Will the CFO “Buy” Your SMB Contact Center Budget?

Top tips for using call center analytics and reporting to make the case for your spending forecast

It’s almost that time again. For many SMBs, the annual budget is coming due.

The contact center budgeting process is never easy.. (That’s why we created The Ultimate Guide to Call Center Budgets!) But countless managers actually find that defending their budget is the more daunting challenge.

So what can you do to gain buy-in from business owners and executives, so you receive the resources required to achieve the call center’s many goals? Here are some tips.

Hone in on the hard stuff

First, it’s beneficial to focus. Almost inevitably, there are line items that won’t raise many questions. If office lease costs are the same as last year, that topic will probably merit only a cursory review.  

On the other hand, if you’re moving to a larger space, you’ll need more information about needs and projected expenses. It’s vital to organize the supporting data, such as analytics and reporting showing how many new agent stations will be necessary to absorb projected contact volume growth. You might even prepare rebuttals to potential objections, just like you would for agents’ sales scripts.

Show your work

Staffing costs are typically the biggest call center expenditure, and there’s a real art to arriving at an accurate picture. Whether you rely on spreadsheets or have invested in call center workforce management software, be ready to show how you got to your conclusions.

For example, if you’ve included 10 percent more agent hours, back it up. Maybe you saw an increase in average handle time (AHT) when an innovative but sometimes confusing product hit the market. An analysis of AHT since the product release can demonstrate why the help desk will need extra staff.

Underscore ROI and customer experience

Hopefully, you’re also recommending proactive measures for improved call center customer experience. Quantifying the return on those investments is vital in earning approval.

As a simplified example, say you want to add one extra agent shift every business day on a hotel reservation line. The cost is $120 per day (at $15 per hour), or $26,400 for the year.

That number could cause the CFO to gasp—unless you’ve analyzed call abandonment rates and are confident you can capture five more reservations per day by having enough staff during peak periods to avoid customers hanging up. If the average reservation is $200, the CFO won’t be alarmed—she’ll praise you for realizing a $1,000 return on a mere $120 outlay.

Sadly, not all call center investments are equally straightforward. Maybe your budget includes an increase in shrinkage, for instance. Decision-makers often view shrinkage as wholly negative and might push for further reductions instead.

But what if you’re purposefully building in more post-call processing time? You’ve noticed that agents aren’t effectively switching gears to the next call, and you think the stress of finalizing customer orders in too little time is undermining workforce engagement and boosting turnover.

Call center reporting and analytics can help substantiate your claims. Perhaps two years of shrinkage-focused cost-cutting has been accompanied by rising turnover. Tallying the increased training expense alone might help make the argument that a bit more shrinkage is a bargain by comparison.

Accept feedback and collaborate

No matter how prepared you are, it’s rare to get everything on the budget wish list, so be ready to problem-solve. Maybe you’d like to add two days to every new employee training, but the executive team says the money isn’t there. Could you propose a pilot program to demonstrate the ROI?

Even if you have to make tough decisions—and with COVID-19 increasing budget uncertainty, that’s the reality for most SMBs right now—your analyses can help target any unavoidable cost-cutting initiatives to limit impacts on customer experience and business revenues over the long haul.

Conclusion

We’ve offered a number of tips, but if you want just one thing to remember, it’s this—put yourself in the CFO’s shoes. If you were a CFO evaluating a department’s budget, you’d want to know:

  • Are the numbers accurate and based on defensible forecasting assumptions?
  • What is the ROI on new investments or avoided cost-cutting?
  • Is the budget affordable? Is there enough money, or will ROI mean certain decisions “pay for themselves”?

If you can use call center reporting and analytics to deliver compelling answers to these questions, you’ll be well-positioned to earn budget buy-in and also make a maximum contribution to the company’s bottom line.

Have more questions about call center budgeting and approval? Watch our on-demand webinar 'Navigating Your Contact Center Budget for a Thriving CX in the New Year' to get the full scoop from contact center leaders who have been through it.

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