7 Demand Planning Tools and Techniques to Optimize Contact Center Performance

As organizations continue to grapple with post-COVID uncertainty, Graeme Meikle explains why it pays to be “prepared” and offers his top tips for mastering the art of capacity planning…

“Be Prepared” – the motto of generations of Scouts and Guides – is the new mission statement for successful contact centers. Yet it took a global pandemic to realize how anything can happen, at any time, and we all need to be equipped to handle it all. Rising customer expectations, sporadic demand, and a new world of remote and hybrid working have taken their toll on agent schedules and schedules. Forecasting contact volumes and planning for contact center response has been a lot trickier than ever, but help is at hand.

7 Demand Planning Tools and Techniques Every Contact Center Should Have

New tools and techniques are constantly emerging to help planners better predict contact volumes, improve demand planning, and optimize contact center performance. Here are the essentials:

1. Expect the unexpected – make the most of the powerful “What-If” scenario planning built into modern workforce management (WFM) solutions to model the impact of disruptive forces such as supply chain issues, extreme weather or even absences and illnesses caused by potential COVID lockdowns in the future. Incorporate buffers that allow for other unexpected peaks of activity and unplanned absences.

2. Archive all forecasts – A recorded audit trail of previous forecasting activities provides a solid foundation for the future. However, schedules and forecasts, like demand, are constantly changing, so set a regular date in the calendar – at least once a month – to review historical data and increase efficiency.

3. Create Behavior Profiles – “noise factors” such as holiday periods, marketing promotions and product launches impact contact volumes. Creating behavior profiles for each of these scenarios is a useful technique for planners. For example, a smart scheduler at a water company will calculate the likelihood of freezing to schedule more staff when freezing temperatures mean more pipe breaks and spikes in call volumes. To stay prepared, create multiple forecasts for different scenarios showing how they change and why customers contact you.

4. Use your ears – A planner’s most valuable tool is his ear. By simply listening to what counselors say, common concerns and behaviors are often revealed. These can explain important planning trends that help planners do a better job while avoiding being labeled as the “computer says no” bad guys. Host planning forums that engage agents to uncover common frustrations and consider rolling out the latest Voice of the Employee (VoE) analytics to capture what agents are feeling to identify those who are struggling and need of additional support.

5. AI to the rescue – when combined with the latest WFM solutions, artificial intelligence (AI) drives predictive planning and scheduling. The latest AI technology recognizes patterns through deep learning in the same way WFM solutions access historical data to predict, create and model future schedules. Leverage them to stay ahead of high contact volumes by delivering the right sized resources to the right place at the right time.

6. Staggered Auctions – allows agents to manage their self-service shifts through an app or website. Such a flexible strategy allows planners to plan more accurately and meet expected demand. Why? Because it allows for smarter shift design to better match demand. Instead, agents can see upcoming unassigned shifts and bid for them, identifying their first and second picks, saving schedulers time.

7. Triple exponential smoothing – has been around since the 1960s, but remains a mainstay of forecasting in many contact centers. It involves three elements:
– Level—previous month’s forecast
– Orientation—the expected increase or decrease in contacts compared to the previous month
– Seasonality—the impact of the seasons on the data

The idea is to isolate each element and average the data – or “smooth” it – from period to period. The model has its drawbacks, for example, many contact centers are experimenting with multiple models using in-house algorithms, which can take months. Fortunately, modern WFM tools are packed with hundreds of algorithms, which organizations can test, using historical data, in an instant. Additionally, every 15 minutes, these forecasts are updated automatically, while planners can make manual adjustments based on Business Intelligence (BI) and their experience.

Reap the economic benefits of effective capacity planning

The introduction of these tools and techniques generates additional benefits that are favorable to the budget, such as tangible reductions in agent staffing and overtime expenditures. Designed to save time and increase forecasting accuracy, workforce management solutions encompassing innovative forecasting, what-if scenarios, planning and crew planning tools facilitate capacity planning and add immense business value.

Graeme Meikle is a Senior Consultant at Calabrio

About Calabria

Calabrio is the customer experience intelligence company that enables organizations to enrich human interactions. The scalability of our cloud platform enables rapid deployment of remote work models and gives our customers precise control over operating costs and customer satisfaction levels. Our AI-powered analytics tools make it easy for contact centers to uncover customer sentiment and share compelling insights with other parts of the organization. Customers choose Calabrio because we understand their needs and provide a best-in-class experience, from implementation to ongoing support.

Learn more about calabrio.com