Showing posts with label call center scheduling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label call center scheduling. Show all posts

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Still Scheduling with Spreadsheets? Put WFM on Your Holiday List

Scheduling is a vital component in the success of every call center. And concrete, reliable data is vital to achieve accurate, consistent scheduling results.

For decades, that data was gathered through spreadsheets, and would take hours to compile. Even then, the results were not always accurate, or flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes or other issues.

And yet, hundreds of contact centers continue to handle forecasting and scheduling the same inefficient way they did 20 years ago, which is why the data generated sometimes proves insufficient.

It’s time for a change, and technology has made that change possible. An automated workforce management (WFM) solution can improve scheduling accuracy, making sure all the necessary resources are always in place.

A WFM system provides the flexibility to automatically manage start times, end times and break times. Spreadsheets cannot match this speed and efficiency, which results in unhappy agents and higher shrinkage. And wouldn’t you rather spend the hours now devoted to compiling schedules to focusing on other aspects of your business – or just getting out of the office on time for a change?

If so, perhaps it’s time to add a WFM solution to your holiday list. To find out more about this important investment, read “The Real Cost of Spreadsheet Based Scheduling” to find out if you should put WFM on your holiday wish list.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Advantages of Skill-Based Scheduling

Skill-based scheduling is a practice where incoming calls at a contact center are routed to specific agents based on the type of service requested. If customers can be connected with an agent that excels at the service they require, the odds are much greater of achieving a satisfactory result.

This practice can take many forms, from simply routing calls from Spanish-speaking customers to bilingual agents, to routing angry callers to those agents with the personality and people skills to calmly resolve the situation.

Generally, the implementation of a skill-based scheduling process requires four steps, starting with a detailed knowledge of why customers call. By classifying these contacts, a manager can define the necessary agent skill sets, and gather some of the information needed to set up an effective schedule.

The next step is to identify staff skills and resources. This can be achieved in a number of ways, but call recording should play a key role. Most well trained agents have more than one skill, which can make the process somewhat easier, while reducing the number of agents needed to handle call volume. Productivity can increase 5-15% from agents with at least two skills.

Step three requires a review, and perhaps an upgrade, of the contact center’s technology. Choose a system capable of skill-based routing and scheduling in a multi-channel environment.

Finally, conduct a gap analysis to compare your current business environment with how that environment will changed under a skill-based scheduling system. This will uncover any risks incurred during the transition period, and help to make certain that the system is working as designed to benefit customers and improve contact center efficiency.

Monday, August 11, 2014

How effective is your call center forecasting and scheduling process?

Forecasting and scheduling are vital components in the success of every call center management. Achieving consistent results requires a little art and a little science, but is impossible without concrete data.

For decades, that data was gathered through spreadsheets, and would take hours to compile. Even then, the results were not always accurate, or flexible enough to accommodate last minute changes or other staffing issues.

An automated workforce management (WFM) and optimization (WFO) solution can help you to implement Best Practices. You can easily improve forecast accuracy and in turn, optimize schedule assignment, making sure all the necessary resources are always in place. An integrated WFO solution allows a manager to check KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) against historical data. In a typical call center a manager will ask such questions as:

“When I see that my agents’ Average Talk Time has exceeded the target, does this result in more abandons and a poor service level?”

“If a longer talk time is causing more abandons, are there agents that are still able meet all of their quality monitoring goals while keeping a low talk time?”

By analyzing data in an integrated WFO tool, a manager can then reference what processes allowed some agents to have a lower talk time while meeting their quality targets, and then train the rest of the workforce using these processes.  At that point, a lower Average Talk Time goal may be set for the entire center, resulting in happier customers getting their calls answered more quickly and less overall abandons.

“Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling: Best Practices” details how WFO improves the likelihood of creating reliable forecasts and accurate schedules. There are also sections on how WFM impacts agent productivity, and which criteria are most important when selecting a WFM solution.

Click here to download Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling: Best Practices.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Forecasting and Scheduling When Call Volume is Inconsistent

Download Whitepaper
At some call centers, periods of call volume stability are followed by days or weeks where the numbers will fluctuate more noticeably. And that’s the best-case scenario.

With other contact centers attached to companies where new special offers, seasonal promotions and other aggressive marketing tactics are employed, fluctuations are more commonplace and even more difficult to predict. How can a manager create an accurate forecast and schedule in these circumstances? Here are 5 tips that might help.

1. Analyze call history
Very few events in a call center are completely unique. Whatever is happening this week or next week has happened before, and by using 1-2 years of call history, it is easier to anticipate the impact of an approaching event, based on what happened when a similar event occurred previously.

2. Run scenarios
Forecasting simulations based on 2-3 potential outcomes can help managers analyze routing policies and incoming call volume. That leads to more accurate forecasts and schedules.

3. Include all activities
Call-related activities are the primary data source, and it’s important to get a handle on incoming call load, average handle time, etc. But non-call related activities such as breaks, training sessions and meetings must also be considered – something that is much easier to do with an automated system (as opposed to spreadsheets).

4. Track internal and external events.
You know about the big sale coming up, and what that is likely to do to call volume. You can see the holiday approaching on the calendar and can foresee its impact by what happened last year. But there are other factors that will be unique to the day for which you are forecasting and scheduling. For instance, if the weather is supposed to be bad more customers might shop from home, which would require more call center resources.

5. Stay flexible
The more rigid the schedule, the more likely it will fall short of expectations. Built-in flexibility allows managers to be prepared for unforeseen fluctuations.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Workforce Management Software vs. Scheduling Spreadsheets

“That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

How often do you hear these words in an office, when managers would rather stay with what is familiar than change to something that will make their lives easier and their business run more efficiently?

Why else would so many contact centers still use spreadsheets for scheduling, rather than switch to an automated workforce management (WFM) solution? The advantages to doing so are many – and will be obvious from the first day with the new system in place:
  • Flexibility – Spreadsheets are fine for fixed schedules, but what happens when the schedule refuses to stay fixed (which, let’s face it, is most days)? With WFM, it’s easy to manage flexibility with start, end and break times. Result? Less idle agents, and better customer service.
  • Skill-based Call Routing – Customers appreciate when their calls are received by the agents most qualified to handle them. Inclusion of skills is handled automatically by WFM, so it’s easier to fill each shift with fewer agents, but with those who have the requisite specialties to handle every customer encounter. Spreadsheets can’t keep up.
  • Tracking Adherence – With a spreadsheet a few limited spot checks are possible, but WFM delivers real-time adherence monitoring and analysis. That results in lower shrinkage and improved service levels.
  • Exceptions – They happen every day, but they complicate the spreadsheet process to the point where most requests will be turned down. Agents at a call center with WFM will find their exception considerations handled more graciously. That means happier agents – and happier agents mean happier customers.
  • Saving Time – With WFM, managers can save as much as 25% off the time they devote to creating schedules with spreadsheets. That’s 2 hours from every 8-hour day.
Spreadsheets simply cannot compete. If you’re still using them, isn’t it time for a change? If you are still not convinced watch this video about a call center supervisor explaining the difference.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling Best Practices with WFO

The quality of call center customer service is largely dependent on accurate forecasting and scheduling. So why do so many call centers still rely on spreadsheets for this most important of daily tasks?

Any discussion of forecasting and scheduling best practices has to start with an automated workforce optimization solution (WFO). Spreadsheets cannot even approach WFO on accuracy, flexibility, resource allocation and optimized staffing.

With WFO, call center managers also have access to the most precise historical data that will be utilized alongside KPIs. While it’s certainly possible to use spreadsheets to check previous monthly and yearly data, WFO streamlines information gathering and analysis so it can be completed more accurately and in a fraction of the time. Let’s break down the process:

Forecasting
An accurate forecast model relies on accurate historical data. WFO delivers seasonal stats, monthly stats, daily stats, even numbers analyzing one portion of one hour, or 30 minutes, so variations can be determined and adjustments made accordingly. Special days and special events will also figure into these calculations – once again, the automated WFO solution will always be better and faster than a spreadsheet. 

Scheduling
With WFO, managers can automatically manage start times, end times and break times, so that agent needs are acknowledged, while call center performance capabilities are always met.  An automated system provides more flexibility than a spreadsheet, while also contributing data that can help managers put the right agents in the right positions to maximize customer service.

To find out more about forecasting and scheduling best practices, as well as choosing the right WFO solution for your business, download our free whitepaper, Forecasting and Scheduling Best Practices.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

15 Tips on Contact Center Scheduling

One of the call center manager’s most important tasks is to create a schedule that balances agent needs vs. call center capabilities, while accounting for such variables as shrinkage and exceptions.

Easier said than done? Not necessarily – the right workforce management system streamlines the process and provides more consistent, accurate data.

If scheduling is still an issue, check out these quick tips:
  1. Don’t use spreadsheets – they are incapable of producing an optimized call center schedule. 
  2. Accurate scheduling starts with accurate forecasting.
  3. Track both call activities and non-call activities for better scheduling.
  4. Make sure all scheduling procedures are clearly delineated among agents, supervisors and management.
  5. Test schedule accuracy with simulations and dry-run scenarios.
  6. Build some flexibility into schedules so changes can be made on the fly.
  7. Take agent preferences into account – if agents can work the shifts they prefer, they will likely do a better job. 
  8. Make sure you are using sufficient ACD data (at least one year) for schedule creation. 
  9. Build in a shift-swapping procedure that is easier for agents to utilize, and easier for management to monitor.
  10. Incorporate agent skill levels and specialties into schedule creation. 
  11. Try this formula for calculating schedule adherence: [phone time + other work related activity time] / ([shift time] - [lunch/dinner] - [break] + [exception time] + [overtime]) = schedule adherence
  12. Personally address agent issues such as tardiness and extended lunch breaks so they do not become habitual, and have a detrimental impact on scheduling. 
  13. Take weather conditions into account when creating schedules, as they can impact both call volume and agent availability. 
  14. List the 3 greatest challenges to schedule adherence at your contact center, then meet with agents and supervisors to address how these challenges can be resolved. 
  15. Choose a Workforce Management solution that gathers and provides the necessary scheduling information through dashboards that are clear and concise.
Fore more details, please download our Contact Center Scheduling Tips whitepaper.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Learn Something New About Forecasting and Scheduling

Have you considered making a final break from spreadsheets, and incorporating a sophisticated workforce management solution into your contact center? If so, what is holding you back? For many, it may be a concern that WFM is too complicated, too difficult to install, too confusing to use. But what if we could prove that wasn’t the case?

Check out the short videos below, each of which covers a specific challenge faced by every call center, and explains how workforce management software makes that challenge much easier to manage. You’ll see how the software works, and how simple it is to collect the data you need to keep your call center running at optimum efficiency.

Forecasting and Scheduling Demo Center

The videos cover the following topics:

Accurate Forecasting
With WFM you’ll have monthly and weekly stats to review, plus daily and hourly numbers. You can even examine work periods as short as 15 minutes. By reviewing past activity, you’ll have a much better idea of how to predict future needs.

Efficient Scheduling
Confident scheduling comes from the knowledge that the right people are in the right places at the right times. Find out how WFM makes this task easier.

Effective Staffing
Discover how WFM optimizes scheduling for all necessary factors, including agent skill sets, staff availability, holidays, breaks and service levels.

Intra-Day Management
Scheduling an agent for a shift is not enough – WFM also provides a graphical display of variances in agents’ schedules during the workday for breaks, lunch and other exceptions.

Exception Planning
Find out how the integrated exception calendar simplifies the scheduling of agent exceptions for training, time off and other variables.

Interactive Dashboards
Watch how WFM provides actionable insights on all agent activities through dashboards, key performance indicators and real-time alerts.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Forecasting and Scheduling During the Holiday Season

So many companies rely on increased orders during the holiday season to make or break their annual sales goals. Thus, the call center plays a critical role in making certain each customer call is efficiently handled during these final weeks of the year.

If that means adding agents or changing shift personnel, the time to start planning for these events is not in December, but right now.

Proper planning and forecasting is the key to handling seasonal changes in call volume. This is much easier to do with Workforce Management software. Now, you can take advantage of "special day" forecasting/scheduling, leveraging call history data to forecast the future. Plus, you can run simulations based on this data and review the results, so they can be fine-tuned as necessary.

Once generated, schedules should be easily accessible to all concerned parties so there’s never any confusion.

Unfortunately, once schedules are set they are not immune to revision. Last minute changes are often unavoidable, but WFM should resolve any issues before they can impact performance.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How Efficient is Your Call Center Forecasting and Scheduling Process?

While every call center is different, there are some qualities that remain consistent throughout the industry, and these are the qualities that can provide a basis for your forecasting and scheduling process. Some variations may be possible based on specific call patterns and staffing, but this guideline should be helpful in establishing a process that achieves results.

1. Collect and analyze data, including call type, call volume, and call patterns.

2. Use this data to forecast call center workload (by day, by hour, even by quarter-hour).

3. Forecast special days or any other events that influence call volumes. These may include company promotions and events, holidays, seasonal fluctuations or other unique trends.

4. Calculate and plan resources requirements. These will be specified once you have defined acceptable service levels on ASA, AHT and other factors.

5. Review additional staffing considerations, including cost, personnel skills and specialties, flexibility, availability and occupancy.

6. Create a schedule that balances agent needs vs. call center capabilities, and accounts for shrinkage and exceptions.

7. Manage daily operation based on the created schedule. Track key metrics and adherence, and adjust forecast/schedule based on actual call volume and pattern.

8. Review, report and analyze, then repeat the process starting with step #1.

We invite you to watch any of the forecasting and scheduling videos to visualize these process steps.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's Time to Watch this Video and Answer the Call

When customers receive great customer service from a call center, they won’t stop to ask how it happened. Instead, they’ll just remain customers, and respond positively if asked about their experience.

As our new video shows, one way to bring about this positive outcome is with workforce optimization (WFO) in the cloud. Whatever challenges a call center faces, from forecasting and scheduling to training both new and experienced agents, WFO makes it easier and improves the effectiveness of most day-to-day necessities.















Quality management? Call Recording? Performance management? WFO addresses these as well, regardless of the size of the call center or the number of agents employed. The benefits of unified workforce optimization are illustrated in the video below, as well as the advantages of having those benefits delivered from the cloud. Why invest in costly hardware or software, that many not be able to grow and adapt with your business?

So if a customer’s call is answered more quickly because of forecasting accuracy, and is routed to the best agent for their needs thanks to scheduling capabilities; and if agents are better prepared because of the coaching they have received with recordings of previous customer encounters, it’s a true win-win for the center, the agent and the caller. 

Check out the video and then click on the link at the end of the video to view a more detailed demo.




Saturday, August 24, 2013

Are You Still Using Spreadsheets for forecasting and scheduling?

Based on a recent call center analysis, we discovered that approximately 20% of call centers still use spreadsheets for forecasting ad scheduling. Those that do are missing out on the convenience, efficiency, flexibility and functionality of workforce management.
Spreadsheet based forecasting and scheduling

Is there an optimal use for spreadsheets? Perhaps – for a call center where the call flows are the same every hour of every day. Unfortunately, such a call center does not exist. When call volume changes, spreadsheets are insufficient.

Here are 5 ways that WFM represents a quantum leap forward in forecasting and scheduling:
  • Flexible Schedules – spreadsheets are fine for fixed schedules – but call center schedules rarely stay fixed. A WFM system provides the flexibility to manage start times, end times and break times.
  • Call History Forecasts – the most accurate call forecasts are those that rely on call history data. This can be done manually with a spreadsheet, but it’s much faster and more accurate to work with real-time and historic call data collected by a WFM system.
  • Adherence Tracking – tracking and schedule adherence are difficult, if not flat-out impossible, with just a spreadsheet. Spot-checks are fine as far as they go, but without the real-time tracking provided by WFM there is a higher risk of over/under staffing, shrinkage and missed service levels.
  • Forecast Simulation – WFM allows for more detailed and accurate forecast simulations.
  • Exception Handling – All exception considerations are handled automatically through WFM. Spreadsheets cannot match this speed and efficiency, which results in unhappy agents and higher shrinkage.
To find out more about why WFM is the better solution, even for smaller call centers, sign up to receive a free whitepaper.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Motivating Contact Center Agents

motivating call center agents
Motivation can be a powerful tool that helps good call center agents become great. Companies have different philosophies on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to employee motivation, but here are a few tips that can produce positive results.

Rewards
It’s the most obvious, but also among the most effective motivation tools – reward good performance with a little something extra besides a weekly paycheck. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – perhaps an “Agent of the Week” designation that comes with a gift card for a local restaurant.

Work Environment
A call center that is bright and clean and inviting also provides motivation by simply being a more pleasant place in which to work.

The Tools for Success
An extension of the appealing work environment is supplying agents with the tools they need to succeed. These include call recording software to help them gauge their performance, and workforce management software that easily allows agents to swap shifts and provides flexible scheduling without impacting the overall center performance.

Training
Some agents may view training as a necessary evil, but if these sessions are used to teach new skills, which may be critical as call centers evolve into contact centers, it provides motivation for the agent by adding variety to their daily obligations.

Encourage Feedback
Agents will feel more motivated if their ideas are taken seriously, and they feel like part of a team.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Call Center Scheduling: 5 Important Tips

The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) has been an invaluable resource for helping contact centers get the most out of their agents and managers. Recently, the ICMI offered five valuable tips on call center scheduling that are worth your time.

Some of this you may have heard before – but it’s so easy to get off track when sometimes it’s all you can do to keep up with the day-to-day pressures of personnel, technology, forecasts, scheduling and adherence. A refresher course is always welcome.

You can click on the link for the full story, but here are the basics:

1. Clarity
Senior management, supervisors and agents all need to be pulling in the same direction. That means clearly delineated procedures and professional values that will guide the schedule-making process, and contingency plans for when a schedule goes awry. Having these conversations first can resolve numerous issues later on.

2. Testing
Sample schedules and dry-run scenarios can be useful in testing schedule accuracy and catching problems before they impact customer service. Experiment with different alternatives until you find one that achieves all of your objectives.

3. Inclusion
Scheduling should incorporate not just calls, but all of the activities and practices associated with that process, as well as other projects that require time from your agents or managers.

4. Conflict Resolution
Scheduling is never immune to issues from agents, new product/service launches, unforeseen changes in shifts and other outside factors. How well a contact center adjusts to these scheduling challenges will indicate whether it is performing well. However, if conflicts become too frequent, that suggests a systemic issue that should be corrected.

5. Flexibility
Related to #4 above, scheduling should be fluid but not so loose as to create confusion. Adjust schedule horizons as needed if those created two weeks away frequently prove inaccurate, take agent preferences into account when possible, and have alternatives in place before they become necessary.

If you would like to learn how to implement these tips, please also watch our workforce management videos and see how clarity, testing, inclusion, conflict resolution and flexibility are "built-in".

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Call Center Scheduling in Real Time

So you’ve finished your call center scheduling duties and are ready to focus on other tasks – until you discover that the average call wait time is longer than it should be, and either something was missed on forecasting or a lot of customers just felt this was the day they needed to place an order or ask a question.

Call center intra-day management for scheduling
What do you do? If you’re locked into your scheduling, you may end up with angry customers and frazzled agents.

Situations like this are going to happen. They should be rare if you’re using the call center scheduling and forecasting tools at your disposal in a workforce management (WFM) solution; however, sometimes even the best laid plans can go awry.

When they do, hopefully you can count on a call center scheduling solution with real-time updates that will allow you to adjust forecasts and schedules accordingly. When external conditions change, managers should be able to review the call center metrics, in real time, that will help the business get back on track.

By reviewing forecast vs. actual call volume and agent adherence, managers can then re-run forecasting and scheduling based on what is happening in the call center at that very moment. Then, they can update the schedule based on current conditions, and adjust staffing as quickly as possible so customer service is restored to optimum level. Please watch this short video to see intra-day call center scheduling in action.

Call center scheduling may not be an exact science, but real-time WFM will expose any glitches, so they can be corrected before they cause too many issues.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How to Schedule your Call Center Workforce

call center scheduling tips whitepaper
Download whitepaper
Workforce management (WFM) software lends accuracy and consistency to the scheduling process in a call center. Given the impact that scheduling has on call center performance, doing it right is necessary for call centers to save time and money. Plus, when scheduling can be handled more quickly, it frees up time for managers to focus on other responsibilities.

Once configured, WFM should provide real-time data by call center or by department, that covers every aspect of the scheduling process.

Start with forecasting, which helps to determine how many agents will be needed on a given shift on a given day, taking into account special days such as holidays or the first day of a new company sales promotion.

Next, factor in employee availability, with data on vacation schedules, approved days off, and matching individual skills to forecasting and scheduling preferences. The goal is to have the correct number of agents in place for the expected workload on that shift – no more, no less. Too many agents on a shift means wasted resources; not enough means longer call wait times and frustrated customers.

During the shift, tracking metrics keep tabs on agents that leave early, show up late, or take longer breaks than allowed.

Unfortunately, once schedules are set they are not immune to revision. Last minute changes are often unavoidable, but WFM should resolve any issues before they can impact performance. If an agent can’t make it to work, WFM should identify a replacement with a comparable skill set, determine his or her availability, and expedite the change.

Other issues related to scheduling, such as employee shift swaps and separate rotations for trainees, can also be coordinated through WFM. Once generated, schedules should be easily accessible to all concerned parties so there’s never any confusion. To see call center scheduling in action, please follow this link to watch a series of videos about forecasting, scheduling, staffing, exceptions handling and intra-day management.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Do You Measure Your Agent Schedule Adherence? Is it 70, 80 or 90%?

Schedules only work if employees stick to them. Most will but as call center managers have discovered, even a small drop in adherence can severely impact both productivity and costs. Many call centers are now pro-actively focusing on improving schedule adherence for increased service levels and reduced costs. Raising the adherence from 80 to 85%, or from 90% to 95% can result in huge cost differences. For example, in this Adherence whitepaper there is the case of a 300 employee call center and the assumption that each employee is 10 minutes our of adherence every day, resulting in $250,000 per year.

Fixing adherence issues is one of the quickest ways to avoid angry customers and rising costs. But first, you must determine your current adherence level. Yes, there will be math involved – but these are numbers that are vital to know.

Here’s the formula:
[phone time + other work related activity time] / ([shift time] - [lunch/dinner] -
[break] + [exception time] + [overtime]) = schedule adherence

Once you’ve got the results, you can add up the money now being wasted and put a stop to it.

What Causes Adherence Issues?
Are some agents taking too many breaks or absences? Is the schedule too rigid? Are employees showing up late and leaving early? Address these issues with agents, and make sure they realize how important schedule adherence is to the call center – and to their job.

This need not be a confrontational situation – one method that has worked at call centers is the setting of adherence goals, with rewards offered to agents that aid in their achievement. Monitor progress whether the goals are achieved or not, and keep the lines of communication open.

The Role of Workforce Management
A workforce management solution can play a key role in agent adherence. First, you don't have to calculate adherence, the system does that for you. Second, real-time tracking and monitoring makes it easier to adjust forecasts and schedules right when there is an adherence problem. Third, adherence reporting helps you analyze data from the past, identify potential issues that impact adherence and the opportunity to discuss with your team.

For more information, please download the Monet white paper Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Special Days: The Challenges of Forecasting and Scheduling

Accurate forecasts are vital to customer service and budgeting, and avoiding additional issues that occur when the center is overstaffed or understaffed. Forecasting methods must take into account changing business needs, seasonal volumes and external events that are outside the company’s control.

Special days provide another challenge. But it’s a scheduling and forecasting challenge that is manageable with a workforce management solution that handles much of the processing and calculations automatically.

But the process starts with a manager, and an effort to explore how a change in call volume or service level goals on one day, or within one week, will affect the call center. You already have the information necessary to achieve this in past call history data that covers previous similar periods. Always review both the similarities and potential variables.

Next, break down your forecast into monthly, weekly or daily intervals, with special allowances made for the “special day” effect. For some call centers, Valentine’s Day is a special day of increased orders. Forecasting efforts will already have calculations in place for February, and for the day of the week that Valentine’s Day falls upon. But then the impact of the holiday must be assessed, as well as the times of that day where call volume may be increased.

Additional “special day” provisions should also be made for other factors, including any company marketing campaigns or events, and perhaps even weather patterns; if it’s raining outside, will more customers call and place and order instead of going out and buying a gift?

Fore more information about different forecasting models and simulations tools, please watch this call forecasting video. No one every said predicting the future was easy. But workforce management can remove much of the guesswork and improve the accuracy of schedules and forecasts.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How Accurate is your Call Forecast?

Call forecasting and simulation - Monet Software
Call center staffing and scheduling will be largely determined by forecasting of the call volume. Thus, when a forecast is errant, it can cause serious repercussions in customer service.

However, even in the best call centers there will never be 100% accuracy in forecasting. The number of variables from day to day, and week-to-week, as well as unexpected scheduling changes, can all affect how a workday varies from projections. When this happens it is important to drill down to find the reasons for the variations, and factor them in to future forecasts.

Measuring the level of accuracy in your call center forecast requires more than just calculating workload percentages. Take a typical week where the Monday forecast was 12% under actual call volume, Tuesday was 8% under, and the remaining three weekdays were all 8% over. When those numbers are run the result would be an overall weekly forecast variance of 4%.

Sounds pretty good – but it doesn’t recognize how customer service may have suffered on Monday and Tuesday by an insufficiently staffed call center. Or even more, how Monday morning between 9am and 11:30am there was even a bigger The lesson here is to be aware how instances of overstaffing and understaffing can cancel each other out, resulting in a forecasting picture that looks more favorable than it is.

Forecasting can be rendered more accurate through the use of a simple standard deviation approach, and by examining intra-day forecast accuracy as well as just how close the daily or weekly numbers compared to the forecast.

Of course, the ability to forecast schedules is dependent on the ability to forecast call volume. The challenge here is the number of factors that can impact this statistic, from online marketing to economic conditions to social networking. Analyze call forecasting data to uncover trends and over time these forecasts should zero in more accurately numbers. Look at the following:
  • Forecast in 15, 30 or 60 minute increments
  • Look at daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal pattern
  • Look for "special days" (holidays, sales promotion, payday, end of month, etc.)
  • Look for external factors (weather, events, etc.)
  • Plan for "internal" events such as marketing and social media campaigns, newsletters, company news, product launches, etc.
Watch this short video to see how call forecasting tools and simulation can help. However, even with these tools it is important to continuously "learn" from your past forecasting - what assumptions resulted in better forecasts, and what assumptions did not result in a good forecast?   

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Creating a Call Center Staffing Roster

Call center staffing roster - Monet Software
Graphical Roster: Required - Scheduled - Assigned
Creating a roster is the last of three staffing decisions that impact workforce optimization.

It’s a process that begins with the forecast, an estimate of the number of calls that will be received, and the number of agents necessary to handle these calls in an efficient manner. Staffing follows the forecast, as management decides how many agents are needed for a given day or shift, and which skill sets should be represented in that shift. Scheduling is the process of matching shift profiles with forecasts to achieve service goals.

Once this data has been obtained it is time to focus on the roster, which matches employee availability to existing schedules or forecast data.  Rosters will be determined by input data measuring:
  • workload
  • work handling units (skill teams)
  • arrival patterns
  • allowable shifts (shift profiles), and 
  • employee availability.
Find a workforce management software solution that includes rostering capabilities and templates. This will expedite data entry, analysis, roster creation, roster distribution and last-minute updates. Rosters should not only track available agents, but those who are unavailable due to vacations or other factors. To learn more about this, please watch this short video about call center staffing roster creation and updating.

Another important consideration is managing resources as they relate to non-call activities, such as emails. A non-call roster can help with scheduling available agents with the right skills at non-peak hours to handle these important tasks.

Finally, rosters, like schedules, are not set in stone. Unexpected changes necessitate swapping agents, and increasing or decreasing the size of a shift based on outside circumstances. Workforce management software should allow for unlimited roster changes, so managers always have the flexibility they need to correctly allocate resources.