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5 Common WFM Forecasting and Scheduling Pitfalls

May 01, 2021, By Legacy Post

A WFM (workforce management) solution automates much of dramatically improves forecasting call volume and scheduling accuracy. But there are still mistakes that some companies make that can weaken your results. Watch out for 5 common pitfalls.

WFM is a powerful driver of extraordinary customer experience and service level attainment. Fine-tuned WFM forecasting and scheduling is how these outcomes are accomplished. But mismanagement can lead to contact center inefficiency, customer and agent dissatisfaction and loss of revenue. 

A more accurate forecast and therefore schedule minimizes errors and intraday changes. Although you cannot avoid real-time management all together, you want to ensure that that the vast majority of your staff is working in planning rather than in real-time management. Shoot for 80% in planning and 20% in real-time management. 

Begin by creating a weekly plan based on projected volumes and service levels goals for each day. Using historical data and other factors such as marketing campaigns, product promotions and seasonal considerations, you might want to get more granular and plan for set intervals each day. 

WFM forecasting and scheduling should take into consideration the total number of contact center FTEs (Full-time equivalents – 40 hours/wk) that are currently available. This number should include agents, supervisors, team leads, etc. It should also include both full-time and part-time employees. Figure part- timers based on actual hours scheduled. If an agent is scheduled to work 24 hours/wk and an FTE is 40 hours/wk you would divide 24/40 to establish the percentage of FTE, which in this case is 60%. So, you would use 0.6 for that agent in your staffing model. 

A WFM solution automates much of this process and dramatically improves forecasting call volume and scheduling accuracy. But there are still mistakes that some companies make that can weaken your results. 

Here are five common WFM forecasting and scheduling pitfalls to avoid. 

  1. Failing to balance the demands of the business. Although meeting service level agreements should be prioritized in the contact center forecast and schedule, the organization has other business objectives as well. If you do not have a handle on what they are and account for them in the forecast and schedule, you could end up with a plethora of intraday changes and potentially more staffing gaps. Also, if you fail to meet with the operations team, marketing and even HR to review the forecast and seek input you may not be accounting for all the marketing campaigns, product promotions and planned and unplanned time off coming up. 
  2. Failing to communicate changes. If your WFM system recommends shift changes and you don’t communicate this ahead of time to staff, you can end up with agents taking sick days, unauthorized time off or exhibiting a bad attitude at work. 
  3. Lack of historical data. Good, consistent historical data is the best starting point for forecasts. It is not only important to have data on actuals, but also previous forecasts. If you don’t archive this data, you will add far more time and complexity to new forecasts, rather than being able to use past forecasts as your foundation and refine and tweak from there. 
  4. Not planning for the “what-ifs.” If you don’t plan for the “what-ifs” ahead of time, it will take you much longer to analyze what is going on and how to fix it in real time. You will compromise the customer experience and service levels and frustrate both customers and agents. 
  5. Assuming you know agent preferences. What one employee finds undesirable another might prefer. Oftentimes part-time employees and remote workers are glad to take weekend shifts. But, if you don’t ask, you might end up scheduling agents who don’t want to work, when the agent sitting at the next desk would be happy to do so. 

Accurate workforce management forecasting and scheduling are crucial for ensuring the proper balance of supply and demand. By automating the process, as well as factoring in tribal knowledge, you can dramatically improve service levels, keeping agents and customers happy and boosting bottom line results for your business. 

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