Reliable forecasting is vital to the quality of any contact center, regardless of the type of business you run.
Not only does it ensure there are enough agents at any given time to handle the volume of incoming customer inquiries—but it ensures those agents are productive, and the center stays within its labor budget. As you can imagine, forecasting is a delicate balancing act between these two priorities—customer experience and cost.
If you’re new to the world of contact center forecasting, we’ve got you covered. Today, we’ll be giving you a crash course on ensuring your company’s contact center operates at peak efficiency—and more importantly—your customers are happy with your customer support.
Forecasting, by definition, is the process of predicting how many customer inquiries will come into the center at any given time. While this does rely heavily on historical data, there’s more to it than that. It’s not enough to look at the volume of requests on the same date last year.
You’ll want to begin with that data, and then enhance it with specific variables. What those variables include varies by the company and the situation.
For example, certain situations can lead to higher than usual contact volume, such as the release of a new product, a recall, special promotions or sales, holidays, emergencies in your area, or on a global level (such as the current COVID-19 crisis). The opposite is also true in that some situations can decrease customer inquiries.
In many cases, historical data can also be helpful in forecasting staffing needs for these event-based fluctuations. For instance, if the anticipated event is a new product release, you can look at data from prior releases. However, if the event is unprecedented in your company’s history, things get a little more complicated. You’ll need to look at data from other companies or the industry as a whole in similar situations.
Luckily, the importance of contact center forecasting has led to a wealth of tools that help simplify the process, automatically pulling and averaging historical data for any given month, day, and even hour to project scheduling needs. Of course, these reports still require inputting specifics, but these days technology can do a good deal of the heavy lifting.
Once you have an accurate forecast to work with, you’ll need to schedule adequate staff to handle the volume of inquiries predicted. The days of simple call centers are long gone. A modern contact center needs to offer customer care solutions via a range of modes, including live chat, email, social media, and more.
While one solution is to cross-train all customer service agents on every platform—that can be costly and labor-intensive. For example, a social media manager handling customer support on Twitter will need an entirely different set of skills than a call center representative talking to customers in real-time.
Your schedule should also be flexible enough to accommodate inevitable last-minute challenges. For example, if an agent is sick or quits, that shouldn’t affect the quality of your customer care. Likewise, there should be an action plan in place for unexpected events, like a website outage, that will cause inquiry volumes to skyrocket.
Again, technology has your back in this regard, allowing you to manage employee schedules to ensure that your forecast is met, and your staff has adequate time off to maintain a proper work-life balance.
Technology is essential to more than just contact center forecasting and scheduling. It also affects both directly. By that, we mean that the technology you provide for your staff should be factored into both.
How is your staff responding to customer inquiries, and what technology are they using to do so? What’s the capacity of that system? How easy is it to use? Having an efficient customer care system is just as important as having accurate contact center forecasting and staffing.
For instance, things like automated chat support can reduce the need for actual agent assistance, so long as they are coupled with clear, easy to follow responses to common customer questions. Customer account pages with things like order tracking, return requests, appointment schedules and reminders, online ordering, and so on, are invaluable in some industries.
Reliable technology also improves both employee and customer satisfaction. Things like dropped calls or disconnected chats, unanswered calls, and other technological failures can be frustrating for everyone involved—which is never good for business.
The Key to a Great Contact Center Experience
To sum things up, the key to ensuring your customer service solutions are not only efficient but effective is accurate contact center forecasting based not only on historical data but also on current and anticipated events.
Further, that forecast must be matched with the right staff at the right time with the right technology at their fingertips. Discover all the above with our customer experience solutions—contact us today.