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
  • The New 2016 Contact Center and Call Center Comparison Guide

    Your contact center and call center represent your business. With the right software, you can make a positive impact on your customers and clients. Are your customer service teams and sales teams setup for success with the latest tools? Find out with our guide. more

  • Contact Center Software Cost Guide

    The success of your contact center depends just as much on the software you use as it does on the performance of your agents. Selecting the right software could mean the difference between success and failure for your business. more

  • Implementing Web Chat in Your Contact Center

    Although contact centers used to be synonymous with call centers, those days are now behind us. More and more companies are now providing customers with the option to contact customer service representatives through web chat. This is a win-win. Customers receive service that better meets their needs, and companies reap the benefits of satisfied customers. more

  • Remote Contact Center 101

    Today, it is more than possible to operate a remote contact center that provides top-notch customer service. The benefits of a remote contact center are numerous. As compared to an on-premises call center, remote contact centers are less expensive to operate. more

  • 9 Must-Have Contact Center Features

    In today’s highly communicative world, one unhappy customer can have a devastating effect on a company’s reputation. Fortunately, technological innovations address many of the standard customer service challenges. more