As a contact centre manager, you should always seek balance. You need to make sure that the workload is handled effectively and professionally, without having so many agents that staffing costs become too great. Learning how to accurately forecast supply and demand in contact centres will lead to greater customer satisfaction, improved staff morale and better productivity.

Here are some useful forecasting methods for contact centres.

1. Time series analysis

Time series analysis is a popular method for contact centre forecasting, and uses historical data to help predict future workloads. This may seem overly simplistic, but time series analysis allows workforce managers to isolate data to see the effects of certain factors such as trend seasonality, as well as changes that might come about after a targeted sales drive, for example.

In addition to this it’s important to analyse average handle time (AHT) patterns as these tend to vary throughout the day, as well as by day of week. Using inaccurate data can lead to under or overstaffing.

By isolating variables in this way workforce planners can get a better idea of how similar changes are likely to impact the call centre workload in the future.

Accurate forecasting means you can better predict the workload in your contact centre.Better forecasting leads to happier customers, and staff.

 2. Workload

With the above mentioned contact volume and AHT information, workload can be calculated. This is done by multiplying the number of forecast contacts for the interval by the average handle time, and then dividing by the number of seconds in the interval.

3. Erlang C calculations

Erlang C calculations are based on the work of a Danish mathematician, and allow you to establish how many staff are required for a given contact volume based on meeting a certain service level goal.  This calculation provides the bums in seats requirement, i.e. how many staff would be required if they didn’t take breaks, have meetings and one on ones or take annual leave etc.

4. Shrinkage

In order to work out the total staffing requirement, shrinkage needs to be included. Shrinkage refers to the time during which agents are being paid to be on the phone but are unavailable to take calls, or aren’t working for other reasons such as being on a break, being in one on ones or in meetings etc . Including accurate shrinkage assumptions is critical to calculating staffing requirements as using incorrect data will lead to under and over staffing.

5. Attrition

It’s no secret that attrition, or employee turnover, is high in the contact centre industry. Hiring and training new employees is an expensive and time-consuming business, so having a firm grasp on the numbers when it comes to attrition rates is important in making sure there are always enough agents to meet the workload requirements.

Being aware of the rate at which agents leave the business can also be useful in working out manageable shift patterns and how flexible you can be with working hours – measures that may help you better retain your staff.

6. Outbound forecasting

While some of the same tools can be used for workforce management in outbound call centres, there are also some important differences. Outbound contact centres are more targeted, as staff often need to speak to a specific person.  Although the workload can be managed a little easier than inbound calls, as the business is more in control, they still need to ensure there are sufficient staff to handle the workload and that their staff can make the calls when the targeted recipient is most likely to be available.

Understanding how to forecast contact centre staffing requirements is a good first step, but effective implementation and management of schedules are key. Call Design creates tailored workforce management courses and solutions to hone your skills and maximise the potential of your workforce. For more information, get in touch with Call Design today.