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Forecasting is a Critical Element of Workforce Management

February 13, 2017

For years, a variety of mathematical formulas enabled by an Excel spreadsheet were the best way to predict the staff needed to ensure a contact center was covered. In the days when “contacts” meant telephone calls, businesses kept predictable hours, and staff members were all under one roof, it was workable. Not ideal, but it was better than nothing. It was really the only way to engage in workforce management (WFM).

Thanks to the way businesses are run today – international, distributed, mobile and omnichannel – the solutions of the ‘80s aren’t really cutting it in the twenty-first century. Spreadsheet models can’t cope with multiple communications channels, a distributed or virtual workforce, or customer expectations. And they’ve never been terribly good at forecasting, according to a blog post by Monet Software (News - Alert) CEO Chuck Ciarlo.

“If the forecasts generated by WFM are not accurate, it creates a domino effect that will throw the rest of your numbers off as well,” he wrote. “Result? Overstaffing, understaffing, missed sales and angry customers.”

Many workforce management solutions today specialize in creating accurate forecasts. Buyers of WFM solutions should ensure that any tool they’re evaluating has the capability to compile and analyze historical data, for starters. But there’s a lot more to forecasting than just looking at the past.

“This is not just what happened at the call center on this day last year or five years ago, but also takes into account other variables that impact call volume – holidays, special promotions, annual events, weather conditions,” wrote Ciarlo. “Anything that can cause a fluctuation in workload should be considered.”

Just as important, it’s critical that the workforce management solution has the capability to pull data from communications channels that are not telephone-based, because these will yield important clues about what the future holds, and what level of staffing will be required to meet it. An integrated view of all channels and the capabilities of the multi-skilled workforce will be essential for proper scheduling. In addition, if your WFM solution is relying solely on averages, this won’t be sufficient for coping with unexpected events. As always with a technology solution, the more data you can provide it with, the more accurately it will work for you.

“The more you put into forecasting, the more you’ll get out of it,” wrote Ciarlo. “When WFM does most of the work, the result is more accurate forecasts, generated faster than spreadsheets. With the right system performing these critical functions that can grow with your call center’s needs, you can invest with confidence and achieve ROI faster.”

Edited by Alicia Young

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