In the latest in our series of articles where IT leaders provide their take on the purchasing process, Aspect Software's senior VP for Europe and Africa, Stephen Ball, shares his tips for those looking to buy workforce optimisation tools.
MyC. What do practitioners need to consider before they start looking for WFO tools, to determine their requirements?
SB. Workforce optimisation covers the entire estate of planning and management tools used across a customer engagement centre. When looking to purchase the correct WFO tool, there needs to be a clear vision of what “good” looks like – not only today, but into the future. This means from the customer’s point of view, agent and team communication, and overall delivery.
Managers also need to consider their end goal for deploying WFO tools, for example, what are we trying to achieve from the deployment? Are we looking to save money, improve customer experience, remove blockages in the customer journey or increase sales? There are a range of strategies that WFO supports and enhances, resulting in a number of stages once the correct solution is acquired. Its functionality must be able to support the customer journey, from controlling what they already do, to reviewing what can be done to make it better. It must be able to move operations forward in line with the business strategy.
MyC. What kind of questions should buyers ask themselves?
SB. There are several things practitioners should ask themselves before picking a WFO tool:
- Can the tool forecast for every channel? Does it monitor mobile, email, social media, telephone?
- How easy is the tool to operate for all the different teams using it? Will it require large-scale retraining? How will that impact productivity?
- What deployment options can we explore (on premise, hosted or cloud), and do any of these reduce functionality? Ultimately, what impact does this have on costing options?
- What impact does this solution have on our agents? Can they access the system from home, work – or both?
- What is both the heritage of the solution and the roadmap for the future? Does it fit in with our business’s long term plans?
MyC. How can buyers convince the CFO that investment in this kind of tool is a wise decision? How can you get buy-in?
SB. All good suppliers should make sure they align themselves to the objectives of all the key stakeholders in the project, including the CFO. The CFO is looking at what is going to impact their savings, efficiencies, revenues, customer and employee satisfaction, etc.
Suppliers need to be able to provide evidence, real life case studies and references to meet almost any objective the leadership are looking to achieve. The proof is in the pudding and if the supplier can showcase savings somewhere else, a CFO is more likely to stay interested.
MyC. Are there any particular challenges in the WFO tool market that buyers need to be aware of?
SB. New customer channels bring different requirements in both planning and operation. Each channel also brings unique challenges in terms of both the individual agent and the team as a whole. Also, since multiple (and sometimes new) skills are required, you should expect shifts in behaviour as well as the benefits, which all need to be managed effectively.
Ensuring the different channels in a multi-channel environment are correctly feeding into a single platform can be difficult and any difficulties in this process should be rectified as early as possible.
As customer demands for choice and availability of new channels change quite quickly, you should be aware of the need to include these in your WFO strategy, even if it’s in future plans.
MyC. Once practitioners are at the solution/vendor selection stage, what advice can you share to help buyers find the most appropriate tool for their needs?
SB. If the discovery phase has been completed with the vendors, the process to select the appropriate tool and the long-term solution partner should be a fairly straightforward one. It is vital you understand your needs, and are clear in what you need to achieve today, tomorrow and in the future. Crucially, you should understand exactly how you want to achieve those goals.
It is up to the vendors to give you complete confidence in their tools and how they will deliver on your objectives and more. If you’re not sure by this point in the selection stage of the process, you might need to rethink your strategy and vendor.