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Key Considerations.
Over ten years ago the Call Management Institute conducted a study into why some call centres have accurate forecasts and others do not. The ten most common problems identified are still valid today, and are:

¤ no systematic process in place for forecasting
¤ no single ownership or accountability for forecasts
¤ an assumption that the "forecasting software knows best"
¤ forecasts are not produced at the agent group level
¤ the forecast is not acted upon
¤ events that should be exceptions become a part of the forecast
¤ communication with other departments is limited
¤ planning is done around goals, not reality
¤ agents mix flexible activities into the after-call work mode, hence Average Handling Time (AHT) is unknown
¤ the forecasts are not connected with staffing.

Since approximately 60% of a call centre's operating costs are associated with staffing, the implementation of a workforce management system should be considered in most call centres. However it is important to note that a workforce management system will not automatically resolve the problems identified above, and yet resolving these is a qualifying criteria for accurate forecasts.

In addition since workforce management systems base forecasts on historical data, it is unlikely that accurate schedules will be produced in call centres with limited historical data. The workforce management systems work on the basis of 'garbage in, garbage out.' Hence if the call forecast is inaccurate, so too will be the schedules.

Once the system is properly installed it will immediately start to capture the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) data. Consequently the forecasts and schedules should become increasingly accurate over time. However this will only happen if adequate communication and co-ordination takes place with other departments responsible for driving the call volumes, e.g. marketing.

Workforce management systems can be used most effectively when there is an element of flexibility in the workforce. If the staff work fixed shifts then few benefits will be realised from the system as the optimal shift patterns will essentially be 'ignored'. The HR and recruitment departments should be involved in the workforce management cycle to ensure that once the most optimal shifts are identified, they aim to provide a workforce which meets this demand. This could include renegotiating agent's contracts or ensuring new recruits are employed on more flexible contracts.

Many call centres fail to realise the full benefits of their workforce management system and blame system limitations for this. Although workforce management systems do suffer a number of limitations, common reasons why these systems fail to deliver what is expected of them are:

¤ management fail to devote sufficient resources to properly generate forecasts and schedules. In a large call centre, a full time employee may be required for the forecasting role alone. However in reality, this may become an extra 'additional' task for an already overworked employee. Consequently the quality of the forecast is likely to be poor

¤ users of the system are inadequately trained. Workforce management systems are complex and require a fully trained user who is familiar with the broader issues of workforce management. Often the people originally trained in the system may have left the organisation or may be working in different roles

¤ workforce management systems results are effectively ignored and operational changes are not implemented on a timely basis, e.g. intra-day adjustments are not made

For more information, please refer to What We Can Offer.

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