In today’s highly competitive business climate, it is vital that you get maximum benefit from the technology you invest in – especially when it comes to tools like your workforce management (WFM) system. After all, you are investing in a toolkit that you will rely on to help control costs and boost productivity in your contact center(s) for the long haul. The wrong choice can have dire consequences for your bottom line today and for years to come.
Forecasting and scheduling are the key components around which all modern WFM solutions should be focused. If you can’t trust the accuracy of the forecasts produced by your system, why go to the trouble of forecasting at all? The staffing and scheduling decisions made based on your forecasts can make or break you. It doesn’t matter how good the other tools are in a WFM suite. If the forecasting tool is sub-par, there will be pain … from overstaffing or understaffing … unnecessary labor expenses, lost sales revenue, reduced productivity, etc.
Inaccurate forecasts can and will dramatically affect your profitability. If the workload for an e-commerce/catalog retailer’s contact center is underestimated to the point where 100 callers out of 1,000 hang up before they speak to a representative, and the firm’s average order value is say $50, that could mean $5,000 in lost revenue per day. If left unchecked, that equates to $150,000 in lost revenue per month, and in the course of a year spirals to a shocking $1.8 million in lost revenue – money (and a lot of it) there for taking, but left on the table.
To generate the most accurate forecasts possible requires a system that can take into account historic data from past periods, including holidays, promotional campaigns, extreme weather conditions, etc., as well as variations anticipated from future dynamics. While no one methodology is optimal under all circumstances, four key factors should be considered:
- Correlated Forecasting: Typically used for forecasting done for specific events that cause wide fluctuations in workload (volume of calls, emails, text messages, chat sessions, etc.).
- Integrated Approach to Support Multi-Skilled Workforce: In a multi-skilled environment, an integrated approach is necessary in order for the forecasting algorithms to directly calculate requirements without repetitive analytical simulations.
- Incorporation of Sufficient Historical Data: It is imperative that several years of detailed historic data are collected and utilized in the system as a basis for generating accurate forecasts.
- Algorithms that Utilize Curve Mapping and Pattern Recognition: Historical trend analysis is the only way to ensure proper staffing levels in variable environments. In this way, complex historical trends can be factored into the necessary calculations.
Ensuring that your new workforce management system will produce accurate forecasts should be among your top consideration, if not the most important consideration, in your purchase decision. To control costs and maximize productivity, you need the right number of people with the right skills on the job at the right times to keep your contact center(s) operating at peak efficiency. After all, your people are your most important asset and your greatest expense.
As you research and review WFM solutions and providers, keep the following four tips in mind in your quest for a highly accurate forecasting tool:
- Beware of Averages: While forecasting based on averages may be a “safe” bet, such an approach is not likely to be the most accurate
- Data is King: Give the forecaster data. More data is better than less data. If a particular WMF tool cannot process more than a few weeks of data, consider it a red flag. Using such a small data set, forecast accuracy will be compromised.
- Set Realistic Expectations: Any tools’ projections can only be based on what has happened in the past and what its user tell it to expect in the future.
- Learn How Each Forecasting Tool Works: (a) How much data can it store and use? (b) Can it account for inflation resulting from abandoned calls? (c) Can it recognize growth trends? What about seasonal trends? (d) Does it allow you to input special event information and apply correlation factors? (e) How does it accomplish these operations – how does it work?
The bottom line: Make sure the system you select can perform all the critical functions you require, can accommodate future needs, and can maintain a sufficient historical data set to generate the accurate forecasts your operations need.
ABOUT PIPKINS, INC.: Founded in 1983 and based in St. Louis, Missouri, Pipkins is a leading provider of WFM solutions for the contact center industry. Today, Pipkins’ systems forecast, plan and schedule more than 300,000 agents in over 500 locations across all industries worldwide. For more information, visit www.pipkins.com.