Accurate Forecasting is the Secret to Great Call Center Scheduling
While the contact center is a place of many simultaneous processes, the most critical process – the one that keeps the engine running – is scheduling. A poorly scheduled contact center is an impotent contact center. With the wrong resources at the wrong levels, companies will be delivering the wrong customer experience, every time.
Call center scheduling is at the core of the workforce management process, and it’s a distinct skill that some managers have in spades. For other managers (who may not relish doing manual calculations), a good scheduling and forecasting tool is a must-have. Since staffing represents the lion’s share of a contact center’s budget, the success of scheduling and forecasting can also have an enormous impact on the bottom line as well as serving as the defining factor for the quality of customer relationships.
Forecasting is about anticipating call volume (as well as other contacts such as email, chat and social media) based on historical and current information, and scheduling is about using the forecast to build schedules that will provide optimum coverage, while avoiding costly over-staffing. And while over-staffing is expensive, it doesn’t come near the long-term costs of understaffing, according to a white paper by workforce management solutions provider Pipkins (News - Alert), Inc.
“In a real-life scenario, if call volume is underestimated to the extent that 100 callers out of 1,000 hang up before they speak to an agent in a sales environment where the average order is just $50, $5,000 in lost revenues will occur per day, $150,000 per month, or a staggering $1.8 million per year,” according to the white paper’s author.
So how do you build an accurate forecast? A dedicated call center scheduling tool goes a long way toward taking some of the guesswork out of the process, particularly in a complex, multiskilled environment. When purchasing a software solution for this purpose, look for a solution that maintains detailed data for several years. Some scheduling tools maintain only 16 weeks of historical inbound call data to generate a forecast, and do not take other factors into account such as current events. More sophisticated tools can perform correlated forecasting, or take events such as a sale, a new marketing campaign or even the weather into account.
It’s also critical to look for a tool that can account for multiple skills as well as multiple media channels, according to the Pipkins white paper. Trying to account for different communications media with different processes will lead to chaos.
“A single forecasted set of requirements should be generated for all inter-woven skilled activities, regardless of the type of work being offered, such as email, chat, etc.,” wrote the paper’s authors. “Recognizing secondary skills and accounting for call overflow to available secondarily skilled agents will help eliminate overstaffing. Forecasts that are based solely on primary skills will generally overstaff, since overflow cannot be considered as a factor.”
If the goal of the contact center is to consider software purchases based on projected return on investment (ROI), then few solutions can offer a better ROI than a good scheduling tool that features solid historical trend analysis as well as pattern recognition. The tool should be easy to use (but complex at its foundation), adaptable, flexible and customized for the contact center environment.
Edited by Alicia Young