Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Strategic Planning for the Call Center Involves Much More than Analyzing Call Volume

October 19, 2009

Due to the down economy, companies are cutting back staffing in their call centers – yet at the same time they are putting increasing pressure on call center managers to meet or exceed service levels. Considering that labor makes up 70 to 90 percent of a call center’s operating budget, it only makes sense that companies would be looking at agent scheduling as one way to achieve cost efficiencies.

As a result, companies are increasingly using analytics and forecasting tools so that call center managers can more accurately schedule agents based on call volume, among other important planning strategies. Using these tools, call center managers can forecast, with surprising accuracy, how many contacts will be coming in for any given shift, thus enabling them to schedule the correct number of agents.

Up until a few years ago such analytics tools were mostly limited to forecasting just call volume, which is typically achieved through integration with the call center ACD. But today customers are using alternative communications channels such as Web chat, email and text messaging. As a result, most call centers have evolved into multi-channel contact centers. That means new tools which are capable of analyzing volume for these other channels are needed in order to arrive at accurate forecasts.

In addition, companies today are leveraging customer data in new ways to help them strategically plan contact center operations as well. For example, through an interaction with the IVR a customer might be asked to provide several key pieces of information which can be used later for forecasting purposes, as well as to deliver more personalized and “intelligent” customer service. In addition many companies are integrating their CRM and back office systems with their call center systems so that customer data is updated automatically in real time -- and so agents can deliver more personalized service. This data can also be used in concert with other metrics to drive key businesses decisions about staffing levels – as well as recruiting and hiring efforts.

As a result of these trends, analyzing call data alone no longer cuts it when it comes to achieving new efficiencies in the contact center. Companies can no longer rely on forecasts based on “regular” or “daily” events – they need to ability to create forecasts based on a broad range of events, including “irregular” events, occurring both inside and outside of the organization. For example, a cataloger needs the ability to forecast the increase in contacts that occurs after a catalog has dropped; an entertainment company needs the ability to predict the demand that will be generated after tickets go on sale for a leading act; or an e-commerce company might need to forecast the spike in calls that occurs after its nighttime infomercial airs on cable television.

Recent improvements in computer processing speed have enabled a “simulation-based” strategic planning process that eliminates the technological roadblocks to a truly comprehensive, integrated, and responsive planning process. Simply put, the enterprise analytics and planning cycle can now be both accurate and fast.

With today’s new analytics and forecasting solutions, companies can carry out a wider range of “what-if” scenarios to ensure preparedness while at the same time keeping staffing in their contact center staffing “lean and mean.” This ability to evaluate different business scenarios quickly and accurately has given many businesses a competitive advantage.

During a recent free webinar, Ric Kosiba, co-founder and president of Bay Bridge Decision Technologies, discussed how the planning process can be enhanced to improve the operational performance, the predictability, and the efficiency of the enterprise contact center network.

Kosiba, who leads the development of the Bay Bridge’s simulation and optimization technologies and is an expert in the field of call center management and modeling, collections and call center strategy optimization, discussed concepts such as planning and forecasting to minimize business risk and other ways to improve strategic decision-making.

The webinar is actually the third in a three part webinar series exploring the "three legged stool" -- the people, technologies and processes necessary to ensure your organization is positioned to make the best strategic decisions for your contact center network.

To access the free, archived version of this informative webinar, click here.

Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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