Forecasting for the contact center is tough. Understaffed businesses can result in long wait times for customers and leave agents frustrated and even unmotivated.
Customers may be forgiving of long wait times once, but don’t expect them to be forgiving if it happens regularly. On the other hand, labor costs are typically 70-80 percent of the budget, and over-staffing further bloats costs.
An accurate forecast means you have the right agents available with the right skills at the right time. It’s critical to a successful customer experience. So how do companies find the balance to keep both employees and customers happy?
First, it’s important to decide what constitutes success. Without proper context, it’s impossible to develop an accurate forecast. Typically, +/- 5 percent accuracy is the industry standard, but the math isn’t always that simple. For example, if the target is set at 100 contacts, 106 contacts will show as failure, meaning contact centers can’t always rely on industry standards when setting goals.
After defining success, it’s important to determine metrics so you can determine where your contact center currently is—and if you’re making progress towards your goal of a more-accurate forecast.
Here are the top three metrics contact center managers should use to ensure an accurate forecast, every time:
How many calls your contact center receives is a critical piece of the forecasting puzzle. But it’s not the only piece. That data should not be used to simply look ahead; it should also be used to see how closely forecasted interactions match the actual number of contacts. With this complete view, you’ll be able to make adjustments to achieve greater accuracy.
How long your agents need to resolve an inquiry, or handle time, will give you an idea of agent availability to answer new requests. However, call handle time shouldn’t be based on just the first transaction, but the entire series of subsequent calls that are related to the same case.
Also known as Forecast Accuracy by Interval, daily contact arrival patterns show the busiest and slowest times of day. This allows you to determine the number of agents you need to manage daily peaks and valleys. From there, you’ll be able to account for schedule inflexibility. This ensures the scheduling plan matches the number of agents required to handle the work to the required staffing based on the forecast workload and the assumptions.
While these numbers are important, how you gather them should be equally considered. Be sure to use real-time and historical data across specific time periods and apply prior year trending data to compensate for the increases or decreases in call volume. In addition, don’t forget to include non-phone interactions such as chat and email, because those still require time and resources from your team.
Forecasting is crucial to staffing a contact center that consistently meets customer needs. When done effectively, it improves the experience for employees and customers while effectively managing budgets. With the right metrics and data, contact center managers can take the pain out of the process and create an accurate forecast, assuming business as usual, every single time.
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