The 411 on accurate forecasting

Updated: October 13, 2010

Forecasting is the proverbial mix of art and science. It begins with predicting how many transactions you are going to get in the future. To do that, you look at historical data to determine patterns that reflect when customers contact, and consider possible trends that will effect these patterns of contacting a customer service. Next, we factor the handling times of these transactions. Finally, you modify results based on conditions not reflected in historical data.

In most contact centre operations, long term forecasts look out a year and beyond. We use them to estimate future annual budgets, establish hiring plans and define future system needs.

The short term forecast predict workloads up to three(3) months. They are important for organizing and adjusting schedule requirements, anticipating seasonal staffing needs, planning for holidays, and determine imminent hiring requirements.

Weekly, daily, and intra-day forecasts are called short term tactical forecast and are used to tighten up schedules and adjust priorities around current conditions and near term events.

Five Key Activities

The basic historical data you need for forecasting includes how many inbound transactions you have received in the past, when they arrived and how long they took to handle. Five key terms reflect this activity:

Talk time: everything from the beginning to the end of the call, and in between. Also ATT (Average Talk Time).

After call work (ACW) or Wrap-up time: time that is needed to log a transaction or to log data into a customer information system.

Average Handling Time (AHT): average talk time + after call work.

Call Load: the volume of transactions coupled with how long they last. volume multiplied by average handling time.

Abandoned calls and busy signals: customers that hang up after a period of time before talking to a CSR are registered as abandoned calls. When a customer is getting a busy signal, it means all lines are busy and the IVR is overloading.

If the historical data used to forecast ignores ones of the above activities, it will be underestimating demand.

Just remember, the forecast should always reflect "offered" transactions. In other words, offered transactions are all of the attempts your customers make to reach you. We have several possibilities, such as answered by a CSR, answered by the system (IVR) but hang up before reaching a CSR, or they get a busy signal.

Featured Research
  • Eight Ways You Should Be Using Contact Center Reporting

    Every day, your contact center collects critical data that can be used to drive strategic improvements to your efforts in the future. But that data is meaningless if you don’t know how to access and analyze it. The key to do doing both is using reporting features. By understanding how to use reporting tools, you will gain much greater insight from the data you are collecting. more

  • Top 10 Customer Service Trends in 2017

    Customer service plays a HUGE role in the success of your business. In order to remain competitive companies must be ready to provide modern customer experiences that meet customer needs. If you haven't already invested in updating your customer service experience you are already behind. By 2018 more than half of companies will redirect investments towards innovations in customer experience. more

  • The Role of Self-Service in Modern Contact Centers

    By 2020, 85% of customers' relationships with companies will be managed without any contact with human services representatives. What does that mean for your business? The data shows that companies need to offer effective self-service options in order to remain competitive. However, many contact centers are confused about how their core contact center software fits into self-service. more

  • Tips and Tools for a Positive Contact Center Environment

    When it comes to stressful environments within the business world, it is no secret that the contact center frequently makes the list of one of the most stressful. This elevated level of stress leads to high agent attrition rates, and thus subsequently additional costs on your business to find, hire and train new employees. more

  • 10 Tips for Scaling Your Contact Center Solution

    You might think that scaling your contact center involves just hiring more agents. While that might be the super simple solution, it isn't necessarily the correct one. As with any other aspect of your business, it is imperative to take the time to figure out what exactly your contact center will need in order to perform at its best. more