Friday, June 25, 2010

Intra-day call center forecasting and scheduling

Based on a recent survey by DMG consulting, a majority of survey participants indicated that one of their biggest forecasting challenges is related to unpredictable call volume fluctuations. In our recent webinar, we discussed how to deal with these intra-day changes and how to update your forecast.

First, spend some time and effort to achieve an accurate forecast in order to minimize surprises:
  • Analyze call history
  • Anticipate factors that impact call volume
  • Focus on skill level, skill team and interval level
When you notice that the actual call volume is different from the forecast, you should analyze deviation and trend lines for both, call volume and average handle time. Below is an example based on call volume fluctuation:
  • Calls received by 10:30 am 417 calls
  • Usual proportion of call by 10:30 17%
  • Revised call forecast for day = 2,452 calls
Now, apply this trend to the next period or rest of day by recalculating the forecast for each interval:
  • Proportion for 3:30 to 4:00 6.6% (of day)
  • New intra-day forecast for 3:30 to 4:00 = 161 calls
Then you need to move things around (breaks, training, etc) to adjust the schedule as well. Finally, investigate to find the cause for the deviation and learn from it. This might help you be better prepared next time, and you might even be able to "build it" it into the forecast.

How to forecast special days in your call center

Earlier this week we hosted a webinar about improving forecast accuracy in your call center, which was very well received. One of the topics we discussed was: “How to forecast special days”. Here is a quick summary of the key points:

Analyze call history data for previous and similar periods:
  • Consider: Growth factor, day of the week, etc.
  • Apply weight: Highest weight for recent year/month/day
In step two, you need to predict daily and interval call volume. With an WFM solution this is all processed and calculated automatically, but here are the key elements. You have to break down the forecast into monthly, daily, etc. intervals and also apply the "special day" effect (in italic below). The following is an example for 4th of July:
  • Forecast for year = 382,572
  • July percentage = 9.38%
  • Wednesday percentage = 16%
  • Impact of July 4th = 30%
  • 10:00 to 10:30 proportion of day = 5.2%
In addition, you should adjust for other known influences, such as:
  • Internal: Planned marketing campaigns, events, news, etc.
  • External: Weather, season, consumer trends, etc.
If you would like to learn more about forecasting methodologies and related WFM capabilities, please contact us or check out the webinar recording that will be posted shortly.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What are your call center forecasting challenges?

Optimal call center performance starts with an accurate forecast. In a recent study and survey by DMG Consulting, 230 contact center professionals were asked about their forecasting challenges. Here are the top 5 challenges:
  • Need to forecast for multiple skill sets
  • Changing business needs negate usefulness of historical volume data
  • Volume driven by external events, not controlled by company
  • Volume is seasonal varies greatly
  • Volume patterns change frequently, making projections difficult
Based on these results and questions we hear from our prospects, we at Monet Software thought we should host an educational webinar about Call Center Forecasting. In this webinar, planned for June 23, 11 a.m. PST, we will discuss how to overcome or better deal with some of these forecasting challenges. We hope you can join us.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Call Center Staffing Software for Small Call Centers?

Regardless of size, all call centers have the same basic goals of controlling costs, optimizing call center staffing, and meeting services levels. A common myth is that only larger centers need (and can afford) call center staffing software. But small call centers do have some unique challenges when contrasted with larger centers that make the case for staffing software:
  • Unpredictable call volume: Since calling patterns tend to be far more diverse and marked by peaks and valleys in small centers, call center staffing can be a headache for many managers. They have to respond to spikes in volume on-the-fly, often without much historical data to back-up their decisions.
  • Schedule adherence: Whereas larger centers can often manage schedule deviations and absenteeism without as much strain, smaller center performance suffers when 1 or a few agents are not available for calls. For instance, in a call center of fifty agents, occupancy is critical. If five agents take breaks or go to lunch at the same time, occupancy decreases by 10% and service levels go with it.
  • Agent retention: Retention is one of the key factors of any size call center, but it’s especially significant when call center staffing revolves around a limited group. One of the many reasons agents leave is because staffing seems random and does not consider their personal needs. Agent morale increases when everyone understands and accepts schedules in advance, which reduces turnover and lets everyone know what’s expected of them.
While these are only a few of the many issues faced by small call centers, they show that you don’t have to be a large center to need call center staffing software. When you consider the cost to benefit ratio, most call center managers choose call center staffing software, especially now that it’s offered in the cloud (or SaaS). Now, you can be small and operate big.