Lately, having workforce management (WFM) as a service has been in high demand. But why? It sounds counter intuitive. Contact center experts say this function is critical to success, the one place where failure is not an option, that achievement of service and efficiency metrics are in the hands of this key role. So why outsource it?
Let’s review the common reasons to outsource the contact center process in general, then we’ll explain how that applies to outsourcing the workforce management process.
1. The contact center is not the core business of our company. This is true for most organizations. Instead, companies outsource the contact center function to a company that does it for a living; a company that has a “secret sauce” for it, that has the scale, the geographic presence, the expertise, and talent to do it effectively. When we think about the companies that look for these services, they are very far from being contact center companies, and even further from being workforce management companies.
2. Contact center management is very specialized, hard to source for, and retain. This may seem redundant, but it is worth pointing out that within the contact center world, the workforce management function is one of the most specialized and difficult to source for. It is also a role that has a long learning curve, high demand in the labor marketplace, knowledge that is easily transferable from one company to another and therefore, has high mobility. Considering all the above, it makes sense to outsource to a partner that has these specialized resources readily available--with a highly engaged and committed staff
3. It changes a fixed cost into a variable cost. This is very important when you have seasonal volume fluctuations, or you are a hypergrowth company where you are constantly revising your forecast upwards. What’s more, forecasting or capacity planning for 100 or 1000 FTEs might basically entail the same workload. But the more agents you have, the more WFM resources you will need to manage them. There is a sizeable return on investment in completely outsourcing the WFM function or even augmenting an inhouse WFM team with an outsourced piece that can scale up or down quickly to fit your business needs. Additional benefits include covering for time off, absences, as well as covering night, weekend or holiday shifts. A good partner will offer warranty coverage and performance with flexibility.
4. Contact center tools and systems are expensive and require a lot of IT support. Contact center systems include CRM, switch, call recording, CTI, social, chat, text, contact routing, knowledge base, bots, mail management, agent assist tools, simulated learning environments, reporting, and to top this list, a “workforce management system.” All these systems are expensive and require large amounts of resources to set up, support, and administrate. The WFM system is an even more extreme example.
Not all WFM systems are created equal and some can’t support large, multichannel, multiskilled, part-inhouse/part-outsourced environments. We also know that the best systems are quite expensive, they have high maintenance costs, requiring specialized IT resources to keep them running, configured, and managed appropriately. Finding a partner that can deploy their WFM system into your enterprise using the latest and greatest technology to maintain, manage, and support it, is key. It is important to mention that, the tool alone does not provide the benefits, but in the outsource model, you can get the tool and experts who know how to use it to its full potential on your behalf.
5. Gaining access to nearshore/offshore cost-benefits. When it comes to WFM roles, a few years ago, the most advanced contact center functions were hard to find abroad. Now, after decades of outsourcing and markets being developed, it is the opposite. I would argue that for the highly specialized workforce management role, there are more up-to-date, skilled, trained, top performing, and “hungry” professionals abroad than in the US domestic market. The only way to tap into those resources might be to get WFM as a service, from a company that has a large and longstanding presence in such markets. From a cost perspective, companies are getting the best people globally at cost-effective rates. Even a company that “can’t offshore” might be able to offshore the WFM function; this is because while some companies consider their customer data off-limits to offshoring, the data used for WFM is not really end customer data, so there are cases where the contact center roles can’t be offshored, but the WFM piece can be.
6. Contact center work is now priced as a commodity and outsourcing reduces cost of service. As a consumer, I’d like to think that the companies I do business with care for their customers and want them to receive the best possible service. Consumers are willing to pay for such service and often frown upon companies that cut corners. Engaging the services of the cheapest workforce management supplier is a high risk. Expect to spend more for workforce management as a service than for other outsourced work. WFM as a service includes the people, the process, the knowledge—sometimes the systems—and the warranty that your efficiency and service metrics will be met. You are paying for a critical-to-success function to ensure achievement of goals.
Conclusion. Looking into the most popular reasons to outsource contact center services, the same reasons are true when considering workforce management as a service or WFM managed services. Avoid the misconception that this function also is a commodity and can be executed by whoever offers the cheapest hourly rate. When my team does consulting for companies that are looking to outsource WFM, we advise them to select their partner using the same criteria they would use for a babysitter: the most qualified, professional, experienced partner with the best references, who you can trust with what is most precious to you and your company, your customers.