Down with Spreadsheets and Erlang Formulas!

How to enjoy faster, headache-free budgeting with AI-powered workforce management software

It’s that time of year again. No, not the holidays—the deadline for the 2020 annual call center budget! Contact center managers are putting the pieces together to get a full picture of their future resource needs.

Budgeting is one of the most challenging tasks in the call center, and managers can be forgiven for developing a gut-level hatred of spreadsheets. Ironically, such simple tools make the contact center budgeting process more complex. Some things just don’t reduce to a line item in Excel.

More sophisticated solutions can help achieve a new level of budgeting detail and accuracy with much less effort. Here are just three examples of where workforce management software really shines.

#1 Call Volume Forecasting

The secret sauce in workforce management software is the ability to automatically gather and analyze information from the ACD system. The best solutions apply artificial intelligence algorithms to large amounts of historical data to generate call volume forecasts at any level of granularity.

Need to know how many contacts to expect on a Tuesday in August? Covered.

Want to examine how many calls come in before 10 AM so you can stage inbound agents’ start times accordingly? You’ve got it.

Interested in exploring how many customer service responses are received when the company launches a high-profile advertising campaign? Workforce management software can deliver that information.

Details are provided on a channel-specific basis, so it’s a cinch to budget to accommodate staffing demands for inbound voice lines vs. web chat or any other need.

#2 Handle Time Estimates

Average handle time (AHT) tends to exhibit less radical variation than call volumes, but AHT is no static number.

A product launch, for example, can lead to longer call times, as customers rely on agents to supply information, answer questions and offer recommendations. The January return season can be accompanied by a higher number of disgruntled customers seeking hard-to-process refunds.  

A month of high employee turnover can swell AHT if newer agents are less efficient. And offering customers new self-service options can lower contact volumes but send AHT skyward, as individuals with more complex needs opt for a live agent instead.

Understanding how AHT may shift month-to-month and even hour-by-hour enhances staffing estimates and the call center budget forecasts compiled based on dynamic call volumes.

#3 Occupancy and Shrinkage Predictions

Think of occupancy and shrinkage as two sides of the same coin. Occupancy measures the percentage of time agents are assisting customers. And rest assured, it’s never 100%!

Shrinkage, on the other hand, represents agent time spent on non-service activity, such as lunch breaks, training and absenteeism. Although shrinkage can be reduced, it is a fact of life in the contact center.

Many issues can swing the pendulum from higher occupancy to more shrinkage. Seasonal variation is common, and many call centers find shrinkage increases over the winter holidays.

Non-cyclic yet still predictable factors will also affect where the contact center lies on the occupancy-to-shrinkage spectrum. Flu season, for instance, can ramp up sick days for an entire month, while a new sales offer can require managers to fit in an additional training session next week.

Building in data-based assumptions for occupancy and shrinkage by quarter, month, week and shift makes for a more robust and useful budget, and it’s easy to do in WFM software.

It Adds Up to Accuracy

With workforce management software, seamless integration of mounds of historical data results in highly refined predictions. And a user-friendly interface slashes the time required to manage employee scheduling while alleviating the need to consider Erlang formulas—and thank goodness for that!

Workforce management software can also enable call center leaders to explore various staffing scenarios to find the “sweet spot” where customer experience and cost-efficiency meet. This can help optimize the contact center budget in ways not possible without such a technology solution. 

Bringing accurate forecasts of call volumes, handle times and occupancy and shrinkage rates into the budget alongside other costs, such as capital needs and real estate expenses, provides the full picture of the contact center’s resource needs.

Are you capturing all the information you need to build your most accurate call center budget ever? 

Download our white paper—the Ultimate Guide to Budgeting for Your Contact Center—to find out. This resource provides a comprehensive overview of spending categories and offers more insights into how workforce management technologies can drive better budgeting. Check it out today.