Predicting the future is seemingly impossible. Consider this quote from famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith, “There are two kinds of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know.”
Technology, however, is helping customer experience and contact center managers charged with ‘planning and forecasting’ to reliably predict future resources and workloads, providing the optimal customer experience as well as saving money by better planning resources.
Why forecasting makes sense in the contact center
If you don’t look into the future, your customers suffer. Why? Contact center demand is not constant, but is composed of wild swings of daily and hourly peaks and valleys. If you try to staff just to the peaks, then these expensive resources waste money during slow periods. And, if you don’t staff high enough, customers wait on-hold and abandon important calls. To help manage these peaks and valleys, many demand variances can be predicted by historical data in today’s workforce management solutions (WFM). WFM replaces a manual effort where managers physically track people often using complex, labor intensive spreadsheets, which fail miserably. For the modern day contact center, WFM gives you the tools to predict future resource needs and provide an optimal customer experience.
What about forecasting resource needs and work in the back office?
Does forecasting resources also make sense for the back office? Many people say that this work environment is always the same and demand does not change? This is incorrect. First, let’s establish once and for all that efficiency and optimization in the back office is as essential for a good customer experience as in the front office. We can have the best conversation in the front office with a cheerful, helpful agent, but if the work doesn’t get accomplished in the back office to our expectations, all that cheerfulness just doesn’t matter. Thus, the same forecasting principles that make sure we have the right people, at the right time also apply in the back office.
Are there peaks and valleys in the back office?
The same peaks and valleys in the front office impact the back office. During peaks, work tasks pile up and backlogs occur. Other times employees often sit around and chat with each other waiting for work to come in. When the work is due is also a critical factor. In a FIFO (first-in, first-out) environment, everything is worked on as it comes in, but that is very inefficient. For example, a cable company may have a work order for telephones and internet to be installed and activated in one month’s time when a new building is ready. Should that work be accomplished in front of a job that is required today? FIFO back office environments aren’t efficient, nor do they provide a great customer experience.
Blending Interactions and Work with Forecasting Resources Leads to a Great CX
Recently, I visited a service provider who combined the contact center and back office into one blended entity. They use WFM to plan and forecast both calls and work tasks. They combine workforce planning and forecasting with workload management. Thus, both calls and tasks are routed to the right person at the right time based on planning and forecasting. By forecasting and routing calls and tasks, they were able to achieve the following:
- Provide more consistent customer service and by ironing out the peaks and valleys, reducing customer on-hold times
- Tasks are accomplished when they need to be accomplished based on business and customers priorities and time, not FIFO
- Agent productivity is much higher since task-blending allows agents to work on customer tasks during slow call times or take calls during peaks
- Because peak times can be covered by the blended agent, costs are reduced by not having to staff part time agents.
According to the service provider I visited, “Call and task blending and planning resources based on workload made us more efficient and allowed us to operate with all full time people. We have leveled out the peaks and valleys that required us to staff with part time people to maintain service levels. Some days we have higher call volume and fewer tasks, other days we have fewer calls and more tasks, but we can keep the same amount of people and schedule them appropriately according to the varying work demands.”
To learn more about forecasting, managing workloads and blending calls and tasks in the back office, watch the Enterprise Workload Management video here.