Let’s face it – marketing and advertising drive sales in most industries. Experts assert that on average, companies allocate approximately 7% of revenues for marketing initiatives. Competition is tough and many companies rely on marketing and advertising to deliver their message rather than positive results from their products. It was predicted that in 2014 total media ad spending in the U.S. would see the largest increase in a decade, achieving 5% growth for the first time since 2004, when ad spending increased 6.7%.
Marketing has gotten more sophisticated and experts leverage proven strategies that grab the attention of consumers; and in turn, consumers buy into marketing messages that make attractive promises, often without any basis. Many consumers are naive and without due diligence, grab the latest shiny product on the market. Technology is no exception. When consumers opt for visual appeal or marketing promises over proven functionality, the results can be less than pretty – and sometimes ugly.
Vendors are notorious for making promises about their solutions that may or may not be based on fact. For contact centers, workforce management (WFM) is most important because scheduling is dependent on the accuracy of the forecasting tool and all other solutions become ancillary. In spite of this fact, companies still accept workforce management packages from vendors that do not specialize in, or have no proven track record, in workforce management. What you are not told is only systems whose algorithms have been tested over time and proven accurate will produce forecasts that eliminate costly scheduling errors such as under – and overstaffing. A staggering number of Pipkins’ install base is replacement systems from vendors who do not specialize in workforce management and do not use mathematical algorithms for accurate call volume forecasting and scheduling.
There are factors that marketing hype cannot overcome. Many workforce management systems lack critical functions and flexibility to meet the needs of contact centers; or, their platform is unable to maintain sufficient historical call data to generate accurate forecasts. The most common problems are inaccurate forecasting and an inability to generate requirements at the interval level. Both of these problems are tied to inadequate scheduling algorithms.
Accurate forecasting is the foundation of contact center scheduling. Without it, staffing errors occur. In a skill-based routing environment, accurate forecasting is the critical component of workforce management. The only way to correctly plan for anticipated workloads is accurate forecasting.
Workforce management software should use mathematical algorithms for accurate agent forecasting and scheduling based on data exclusive to each center’s target service levels, fluctuating call volumes, agent skill set, and “what if” scenario requirements. Accurate forecasting takes into account all the historic and future dynamics. Correlated forecasting, which is forecasting for specific events such as catalog drops or other marketing events that cause wide fluctuations in the volume of calls that must be processed, can only be performed by the most sophisticated systems.
There are several components that ensure accurate forecasting, including: the amount of historical data available; the nature of the data; the forecasting period; an infinite number of different service objectives on one or more work streams; and, algorithms that reflect real life customer behavior. Special events must be treated differently; for example, mail drops, campaigns, and special promotions should be quantified; and, e-mail chat and back office should have service objectives reflecting the way that work is handled.
Algorithms should include curve mapping and pattern recognition. In environments where workloads regularly ebb and flow due to marketing activities and other definable variables, Historical Trend Analysis is the only way to ensure proper staffing because it is the only methodology that can incorporate complex historical trends in its calculations. Without pattern matching to predict different customer behavior for different events, the risk of over- or understaffing increases dramatically. Historical Trend Analysis not only accurately predicts the continuation of trends, but the more advanced algorithms also incorporate pattern recognition to fine-tune forecasts for special events like promotional mailings or national holidays.
Make sure you understand how you measure forecasting metrics. What metric do you most closely consider? For example, which is more important – average speed of answer or average handle time? How do you measure average handle time? Is it just talk time or talk time plus after-call wrap?
Pipkins is a boutique company that was built on the idea of creating superior workforce management solutions. Focusing on one product allows us to offer unique, customizable solutions to fit our
customers’ needs. Pipkins offers solutions created and implemented by scientists and software engineers who understand workforce management and work continuously to improve its effectiveness. For over thirty years Pipkins has been at the forefront of workforce management technology with thirteen industry-first applications.
You must understand both your needs and your goals and choose a system that can support both while leaving room for future growth. Do your research and buy a workforce management system that can handle your business needs now, and be expanded when necessary. Choose your vendor based on results, not promises. Pipkins’ solutions have been tested and proven over time to be the most accurate on the market.
Pipkins, Inc., founded in 1983, is an American company and leading supplier of workforce management software and services to the contact center industry, providing sophisticated forecasting and scheduling technology for both the front and back office. Its award-winning Vantage Point is the most accurate forecasting and scheduling tool on the market. Pipkins’ systems forecast and schedule more than 300,000 agents in over 500 locations across all industries worldwide.