Gains Seen in the Workforce Contact Center Market

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Although workforce management [WFM] solutions for contact centers have been around for decades, the market has seen relatively slow growth. Dick Bucci, principal at Pelorus Associates and author of the "2013 World Contact Center Workforce Management Systems Market," is reporting a sunnier picture, and is forecasting annual growth of 6 percent to 8 percent through 2018.

According to Bucci's recent research, the global demand for WFM contact center solutions reached $317 million in 2013, up just 2 percent from 2012. Bucci forecasts that the contact center WFM market will reach $450 million in 2018. He spoke with Smart Customer Service about some of the factors affecting the WFM contact center's market lag and how mobile and cloud solutions can boost vendor sales.

Smart Customer Service: What is your definition of WFM? People seem to get WFM confused with workforce optimization [WFO].

Dick Bucci: WFM is an automated system which schedules agent hours, forecasts, and a need for future hours. That sounds simple, but in the contact center, you need something that's very sophisticated. It needs to take into account variables such as spikes in demand, different types of communications, such as phone calls or email messages, or specific skills, such as speaking a foreign language.

WFO is a collection of contact center applications in which I include WFM, quality management, performance management, automated voice of the customer surveys, and e-learning. Those are what I would call the core applications.

The distinction is that WFO applications are fully integrated with WFM so that they all share the same information. If you bought those individually, you would end up with a lot of the same information.

SCS: Your research found that vendor-level global sales for products of this type were estimated to be $310 million in 2012, climbing to just $317 million in 2013. Why are these numbers relatively low given that WFM is considered a mature market?

Bucci: The contact center industry itself is quite mature. If you look at the number of contact center agents for several years, that total number as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has actually been declining. If you've got a static potential market, that will lead to some maturity. Also, if you've already penetrated the low-hanging fruit, your growth potential is relatively slim.

I think there's a distinction in the potential market and the projected market. The potential market is vast; potentially every contact center could be using [WFM]. But because of its relative cost and complexity and because of the vendors themselves who are focused on product, price, and delivery 

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