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Workforce Management Forecasting Challenges and Solutions

January 25, 2011

Forecasting is essential in call center workforce management space and without a working strategy staffing concerns will quickly crop up. Being able to determine the volume of phone calls and customer inquiries on a particular day or season allows call center managers to efficiently staff. The problem is it’s often difficult to account for all variables of any given day.

In a recent DMG survey on workforce management, participants listed several challenges in the operation of an effective forecasting strategy. Changing business needs for example negate the usefulness of historical data making its storage a possible unnecessary cost. Information on volume increased by external events, outside company control is also nearly impossible to collect. Then of course there are the seasonal volume variations and day to day volume fluctuations. Forecasting for multiple skill sets also present challenges since it is dependent on the training levels of the workforce.

Accurate forecasting is critical to a successful workforce. To meet call volume without under-staffing or over-staffing, you need methods that precisely predict how many agents are needed at any one given time. The challenges mentioned above throw a wrench in day to day forecasting and can make it difficult to staff, the solution if to factor in the unknowns when hiring for the operation.

According to workforce management developer Monet Software, developing “what if” scenarios to explore how a change in call volume or service goals during the day will affect call volume is a great way to prepare for worst case scenarios. This exercise allows call centers to have the temp reserves necessary for unexpected challenges but maintain efficient staffing levels for normal day-to-day operations. Monitoring volumes within the day and adjusting the staff levels accordingly will also ensure call handling is at the optimum level. 

Forecasts and schedules based on response time and "urgency” of various communications, such as calls, emails and chat are typically the most effective. By making sure your staffing levels take all possible forecasting challenges into account, managers stand to save considerable resources while continuing to keep staff optimized.  

Chris DiMarco is a Web Editor for TMCnet. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University. Prior to joining TMC (News - Alert) Chris worked with e-commerce provider Suresource as a contact center representative and development analyst. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Chris DiMarco

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