Paul Stockford, Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research
4 minute read
By Paul Stockford, Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research
Posted in Customer Engagement
Each year Saddletree Research works hand-in-hand with the not-for-profit, university-based National Association of Call Centers (NACC) in order to gauge industry attitudes, intentions, and perspectives on a number of very specific contact center industry trends and issues. One of the questions we ask our research participants concerns which of their contact center technology solutions they expect to upgrade or replace in the year ahead. This blog will focus on the technology that occupies the top position on the list—workforce management (WFM).
The modern era of WFM in the contact center goes back to 1983, when TCS Management of Brentwood, Tennessee, introduced the industry’s first PC-based WFM solution, dubbed The Telecenter System. Prior to this introduction, WFM was a mainframe-based solution developed primarily for TCS clients such as American Express. The reason I’m giving you this bit of history is to make my point that there is a lot of very old WFM software in the market today. These older solutions are more than ready to be replaced given the realities of today’s contact center industry.
Our 2019 research results indicate that 17.9 percent of the North American contact center market will be upgrading or replacing their WFM solution this year. In real terms, this represents almost 18,000 contact centers. Besides just an aging installed base, market conditions are forcing the hand of many who have been resisting updating their WFM for whatever reason. Case in point: the growing population of at-home agents.
Rather than discuss the contact center market in broad terms, I have done cross-tabulations on our research results that allow me to narrow the focus of the data so that it is representative of only those respondents who indicated that they would upgrade or replace their WFM in 2019. I’ll call this group the focus group. So, for example, 53.6 percent of the industry reports having some at-home agents on their workforce, but 56.6 percent of the focus group reported having at-home agents on their workforce. In other words, more than half of WFM replacements this year will be done by contact centers with at-home agents.
As a means of measuring the success of these at-home agent programs, we also asked those in the focus group if they anticipated any change in the percentage of their home agents in the next year. The results are illustrated in the figure below.
Figure 1: Percent Change in At-Home Agents in 2019 (Source: Saddletree Research)
Given these results, we believe that the undeniably strong industry trend toward supporting a substantial at-home agent workforce is a clear driver of WFM churn. Similarly, we believe the emerging trend toward supporting gig agents in the contact center is also a factor in WFM churn.
Gig agents can best be described as contract agents who work the hours they want to rather than the hours they are assigned. We envision contact center gig agents to work in a manner similar to Uber drivers. Smartphone apps connect available agents with contact centers that have a need for agents at a particular time. If that contract agent is available and interested in working the hours, he or she connects with the contact center and accepts the hours.
Gig agents will have to be trained ahead of time, which can easily be accomplished via internet training, and gig agents will have to sign up for contract work with the contact centers for whom they wish to work. Gig work is proving to be particularly attractive to Millennial workers, as I have previously written about in this blog, and I believe gig work will be an important industry employment trend in the future.
In our 2019 research study we included a question about gig agents and we were surprised to learn that there are already contact centers using gig agents. In the North American market overall, 7.3 percent of contact centers reported using gig agents. In order to narrow that down to better understand the relationship between gig agent attitudes and WFM turnover, I performed cross tabulations that provided the results shown in Figure 2 below. This data is specific to our focus group.
Figure 2: Workforce Management Turnover and Gig Agent Attitudes (Source: Saddletree Research)
WFM is one of the most common applications to make a contact center’s first migration to the cloud. Naturally, we were interested to discover if there is any relationship between those who are upgrading or replacing their WFM and their cloud presence or intentions. Once again relying on cross-tabulations, Figure 3 below illustrates the responses by the focus group to the question of whether they will move core applications such as WFM to the cloud.
Figure 3: Percentage of Those Replacing WFM with Plans to Move Core Applications to the Cloud (Source: Saddletree Research)
The argument in favor of replacing a WFM solution this year is compelling. The trends cited in this blog are not going to go away and, in fact, are more likely to become even stronger in the years ahead. The contact center industry has a history of using technology long after its “sell by” date. In the case of WFM, the generational and other trends are making a technology refresh a necessity.
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