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Getting Better at Forecasting

Mar 16, 2023, By Natalie Mackay

Operational success in a contact center comes down to call center planning. It’s imperative for contact center managers to have accurate volume estimations in order to mitigate staffing costs, maximize agent retention, and optimize customer satisfaction.

When it comes to operational success in a contact center, it all comes down to call center planning. It’s imperative for contact center managers to have accurate volume estimations in order to mitigate staffing costs, maximize agent retention, and optimize customer satisfaction (CSAT). Forecasting to meet demand and predict volume correctly can be tricky, especially in a contact center environment. You need to balance business needs and seasonal peaks against employee skills and availability, coordinating with product and marketing teams – all while ensuring your customers receive the level of service they deserve.  

Ordinarily this is where we would go on and on about workforce management (WFM) capabilities and how it optimizes your workforce no matter the location or the logistics, or simply matching your best staff to the most valuable revenue streams. While all of that is true, the real reason forecasting gets better is because of you.  

If you ran forecasting models a year ago to predict the needs and the requirements for 2023, all insights and models would indicate that customers would continue to prefer self-service to agent assisted service, that robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) would push better interactions and drive the continuing trend toward more automated self-service; and only the more complex tasks and issues would route to live agents. And if you bet your business on it, you would have lost. Yet, we know that very few shift planners and WFM experts made that mistake. Why?  

The answer is quite simple. Data.  

But how many data points are too many? How few data points render it insignificant? As it turns out, it doesn’t really matter. We get better at forecasting because a properly designed and configured WFM system, coupled with properly trained and proactive administration is a proven formula for success – regardless of your input. Platforms are designed to take the data you give them and make it useful, not to simply regurgitate or synthesize enormous numbers. Organizations improve by utilizing this information to actively and regularly adjust and customize their call center forecasting and tweak shift planning in order to prevent being caught off-guard or overstaffed when the numbers don’t match your forecasts. If your WFM can provide your call center supervisors and managers with the insights they need, and prompt them to respond accordingly, then you can help ensure your business is staffing the right call center agents and utilizing them exactly when they’re needed most – whether you’ve forecasted for it or not. Data is the science to back your business’ decision making; and better decision making creates better data. 

We’ve talked about real time optimization (RTO) before, but it bears repeating just how revolutionary this capability can be. The ability to execute and align a CX strategy with metrics, administration, and the actual customer journey in real time has the power to neutralize any forecasting errors you might make. A platform that can cull real-time data, help decisions about workforce staffing and allocate resources immediately maximizes call center efficiency and deliver the highest level of customer service in an instant is worthwhile for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it allows for development of less experienced forecasters to learn as they go; RTO also helps the seasoned analysts continually improve by fine tuning their instincts while adding more input data.  

Forecasting is the very definition of “work in progress.” Data and its subsequent analysis won’t slow down anytime soon; new tools and techniques allow us to leverage the power of our numbers and fill in the gaps in our understanding of them. Adding self-service, digital multichannel, remote and hybrid teams into the equation creates a myriad of opportunities and challenges. With so many variables, it’s a wonder we forecast at all. But with the proper technology and training, we can ensure our industry continues to grow while we get better. Much better. 

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