Know Thy Workload
Forecasting is a critical function in any contact center and really in all aspects of life. With a forecast, there’s a plan that puts confidence in our stride. Without it, the best you can count on is ‘getting by’. Forecasting tells us when it is time to grocery shop, when to wear a raincoat and when to anticipate a change in demand on the contact center.
Forecasting is a bit of art and science. It certainly requires good communications skills, imagination and discipline. The payoff is big—greater efficiency, better morale and elevated customer experience. More on that in a minute.
Forecasting is the hallmark of workforce management practice. It must precede and will influence so many decisions: schedule breaks and lunches; approve time-off requests; hire and train more agents; and, add or remove more off-line activities like training, coaching and meeting to improve your workforce. It is the practice of understanding what tasks need to be done tomorrow, next week and next year. It provides a solid foundation for scheduling, which applies resources to forecasted workload.
Forecasting is broken into two components: volume and headcount. When you know what volume will be needed, then you can determine the optimal time to hire and train to meet the workload.
Here are four tips to ensure your volume forecast is complete:
- Understand outside influencers. The more you communicate with outside departments the more you are likely to know about actions they are taking that can affect your call volume. For example, if your marketing department runs campaigns that can affect workload, be sure to consider this in your forecast. Know when they are planned and the expected effect.Technology changes also can have an impact on your workload. For example, if IT is upgrading the network, perhaps your average handle times will decrease. If they are doing a technology refresh, perhaps performance will degrade during the learning curve.Being informed of business trends and their impact on workload’s time will enable refined forecasts, consequently less (and less, and less…) ‘fat’ in the forecast.
- Count all channels. When thinking about volume it is easy to focus on calls. Remember that there may be many other interaction channels that add to the overall volume of work. These could include emails, chat, fax, and postal mail. Do not forget back office tasks associated with these channels.
- Identify arrival patterns. After channels are counted, a business needs to qualify interactions in each channel. How many calls involved service changes, address changes, processed payments and adjusted billing cycles? Even within a channel there may be different classes of interactions that take different time to complete. An address change is likely to take less time than a service change, for example. Break it down as much as needed to get a more accurate workload estimate.
- Quantify interaction time spent. Find out what is measured now and what is planned for the future. Consider what is missing and see if it can be measured. Wrap up codes, for example, are used by agents to indicate call characteristics. Aggregating them and reviewing for average handle time could provide insight into loads, including variation by type of call, hour of day, day of week, business cycles like billing or collections in a month, time of year and severity of weather. What’s the average handle time spent on these various calls? This knowledge puts the finishing touch on a day’s and week’s volume forecast.
Know thy workload, and the payoff can be huge! Reduce your forecast margin of error to enhance Customer Experience in service delivery, to elevate Agent Satisfaction due to timely activity planning and to evolve your operation’s strategic contribution with right-sized budgets.