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A Guide to Contact Center Forecasting & Workforce Management

Maximizing your Contact Center Forecasting Starts by Understanding the Laws of Supply and Demand.  

When measuring your contact center forecasting success, it’s easy to get caught up in reaching service and financial goals, forgetting the need to keep staffing costs down. One of the most common challenges facing workforce managers is balancing the two. Many different forecasting techniques are available, but you probably struggle with knowing which system works best for your contact center. The end goal is to balance your supply of employees with the demand of calls, emails and web chats. 

First, it is necessary to understand the law of supply and demand. Demand consists of calls, emails, web chats and other forms of communication taking place with the customer. The number of contact center employees available to assist a customer determines supply. When the demand surpasses supply, service levels reduce, employees become overwhelmed and customer satisfaction decreases. When the supply is greater than demand, service improves at the cost of advisors being paid with no work to do. The key to contact center forecasting is finding the perfect balance between your contact center’s supply and demand. 

What is Contact Center Forecasting?

Contact center forecasting is a projection process to schedule the optimal number of employees to meet the contact center’s demand. The goal is to have enough agents to meet caller needs without having too many agents being paid without any work to do. Forecasting accuracy depends on considering call volume and omnichannel interaction averages from previous years, current trends and the time of year.    

Forecasting Factors to Consider

Contact center forecasting consists of projecting the number of incoming calls and aligning them with the actual number of calls that occur. Then, managers can schedule the optimal number of contact center agents. A big part of accurately forecasting is accounting for change. Factors such as days of the week, months, seasons, holidays and time of day impact the demand of an average contact center.  

These are all regular events that impact demand, but forecasts must also consider irregular factors. These factors include variations in call volume, call time, different needs and the amount of assistance required. Contact center managers must consider regular and irregular factors to make the most accurate forecast.         

Workforce Management Integration 

Properly integrating knowledge from your workforce management system is vital to accurate forecasting. Then, you can consider historical data in the forecasting process to better understand what happened in the past. 

You must also understand how other departments operate and consider their workflows, such as meetings, training and marketing campaigns. This knowledge will enable you to understand the staffing demand of the entire organization to project the supply and demand of your contact center.  

Trends and Seasonality 

One way to consider historical data in contact center forecasting is to assess trends and seasonality. Trends can show call volume levels being consistent over the same time as previous years. Seasonality impacts forecasting similarly by considering the time of the year and holiday seasons in their projections. For example, November and December  may be a season where retail companies see an increase in calls, but accounting and insurance businesses may see a reduction as people focus on other things during the holiday season. 

Previously, forecasters used an average of the past two or three years to project call volume. Now there are more efficient ways to project through exponential smoothing. This forecasting strategy prioritizes recent years to produce more accurate forecasts. Don’t forget to remove any outliers or oddities from specific years that occurred in a unique circumstance.    

Scheduling the Right Workforce 

Once you make your forecasts and projections, it’s time to start scheduling your contact center staff. Ideally, you would always have the perfect number of agents to respond to the exact number of calls. Unfortunately, in a world of employees getting sick, running late, or unexpected call volumes due to unpredictable circumstances, changes to the schedule must occur to best meet contact center demand, achieve business goals and provide quality customer service. 

Even a schedule based on good forecasts is not final, and you should change it according to employee and contact center demand needs. The contact center manager should regularly make adjustments to ensure workforce efficiency. Automation from a workforce management system can make the adjustment process much easier by searching a database of all worker availability, looking at employee history, and comparing workforce supply with the forecasts to make better predictions in the future.      

The Key to Improved Contact Center Forecasting Starts with Optimizing Your Workforce Management System.

An outdated, siloed workforce management system is a thing of the past. Your forecasting success depends on optimizing the perfect balance between your contact center’s supply and demand. Download your free whitepaper today, and discover what’s possible with an AI-enabled workforce management system.  

Key Takeaways

  • The key to contact center forecasting is finding the perfect balance between your contact center’s supply and demand. 
  • When the demand surpasses the supply, service levels reduce, employees become overwhelmed, and customer satisfaction decreases. 
  • When supply is greater than demand, service improves at the cost of advisors being paid with no work to do. 
  • Factors such as days of the week, months, seasons, holidays and time of day all impact the demand of an average contact center. 
  • Even a schedule based on good forecasts is not final, and you should change it according to employee and contact center demand needs.
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