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Call Center Forecasting Challenges Managers Face

If there is one thing Contact Center managers can always count on, it is that call volume will fluctuate. If only we could predict how much, and when! Accurate call volume forecasting is essential in order to plan ahead effectively, especially for personnel needs. We want our contact center operation to run efficiently and cost-effectively, but most of all we want to assure customer satisfaction. So we need the right number of FTE’s; not too few and not too many. Herein lies the challenge.

The Challenges of Call Volume Forecasting

Predicting the future requires a lot more than a crystal ball. Managers face an assortment of challenges, and each one represents a variable that makes forecasting more complicated. These challenges include:

  1. Seasonal Variations

Volume often varies with the calendar seasons. Depending on your business, Black Friday or the holiday season may be the busiest.  Others have Spring and Summer ramps. And within the seasonality we also have other trends to consider, including intra-day and intra-week patterns. And even other verticals have early Fall and early first quarter ramps.

  1. Annual growth

Annual growth is good, but it is even better if we can predict it and be ready for it.

  1. Special events

How do special events (planned or unplanned) affect our ability to staff our Contact Centers properly?

  • A big sale, marketing campaign, new product introduction, etc. that drives up volume tremendously
  • A major event such as the Super Bowl can affect volume, up or down, depending on your line of work.
  • Major weather events such as hurricanes, floods, snow or ice storms

To forecast accurately, we need to isolate these occurrences and account for them properly when utilizing historical data.

Understanding the challenges we face is the easy part. We live with those challenges every day. But each one is different, and they are intertwined. The trick to forecasting is to properly apply the accumulated data to uncover useful patterns that can be utilized to predict future staffing needs.

Advanced Techniques for Call Center Forecasting

As a call center manager, you could become a student of technical forecasting methods such as Triple Exponential Smoothing, AutoRegressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA), multiple temporal aggregation (MTA), or even Neural Networks. But, more realistically...

Let a Workforce Tool do the Learning for you

For most of us, simply incorporating a high-quality forecasting tool will automate that process for us, as well as do the thinking for us.  A workforce modeling tool may look expensive, but you will likely save the cost of the software within the first six months by simply being far more efficient in predicting call volumes and the required FTE’s to properly support that volume. A workforce tool will consider your call arrival history, account for seasonal ramps, properly adjust for significant, one-time events, and will produce a forecast for the FTE’s you need to efficiently and effectively handle your incoming call volume.

Conclusion

Call volume will always be a constantly changing variable. Leverage your knowledge of your business, customers, and your call arrival patterns by investing in a workforce forecasting tool. This tool can then automatically incorporate your knowledge and translate it into accurate forecasts for staffing your Contact Center. Let’s remember that there are some things that a spreadsheet simply can’t handle!

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