACD. Four weeks of clean (no abnormal events) data is probably the minimum to get a reasonable forecast.
Q11: Are you able to pull call information from more than one server across multiple sites?
A11: Yes this is possible.
Q12: Would you be able to use this solution across several sites globally?
A12: Yes, we have a number of customers doing follow-the-sun contact management.
Q13: In the cloud model, how is the integration with existing infrastructure handled? Do we have to throw away the infrastructure
A13: The only point of integration is the capturing of data for call volume analysis (forecasting etc.) or real-time agent adherence. This is done by attaching a small PC to your infrastructure and linking it to our ‘cloud’ via the internet.
Q14: What would be the expected ROI timescale for a centre with c160 advisors?
A14: For traditional on-premises WFM installations with capital purchase of hardware and software, typically we find ROI’s for organisations of this size vary from 6 to 12 months depending on circumstances. For cloud WFM, ROI occurs almost immediately since startup cost is low and the timing of operating expenses (subscriptions) coincides with the timing of efficiency gains.
Q15: Does this integrate to any ACD system and is the Invision Cloud system available for South African operations – if it is will this increase real-time lead time?
A15: InVision iWFM will link to most (if not all) ACD’s . Location /Country may affect response times and initially we are offering the solution in Europe and North America only. Other territories will be added in future.
Q16: Do you have examples of companies who allow their agents to set their own preferred shift patterns?
A16: InVision has a number of customers doing precisely this. E.g. NHS Business Services Authority, which has been nominated for a Professional Planning Forum award
Q17: What if a particular campaign has such small volumes, say, the requirement is less than 1 FTE; can this build in minimum tolerances – for example, you need resource to cover breaks and extended opening hours? Our existing software can’t get its head round that – it just sees a level of calls but doesn’t try to schedule calls or cover minimal staff levels (I appreciate that’s quite technical!!!)
A17: Simple answer is yes it can. When we create requirements we can set a minimum number of people required. This number will always be scheduled regardless of whether there is enough work for them. Another common scenario is in 24hr operations where the workload might only require 1 person at 4am but legally there have to be at least 2 people present.
Q18: You mentioned forecasting social media, how much of an impact do you see this having in contact centres for local government, is it something we should be looking at now?
A18: The actual number of people employed to deal with social channels such as Twitter and Facebook is still small (even the largest centres are using 6-10 people at most, often only 2-3 people). So right now it is not logistically complex. The other form of social customer service are peer-to-peer communities. The staffing for these is much more stable and does not need to scale as fast when more customers join.
Q19: On social media – it is best seen as a channel to supplement or complement existing channels. A huge chunk of what Gem has done is understanding are there customers out there who can be supported (whether they realise it or not) by social channels. It doesn’t always mean reduction of traditional volume, but can sometimes be a way of increasing reach. Gem do have some larger teams on some social media channels – but then that is more about community-only support like switching off inbound lines and emails and forcing everyone to online forums.
Q20: Best practice is gauging best mix of spreadsheets and wfm – but amazed as we go around centres at reluctance to move away from S-sheets
A20: I agree. What’s your instinct as to why that is?
Q21: Is 9GBP a flat fee for other countries as well?
A21: Yes – this fee (or equivalent in local currency) applies outside the UK.
Q22: Is integration to my on-premises ACD included in the £9 per month?
A22: Yes – see question 13.
Q23: Is there a minimum number of agents you require for that pricing?
A23: No, £9 per agent is a flat fee.
Q24: Would it be possible for a charity organisation to purchase licenses for a limited period, such as 1 or 2 months?