The value of forecasting
Forecasting is valuable because it gives you an estimate of what will happen. The more accurate your estimate is, the more value it has, right? Of course the real value comes from being able to act upon your predictions. So besides putting effort into a decent forecasting process, also investigate to what extend you can act upon insights resulting from your forecast.
It’s a bit like the weather forecast. When the weather forecast indicates that it will probably rain tomorrow you can make sure to dress accordingly. That does however require you to own a set of clothes that will keep you warm and dry. So first of all, make sure to have different sets of clothes!
Before you run off to go shopping for clothes, let’s discuss how this analogy applies to contact centers. Let’s have a look at which processes need to be in place in order to act upon predictions.
We’ll give you the most important ones, in order of importance and impact.
When your forecast does not play a role in setting the budget you’re in for trouble. It means you either have an incentive to use up the whole budget or simply lack resources at certain times. This may seem obvious but we see many companies struggling with this step. The budget should be set according to the level of service you aim to provide and the expected cost as a result of this.
#2 Hiring and Firing
Without the ability to increase or decrease the amount of staff, all seasonal fluctuations in demand will negatively impact your daily operations. Make sure to have a process in place for hiring and take into account how long it takes to recruit and train, for that is how far you’ll need to forecast in advance.
As for firing, luckily (some beg to differ) contact centers have high attrition rates. This means when you need less staff it is usually enough to just not replace attrition.
Have you ever seen half the contact center employees extremely busy while the other half is apparently picking their noses? An accurate forecast is no help when not enough people have the right skills. Continuous training is required to account for employees leaving and shifts in customer behaviour. This process comes third but can truly mess up results when not attained to properly.
#4: Availability management
Make sure to have a system in place to match the working hours of staff to the days and times they’re actually needed. This can be challenging since there are not many scheduling solutions around (that we know of) that provide this functionality.
This one needs little explanation, have a decent scheduling solution in place. Scheduling should not be a bottleneck anymore, as there are plenty decent scheduling solutions available. Most inefficiency in scheduling is not a result of lacking the right software but a result of the above processes not being implemented properly.
#6: Traffic Management
Yes, entirely at the bottom of the list. You might have expected this process somewhere at the top. And we understand, often a big chunk of impact is still made by traffic management. However, if you get all the proceeding processes right, traffic management would become a much easier job!