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
  • How to Scale a Contact Center in 2017

    Are you on the fence about scaling your contact center and not sure how or whether or not now is the time? Studies have shown that 93% of executives expect that contact volume will remain constant or increase within the next two years. This means that now more than ever is the time to begin scaling and we are here to help. more

  • eBook: Engage With Customers in an Ultra-Connected Era

    Your customers are ultra-connected. Make sure you are as well. Finding new customers and maintaining relationships with those you already have takes time and effort. When your customers are ready to engage, are you meeting them where they are? As the world becomes more digital it’s vital for all businesses to be able to communicate with customers whenever and wherever the customer wants - be that via phone call, SMS, online chat, or social media. more

  • Frost & Sullivan: Are You Delivering Exceptional Customer Experience?

    Small and mid-sized businesses are in a unique position and have an advantage in customer experience compared with their larger competitors. Read this report from Frost & Sullivan to learn how to leverage this advantage. more

  • Best States for U.S. Based Contact Centers

    Are you planning on building out a contact center? One of the first questions that must be answered is just where you want to have it located and this is no easy decision. Luckily for you, we've gone ahead and created a must-have download Best States for U.S. Based Contact Centers to help guide you in this decision-making process. Don't finalize your plans without it! more

  • eBook: Keeping Pace With The Modern Customer

    Your customers’ expectations are higher than ever. The millennial generation demands ease, speed and consistency, no matter how they choose to connect with companies. Instead of facing the problem head-on, companies have tried to adapt their aging software by simply bolting on new channels (and software) as needed. As with any “Frankenstein” approach, the resulting contact center becomes a slow-moving monster, full of disjointed parts. It’s time to dismantle the monster—tool by tool, process by process—to find out exactly what is holding the contact center back. more