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
  • 15 Ways to Optimize Your Contact Center

    We live in a time where customer experience is seen as an important competitive differentiator. Given this, wouldn't you like to make sure that your contact center is fully optimized to meet your business needs? Deciding to upgrade and optimize your contact center is a big step, and one that shouldn't be done without due diligence and plenty of research. more

  • Benchmarking Your Contact Center

    Are you aware of how your contact center stacks up in comparison to your competitors? In an era where customer service is viewed as a key competitive differentiator, it is absolutely essential for you to utilize benchmarking in order to ensure that your contact center is helping and not hindering your bottom line. more

  • Contact Centers vs. Call Center

    Believe it or not, contact centers and call centers are not the same thing. Both of them serve the same purpose in ensuring that your business provides the best possible customer service, however, there are distinct differences between the two. more

  • The Social Side of Service

    Did you know that 83% of Twitter users who tweeted a complaint said they loved receiving a response from the brand? In order to provide the best possible service to your customers, you MUST provide service on the channels that they are utilizing. Social customer service might seem scary and undefined, but can be much more effective and less expensive than traditional channels. more

  • Top 10 Contact Center Tools for an Unforgettable Customer Experience

    It should come as no surprise that consumers have only increasingly become less and less brand loyal in the modern age. In fact, 89% of them have switched brands within the last year due to a poor customer experience. One of the major steps to preventing this customer churn is to invest and invest heavily into improving your customers' experience. Now the major question to ask yourself is, "of all the contact center tools available, what are the ones that I should be utilizing for my business?" more