Call Center Forecasting

What Is Call Center Forecasting (and How to Increase Your Forecast Accuracy)

Call center forecasting is a set of practices that aims to determine the contact volume and number of agents needed to handle that contact volume over a set period of time. To increase forecast accuracy, use Excel and Workforce Management software.

Accurate forecasting optimizes productivity and ensures contact centers have the right number of agents to deal with contact volume. It also helps organizations to avoid financial losses.

This article will explain call center forecasting fundamentals and how you can increase forecasting accuracy.

In this post: 

Call center forecasting fundamentals

Call center forecasting helps managers align demand and supply, optimizing cost and profit performance. You can achieve this through the following techniques:

Workload forecasting

Workload forecasting is the process of predicting anticipated work and allocating tasks to agents depending on experience, skills, and capabilities. 

For an accurate forecast, there are some metrics you need to consider:

Duration of your forecast

If your goal is to plan long-term resource needs, then an annual forecast is best. However, incoming call volumes could spike unexpectedly or agents might call in sick, so you will have to plan workforce needs on a more regular basis.

  • A monthly forecast should guide you while hiring or staffing. Here you determine how many Full-Time Equivalents you need compared to how many you have by pulling together a forecast for staffing and workload.

Workload forecast is the contact volume (the number of incoming calls and messages) multiplied by contact average handle time AHT (time needed for a call). 

  • Short-term forecasting helps you schedule staff for upcoming weeks. You do this by calculating call volume for that year depending on growth rates and the past year’s average call volume for each day. 

To get the percentage of each day, divide each day’s call volume by the average annual call volume. Multiply the result by the current year’s call volume, then adjust for public holidays.

Call volumes

To determine incoming contact volumes, you will need to use the available historical data. The more recent and the more accurate, the better. 

You’ll need to factor in the number of customers you provide services to, the calls types you get from them, and the average handle time.

When calculating incoming contact volume, there are regular events to consider, like: day of the week (Mondays might register higher volumes than Fridays); day of the month (the 1st, 15th, or 30th of each month might be busier); season (volumes might be lower during holidays).

Other predictable events that affect demand are contact volume variations based on the types of calls, average handle times for each call type, and abandon rates.

Average handle times

This involves the time an agent normally spends on the phone for a successful (or failed) contact. It must factor in everything from when the call starts to the point when the agent finishes their post-call tasks.

Service level goal

As a contact center metric, service level refers to the percentage of incoming calls answered by an agent within an established period of time. The time period is well defined and is decided by each call center in particular. 

Workforce forecasting

There are three steps you need to follow in workforce forecasting:

1. Finding the total number of workers

The company’s HR system helps you know the total number of workers available in your contact center. Ensure that you only count the workers you will schedule, such as agents, team leaders, etc.

2. Calculate FTEs (Full-Time Equivalents)

FTEs are staffing arrangements that total one person working full-time, for example, 40 hours a week. Calculating FTE helps you compare supply and demand. If some agents work part-time, count them as 0.5 FTE or based on their contracted hours. If one works 24 hours a week out of 40 hours (60%), the FTE will be 0.6.

3. Adjust for attrition

Staff attrition is when staff leaves within the period you are planning. There is voluntary attrition (initiated by staff) and involuntary attrition (created by the call center). 

Look at historical data to identify when people voluntarily quit. For involuntary attrition, consider when the company fires employees due to poor performance or violation of policies.

How to increase call center forecast accuracy?

You can use software to enhance forecast quality and efficiency, such as spreadsheets and workforce management software. Let’s look at each in-depth:

Spreadsheets

Spreadsheet tools such as Excel help you automate different steps and decrease the chance of calculation errors. After creating a forecast, Excel will design a new worksheet with the following:

  • A table with historical and predicted values
  • A chart that shows the data stated above

Still, Excel can become hard to maintain, challenging, and error-prone. That’s why you need professional software to improve the forecasting efficiency of your call center.

Workforce management software (WFM)

Workforce Management Software is a tool or program that assists organizations in managing staff scheduling. Here are ways WFM can help your contact center:

  • Create forecasts automatically and quickly with a harmoniously connected historical data source.
  • Automatically update new data to increase accuracy.
  • WFM tools have built-in business intelligence such as public holiday calendars so that, whenever the event happens, they take the effects into account.
  • Artificially intelligent WFM tools create precise forecasts compared to manual or semi-automated calculations.

Conclusion

Call center forecasting involves forecasting call volume, average handle time, and the number of agents needed to handle the call volume.

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