The 2009 World Contact Center Workforce Management (WFM) Systems Market, published by the PELORUS Group, states that “skills-based routing and scheduling are becoming more critical to contact center operations, driven largely by language diversity and the need for special skills and expertise to support increasingly complex products and services.”
The importance of accurate forecasting cannot be overstated. Accurate forecasting is the foundation of call center scheduling, and key to solving call center over-staffing. Without it, over- or under-staffing can occur and impact the profitability of a contact center.
What determines accurate forecasting? Providing the required accuracy, by taking into account all the historic and future dynamics, requires a sophisticated forecasting tool. Not al forecasting tools perform the same. Only the most sophisticated systems can perform correlated forecasting — that is, forecasting for specific events such as catalog drops or other marketing events that cause wide fluctuations in the volume of cal s that must be processed. No single methodology is optimal for all circumstances; however, solving call center over-staffing can be approached by analyzing four factors: the amount of historical data available; the nature of the data; the forecasting period; and any special events or campaigns. 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 opportunity for solving call center over-staffing dwindles.
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. Each time a particular event reoccurs, the forecasted call volume is automatically adjusted to reflect the increase or decline in incoming work caused by comparable occurrences in the past, such as a historical 40 percent drop in volume on the Fourth of July.
An important component for solving call center over-staffing is accurate forecasting, which is dependent on having an integrated approach to support multi-skilled issues. It is necessary to have forecasting algorithms that directly calculate requirements in a multi-skilled environment, while avoiding repetitive analytical simulations. A single forecasted set of requirements should be generated for all inter-woven skilled activities, regardless of the type of work being offered, such as email, chat, etc. Recognizing secondary skills and accounting for cal overflow to available secondarily skilled agents will help eliminate over-staffing. Forecasts that are based solely on primary skills will generally over-staff, since overflow cannot be considered as a factor.
What determines accurate scheduling? Simply put, accurate scheduling is dependent upon the forecast correctly estimating anticipated cal volume and determining the number of agents required to meet service levels. How does this affect profitability? In a real life scenario, if cal volume is underestimated to the extent that 100 callers out of 1,000 hang up before they speak to an agent in a sales environment where the average order is just $50, $5,000 in lost revenues will occur per day, $150,000 per month, or a staggering $1.8 million per year. Solving call center staffing is key to maintaining and growing profits.
To find the optimum scheduling solution, the scheduling tool should be able to schedule agents to multiple skills during the day, with each skill associated with different queues, where each queue represents a skill set. Queues may also represent non-demand work, such as clerical duty, email, or back office. An agent may be assigned to both cal handling and non-cal related duties.
Accurate forecasting and scheduling tools are available to ensure your bottom line is not impacted by wasted labor expenses. Meeting the need for special skill s and expertise to support increasingly complex products and services is made easier with the right tools.
Do your research before investing in software that could prove to be inadequate in solving call center over-staffing for your operations.
About Pipkins, Inc.
Pipkins Inc. is a leading supplier of workforce management software and services to the call center industry. Its Real-Time IntraDay Optimization Suite offers an industry-first set of components designed to expedite and optimize current-day schedule adjustments, enabling supervisors to respond to unexpected agent absences and other last-minute problems quickly, efficiently, and without interruption to normal activities while maintaining the best possible service levels. The intraday suite provides tools for automating agent absence reporting, streamlining intra-day forecasting and personnel reassignment, and disseminating new intraday schedules.