How to Boost Call Center Forecasting Accuracy

Forecasts are never 100%, but real-time call center data analysis helps fill the gaps.

As we discussed here, contact center leaders spend significant time and energy creating detailed workforce management forecasts. In many cases, initial call center forecasts are made for the year and adjusted quarterly, monthly, and then weekly or daily as shifts are scheduled.

These are essential tasks. After all, bottom-line success demands that call center managers schedule the correct number of agents for each shift. Plan for too few and service levels degrade as agents become overwhelmed. Schedule too many and labor efficiency suffers along with the company’s profitability.

Forecasting can often feel like a no-win situation, but a powerful workforce management system (WFM) can enhance accuracy and flexibility to match agent scheduling with that ever-frustrating thing, reality.

Leveraging Historical Data

Call center workforce management software solutions are returning far greater forecasting accuracy than ever before. Innovative software gathers call history from the automatic call distributor (ACD) and customer data from any integrated customer relationship management (CRM) system, such as Salesforce. This enables managers to view workforce metrics over time to guide their scheduling efforts.

With a high-performance WFM system, call center managers can track average handle times, shrinkage, and other call center metrics throughout the year. Detailed analytics help determine how these factors change based on seasonality, time of day, new product introductions, marketing activity, training needs, and so on. 

Agents’ ability to handle different contact types and combinations can also be evaluated. 

The resulting information then serves as a baseline from which to forecast staffing needs in granular detail.

Adapting to Change in Real Time

WFM software has made call center forecasting on spreadsheets a thing of the past. But relying on historical data alone means contact center managers are only responding to yesterday’s news.

Reality has a way of defying expectations, especially in the rapidly evolving world of omnichannel communications. For example, last month’s customers may have shied away from chat only to embrace that channel with enthusiasm today. The contact center has no choice but to adapt.

This is where real-time data analysis and intraday shift management come into play. First of all, these capabilities within WFM software enable contact center managers to maximize adherence, because exerting all that effort making schedules is a total waste if no one actually follows them.

But real-time management is also about changing the schedule on the fly. If an agent becomes ill and must leave halfway through the shift, program leaders can adjust assignments to minimize the impact on service levels. 

If the lunchtime call rush lasts longer than usual, breaks can be backed up to ensure agents aren’t taken from their stations when they are needed most. 

And if email accounts are overflowing, additional agent time can be devoted to answering those inquiries.

Intuitive, visual scheduling capabilities in WFM software make it easy to implement adjustments as change occurs, and the powerful back-end processing continually optimizes the agent assignments by timing and skill set. The end result is an omnichannel-capable call center fluid enough to respond to customers’ rapidly evolving needs.

Bringing Forecasting Full Circle

The ability to adjust schedules on the fly should never prevent contact center leaders from attending to their workforce forecasting accuracy. To the contrary, using WFM software to evaluate the changes made necessary by forecasting inaccuracies is key to meeting service levels and exceeding customer expectations.

Just like compiling initial call center forecasts, assessing forecasting accuracy should take into account a full range of workforce metrics and variables. 

Evaluate service levels and times during the shift where the organization fell short and explore possible solutions. 

Look at average handle times, including when and why they increased. 

And consider unexpected business demands and process changes to enable better forecasts for the next marketing blitz or pre-holiday season training.

Performing such analysis will ensure the scenarios on which the next shift and the next annual forecast are built pull from the most recent and detailed information. Also, driving continual forecasting improvement will bring the contact center one step closer to achieving the impossible—a perfect shift where everything unfolds exactly as planned.

It’s all a matter of call center metrics. Are you monitoring the right information about your performance to drive the ROI you envision? Find out with our free white paper Workforce Management Metrics: Unlock the Secrets to Growing Your Bottom Line. Download it today.


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