Having the ability to foresee as accurately as possible the likely fluctuations in call traffic or contact volume is key to managing your agents successfully.
Effective forecasting allows you to hit just the right balance with your staffing levels.
However, seeing into the future is impossible, so call centre managers must find a formula that helps them to make predictions based on certain indicators.
This presents a number of challenges:
- many industries are subject to constant change, which means historical data is of limited use
- call volume and contact time is influenced by external events, and not necessarily something the company can control
- call traffic can fluctuate dramatically between seasons
With so many factors to consider, many of which are constantly shifting, it can be difficult to come up with reliable forecasting methods.
However, there are certain strategies you can use to paint a clearer picture of the future.
Brainstorm hypothetical situations or “what-if scenarios” to explore how you might react to certain events and influences external to your business that might change your call volume.
For example “special days” can often be pre-empted and you can make changes to your staffing rota accordingly.
You can even formulate “intra-day” forecasts to help you track changes in call traffic throughout the course of any given day.
You do this by monitoring call volume fluctuations throughout the day for several days and then begin to trace patterns.
This will allow you to make informed decisions about shift start and finish times, staff breaks and lunch hours and staffing levels.
You should also take into account multiple channels, if you use them. You may find that different channels are busier at different times of the day.
Start keeping track of your email and chat contact time as well as calls, and factor those in too.
- To create a precision forecast, take into account both recurring and non recurring events. The more accurate your forecasts are, the more effective your scheduling with be.
- Be aware that you will need to make changes to your staffing rota. Agents may turn up late, leave early, call in sick, return late from breaks and so on. Train your staff so that shift changes and breaks are as seamless as possible, and keep your rota dynamic to help you adjust to staff sickness and call volume.
- Unfortunately, forecasting isn’t an exact science. Even with a solid plan and excellent forecasting skills, you’ll find yourself subject to factors beyond your control. That’s why it’s important to sit down and decide what your business goals truly are. If top quality customer service is vital, then it may be better to err on the side of overstaffing than risk being shorthanded. If, on the other hand, you can’t afford to lose sight of income generation and maximising profits, then you may decide that understaffing is the lesser of the evils.