When it comes to the effective use of a call center, proactive planning is key. It’s not enough to simply have those resources available – you need to understand how to leverage them to create better and more informed relationships with potential clients.
That, in essence, is why call center forecasting is so important. You need to be able to proactively handle your workload, but the only way you’re going to get to that point is if you understand your upcoming needs and how they impact the choices that need to be made. Doing so will also help eliminate the staffing gap that a lot of organizations are going through as well.
The Art of Call Center Forecasting: Breaking Things Down
In a lot of situations, businesses will utilize call center forecasting on a monthly basis. This will happen in conjunction with the operations team.
The idea here is to get ahead of any trends or patterns that likely would have otherwise gone undiscovered. You’re using the data at your disposal to provide useful insight to decision-makers, giving them the data they need to make better and more informed choices.
This will require a better understanding of a number of different aspects of the call center. Chief among these is the full-time equivalent, otherwise known as the FTE. Based on predicted call volumes, you need to know how many FTE employees are available – along with how many you’ll need to handle any fluctuations in call volumes that you anticipate.
Of course, the definition of an FTE will vary depending on the organization in question. Some will classify this level of the employee as someone who works 40 hours per week. Others will say that it’s only someone who works 20 hours per week. Regardless, you need to know A) what roles they’re responsible for, and B) how many people in this position will be available so that you can C) make sure that the resources are ready to handle call volumes moving forward.
Getting to this point isn’t necessarily difficult, but it does require a number of core elements. The first is a deep analysis of the workload of each FTE – that is to say, an understanding of the number of incoming calls or interactions relative to the number of employees that are available. Along the same lines, you’ll need to perform a deep dive into the average handle time – meaning that you need to know the average time it takes someone to handle a call and see it through to a satisfactory resolution.
Keep in mind, however, that you’re not necessarily looking at one forecast in this situation – you’re looking at two. The total volume of calls will always fluctuate, but the handling time should be relatively consistent (or be continually improving) over time. Therefore, you need to start with the historical data that your organization has been creating in order to develop the deepest possible understanding of what your needs are so that you know what you have to do to meet them.
In terms of historical data, for example, it’s recommended to try to gather information from the last year and a half to truly understand what types of natural fluctuations a call center will go through. This is a way to help identify growth that is happening year-over-year, which can better prepare you for what is ahead.
Having said that, preparing an annual forecast is still important – but it can and should be converted into a monthly one as well. If you begin by figuring out the average call volume per month, you can add up all the averages to find out the average annual volume. Based on that, you can determine when fluctuations happen and how many employees are needed at any given point. This is of course accomplished by taking the average annual volume and dividing it by the average monthly volume.
In regard to weekly and daily forecasting, this is still recommended but you should understand what you’re really learning within the context of your business. Yes, a weekly forecasting report that anticipates what things like call volumes will be like should be prepared between three and six weeks in advance. But it should also be compared to the larger, annual reports that you’re making. Only then will you be able to truly see the bigger picture of what you’re dealing with, putting you in a position to both adequately address the challenges of today while also preparing yourself for the ones you’re likely to face tomorrow.
If you’d like to find out more information about why call center forecasting matters and what it can help you accomplish, or if you just have any additional questions that you’d like to discuss with someone in a bit more detail, please don’t delay – contact Intradiem today.