Showing posts with label forecasting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label forecasting. Show all posts

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Limitations of Call Forecasting in Excel Spreadsheets

How accurate are your call center forecasts? If they’re consistently missing the mark, then chances are the business is constantly dealing with overstaffing or understaffing, customer service issues and budgeting problems.
Thus, forecasting becomes one of the most significant daily challenges on a manager’s schedule. But it’s a challenge that becomes manageable with a workforce management (WFM) solution that handles much of the processing and calculations automatically.

Unfortunately, many call centers are still working with Excel spreadsheets to create forecasts. And these spreadsheets simply do not have the same functionality as WFM solutions. Below is a list of key points, but if you would like to get the full story, please download the whitepaper: The Real Cost of Spreadsheet Based Forecasting and Scheduling.

What aren’t you getting with spreadsheets?
  • Call volume history – this can play a significant role in determining forecasts and schedules, and WFM delivers it automatically.
  • Simulations – by running automated simulations, managers can discover flaws in a forecast and correct them before it’s too late. Excel does not provide that capability.
  • Coverage of other customer contact points – today’s call centers are really contact centers, accessible not just by phone but email and online chat as well. Forecasting staff needs for all of these channels is difficult with spreadsheets, but manageable with WFM.
  • Forecasting by call type – predicting the types of calls coming in makes it easier to staff a shift with the agents best qualified to handle them, and to make sure you don’t have too many or too few at the same time. Not possible with Excel, but simple with WFM.
For some contact centers with very limited call volume fluctuation, a spreadsheet may suffice. But how many of these businesses experience the same call flows all the time? Better to be prepared for whatever tomorrow has in store, with an automated workforce management solution.

Monday, April 21, 2014

5 Tips for Getting More out of Workforce Management Software

Workforce management (WFM) software provides the best means of optimizing personnel resources through more accurate forecasting and scheduling. Here are 5 tips that can help call center managers get the most out of their workforce management system.

1. Include all Activities 
The more specific the plan, the better the chance of its success. That’s why it is imperative to include meetings, breaks, coaching sessions and all non-call activities into WFM calculations. To learn more about this, please read our whitepaper Seven Tips for more Effective Scheduling.

2. Continuous Learning
A WFM software vendor will provide initial training during installation. However, managers should request additional information based on the specific needs and objectives of the call center. With a quality system like Monet WFM, there will always be ways that the system can be further leveraged to achieve better results.

3. Think Outside the Box
The old adage about expecting the unexpected certainly applies to call centers, given the high turnover in agent personnel and the abundance of unforeseen factors that can throw a schedule into turmoil. While a manager cannot anticipate every possibility, use the WFM system to run “What if?” scenarios, analyze the results and then forecast, schedule and plan accordingly.

4. Work in Real-Time:
Customer communication happens in real-time, so the WFM system should also be used in real-time to its fullest potential (for adherence, alerts, dashboards, etc.) to ensure optimal performance. Now, when changes inevitably occur throughout the day, managers can respond more quickly. Fore more information, please download our whitepaper Strategies for Improved Agent Adherence.

5. Include Agents in Planning Process
Agent preferences should also be considered and incorporated whenever possible into forecasts and schedules. Many WFM systems, such as the one offered by Monet, also offer an easily accessible and streamlined procedure for shift swapping and bidding, that can motivate agents to better performance.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Workforce Management, Forecasting and Scheduling for Credit Unions

Credit unions are typically not-for-profit organizations, however, to stay in business and deliver great financial services at low fees to their members they have to micromanage every investment, in both technology and personnel, while trying to maintain a sufficient level of customer service.

Inevitably, this leads to challenges, particularly at smaller credit union call centers. Where a larger contact center might be able to absorb the traffic if one agent unexpectedly calls in sick, that same scenario can significantly impact wait times at an organization with 50 agents. An unforeseen spike in call volume can result in similar struggles to keep up with desired service levels. Both, forecasting and scheduling is often more challenging in smaller call centers than in larger centers because the performance, adherence and absenteeism of every agent has more impact. In this situation, a more accurate forecast, a more flexible schedule and increased schedule adherence become even more important.

Every type of call center can benefit from workforce management solutions (WFM), but credit union call centers often don’t choose to invest in what is seen as a costly, top-tier solution to a nagging but still tolerable problem. The resources simply aren’t there to add the kind of technology that will make forecasting and scheduling more efficient – or is it?

Cloud-Delivered Efficiency from Monet

Monet’s cloud-delivered workforce management solution doesn’t require a substantial upfront IT investment, and delivers rapid improvements within months. We’ve worked with credit union call centers of all sizes and types that have discovered the benefits of WFM. The flexibility of the system makes it ideal for small or midsize call centers, and there’s no intimidating learning curve – Monet WFM Live is easy to set up and incorporate into every day business practices. And all these time saving, cost-saving benefits are available for one low monthly subscription fee.

Credit Union Success Story
Read this  case study and learn how a Texas based credit union call center boosted its service and saved money with Monet’s WFM Live.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Workforce Management Case Study (Part 2)

In our last workforce management blog post, we took a closer look at one customer’s experience with Monet’s WFM Live.

http://www.monetsoftware.com/call-center-documents/?file=CustomerCaseGECUThe Texas-based credit union GECU sought to improve efficiency and customer service at its contact center. Following an exhaustive search, GECU selected Monet and its cloud-based workforce management solution.

Just a few months after implementation, the results were in: Because of improvements in forecasting methods, GECU was able to reduce its number of agents, while delivering better customer service. With the more accurate scheduling made possible by WFM Live, there was a 30% reduction in unscheduled breaks. Costly overtime scheduling was reduced, while call volume spikes were managed more easily.

Today, the quality and service levels at GECU are solidly placed in the top 97% tier.

Best of all, these changes were all made through an economical solution that reduced upfront investment while achieving rapid ROI. One GECU executive reported that the system paid for itself after just a few months, with three years of subscription costs offset by savings in salaries, overtime and administrative costs.

There’s a reason why contact centers and businesses like GECU choose Monet to meet their forecasting, scheduling and budgeting challenges.

Read the full GECU workforce management case study here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top 5 Workforce Management Blog Posts of 2013

Over the past 12 months we’ve published dozens of blogs focusing on the importance of workforce management (WFM) and the difference it can make at a call center. We’ve selected the top five of these blogs, based on popularity and feedback. If you missed them the first time, here they are once again:

1. Workforce Management Visualized With Dashboards
Find out how dashboards provide valuable insight into forecasting, scheduling, adherence and metrics.

2. Five Tips for More Accurate Call Center Forecasting
Outstanding call center customer service begins with an accurate forecast. This blog describes five workforce management activities that will result in better forecasts.

3. Use Workforce Management to Engage Employees, not Control Them
How can you break through the “Big Brother” mindset to create a positive impression of WFM among call center agents? By including them in the scheduling process.

4. What is Cloud-Based Workforce Management Software?
If you haven’t converted to a cloud-based system yet, you’ve certainly heard of the inroads this technology has been making in call center systems. This blog details why such solutions have become popular, with benefits ranging from cost savings to increased flexibility.

5. What is Call Center Shrinkage, and How to Minimize It
When schedule adherence goes awry, shrinkage is often to blame. And when that happens, reduced service levels almost inevitably follow. Find out more about shrinkage and how to manage it at your call center.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Christmas Wish: Better Customer Experiences

If your wish for the holidays is to provide a better customer service experience for your call center customers, congratulations – you have captured the spirit of the season. After all, it’s better to give than to receive, and this way you are giving your customers something they will appreciate all year long.

Of course, as this article on TMCnet observes, some customers have high expectations and are still accustomed to not having them met. What do they want from you? Here are three ideas you can implement for 2014 that will deliver on your Christmas wish:

1. More Integration, Less Repetition
No one enjoys being asked for information they have already provided once. But that is a still standard practice at many call centers. A customer enters his account number or social security number to the IVR, then speaks to an agent who requests the same data.  Closer integration provides customer data to the agent so it does not have to be requested a second time. By eliminating this step, call centers also reduce average handle time, so it’s a benefit to them as well.

2. Call Backs
Would you rather wait on hold 15 minutes while listening to instrumental versions of Celine Dion’s greatest hits? Or would you prefer to have a call center save your number and call you back when you are next in line? Most customers would choose the latter.

3. Consistency
Consistency doesn’t just mean the same positive, stress-free experience each time a customer contacts a call center. It also refers to the same attention to detail and outstanding service whether that customer speaks to an agent, places an order through a website, or engages with the company via online chat. Make sure all communication channels are optimized for a customer experience that would earn rave reviews. Just as all communication channels and customer touch-points need to be optimized, you need ensure that the internal processes, such as forecasting, scheduling, adherence tracking, quality and performance management are aligned and optimized.


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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What is workforce management?

Workforce management in a call center is the art and science of having the right number of employees, with the right skills at the right times to meet accurately forecasted volumes of work and to do all that at a predetermined service level and minimized costs. Workforce management is a critical task for call centers and poor planning and execution can have a negative impact on the business (revenues, cost), customers (satisfaction) and also employees (motivation/burn-out). Key tasks of workforce management include the following activities:

1. Calculation of an accurate forecast
  • Collect call history data
  • Identify call patterns (day, week, season, etc.)
  • Identify special day patterns (holidays, etc.)
  • Identify other event or business drivers that might impact call volume/pattern

2. Calculation of staffing requirements
  • Define Service level, ASA and average handle time
  • Calculate workload
  • Define staffing requirements

3. Creation of schedule
  • Include all activities (call and non-call) into schedule
  • Build in flexibility (start/end times, breaks, multi-skill, etc.)
  • Create schedule for 15 or 30 minute increments

4. Monitoring and managing adherence
  • Inform and educate about adherence importance and impact
  • Measure and manage adherence throughout the day (real-time adherence)
  • Provide incentives

5. Managing exceptions and changes throughout the day
  • Changes in call volume or arrival pattern
  • Staffing or scheduling issues
  • Business related exceptions

6. Measuring and adjusting
  • Analyze daily/weekly reports
  • Investigate causes for under-performance
  • Apply learnings into workforce management process

Many organizations still employ a manual approach to workforce management. By relying on paper- or spreadsheet-generated estimates, they lack any way to accurately measure the degree of adherence to the schedule. Reporting, if done at all, is a nightmare. The end product is too much time and effort spent managing staff for little return.
Workforce management software helps organizations to automate key tasks that have an immediate impact on the bottom line through more accurate call volume forecasting, optimized scheduling and daily performance tracking in real-time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to simplify call center scheduling

Do you spend too much time on call center scheduling and still don't get the expected results? That's what we hear quite often when we talk to prospective customers. Either the forecast/schedule is not accurate enough, or it takes just too long to work through the spreadsheets and data from various sources, or both. There has to be a better way. There is - please join us for our upcoming webinar "How to simplify your call center scheduling" on May 27 at 10 a.m. PST. and learn how you can simplify your forecasting and scheduling work. We hope to see you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Workforce management: Think big for small or medium sized call centers

It may be hard to believe, but smaller or medium-sized call centers are more difficult to manage because every agent and every call has more effect on the overall performance. If you have a 20 agent center and one agent is not available, you have a “5% resource problem” immediately. Or in call center terms, if your goal is an ASA (Average Speed of Answer) of 30 seconds for a 25 seat center, you might be surprised that the ASA changes to 59 seconds when only one agent is not available to take calls.
So, how can you manage this more efficiently with limited resources? You need to put more emphasis on accurate forecasting; a more flexible schedule and increased schedule adherence, which will have a positive impact on costs, services levels and service quality. With new web- and cloud-based WFM solutions even smaller call centers can take advantage of sophisticated forecasting, more effective scheduling and real-time adherence monitoring without breaking the bank. Think big.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Three ways to improve service levels in your call center

Achieving targeted service levels while keeping payroll cost under control and within budget is one of the key challenges in a call center. In our upcoming webinar "3 Ways to Improve Service Levels in your Call Center" we will explain how three important forecasting and scheduling tasks impact service levels:
  • Schedule optimization: How to properly handle exceptions and place breaks, lunches, training, etc.
  • Forecast versus actual: How to deal with call volume fluctuations and adjust schedules
  • Schedule adherence: How to set goals, measure adherence and keep agents motivated to adhere to schedules
Please join us for this free webinar on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET) - we hope to see you.