Providing the business with a robust forecast is the number one challenge when implementing WFM into the back-office space.

“WFM is the art and science of scheduling the right number of people with the right skills, at the right time, to handle work within service level, and within budget” the key factor to getting this right is to make staffing related decisions based off the forecasted workload demand.

The number one failing when implementing WFM into the back office is workload forecasting. All too often, forecasting lands in the ‘too hard basket’ and people end up making ‘off the cuff’ staffing decisions that impact the customer and the business. There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. It takes a little more effort and time to get your forecasting right, but the payoff is irrefutable.

Here are a few tips to help you establish your forecasting program.

1. Forecasting Expertise  

  • If utilising a contact centre forecasting expert be sure they are skilled in the varying back-office practices and processing rhythms. Back-office work is handled differently, so be sure these differences are factored in.
  • Never assume to know – always ask. Leaders, 2IC’s and SMEs know the work better than anyone else so be sure to ask them questions about anomalies and complexities. This process improves confidence, believability, and acceptance from leaders.
  • Workflow solutions are not always designed to ‘plug and play’ in WFM. Always validate the task list at the actual processing level. You may need to consider variables in the same tasks that impact processing time. Be sure to look at the available information in detail.
  • Don’t try to design a forecast for every team to begin with. Work through one team at a time. Once you have the first forecast right, you can fast track team implementation using a similar format. Always remember to watch out for those task variables that need to be considered in each team.
  • Present forecasting as a useful tool that can help leaders make better staffing decisions. Good forecasting takes a lot of the guess work out of decision making so help your team leaders use it to their advantage.

2. Forecasting Task Structure Considerations

  • Don’t forget work that is conducted but is not captured in a system (or anywhere).
  • Consider processing time and service level when grouping tasks.
  • Incorrect blending of work can impact your ability to service within an agreed timeframe. Think of the customer.
  • Available reporting information can help simplify the task lists and mix. Use what is already available.
  • Take your time. As added information emerges, reverse engineer the task list to predict future impacts.

Revise, review, and revalidate as needed. Valid mapping of all tasks is crucial.

3. Team Engagement

  • Involving the right staff is a critical step to getting the task list right and building a strong forecast. There’s no point creating a forecast if the leaders have no confidence in the numbers. Inclusion is guaranteed to help define and refine, a robust forecasting list.

Building a task list that is utilised to create a usable workload forecast takes time. Forecasting is one of the most valuable tools in WFM that provides leaders with the confidence to make appropriate staffing decisions and allows for more robust financial and future planning.

Author: Laura Horton, Senior Consultant at Call Design.