Four Best Practices for Resource Planning in the Contact Center

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to sit in a planning meeting at a very large insurance provider.  In this meeting they were looking at the contact center network’s performance in order to forecast expected performance, and develop new resource plans going forward. It was neat—the center managers, the capacity planning team, the customer service VP, and the finance manager were all on the conference call.

This was a regular weekly call and I was both encouraged and discouraged by a lot that I heard.  Here are a few observations, with my take on best practices:

Best Practice #1:  They were having a regular meeting to discuss resourcing.  It is always surprising to me that some companies will set a budget and then try to stick with it even when the operation or the contact demand has changed significantly.  This company was smart enough to set up regular meetings in order to react quickly to any changes in their environment or their performance.

Best Practice #2: They understood the significance of agent attrition to the planning process. During the meeting they pointed out that their agent attrition had increased significantly the last week and adjusted their attrition forecast because of this increase.

Not a Best Practice: They over-compensated for a single data point.  Their weekly agent attrition increased from 2 to 4 percent, and they increased their attrition to 4 percent for the next twelve months – based upon a single data point (the last week).  In other words, their new plan increased agent hiring by 24 percent!  This is an awfully big spike (and hopefully was adjusted back down in subsequent weeks).

Best Practice #3:  Focusing on variance to plan is a great early warning device for the operation!

Not a Best Practice:  Their sick time and agent attrition forecasts were flat throughout seasonal peaks and valleys.  Each week in the capacity plan, the plan assumed constant shrinkage and attrition.  How to turn this into a best practice? Forecast the seasonality of these items (by center and staff group) so that when seasonal increases are expected to occur, the operation is ready for them.

Best Practice #4: Communication!  This meeting was terrific in that all stakeholders were in the same meeting, all points-of-view were discussed and quick and dirty analyses around different ideas were done.  The best meetings are ones where trade-offs can be determined as the questions are asked!

In order to make the regular “decision-making meeting” a success, a company requires strong and confident leaders, a robust capacity planning system, and smart planning analysts.  For more information on how the best companies plan, read, “A Practical Guide to Forecasting, Planning, and Decision-Making in an Era of Significant Uncertainty.”

I’d like to hear from you — do you have any best practices that you’d like to share?

Thanks for reading!

Ric

Ric Kosiba

Ric Kosiba

I joined Interactive Intelligence in August 2012 as part of the Bay Bridge Decision Technologies acquisition. I helped found that company back in 2000 and thoroughly enjoyed working with our brilliant development and operations research team, which helped us become the leading U.S. supplier of long-term forecasting and planning solutions. In my current role as vice president of the Bay Bridge Decisions Group, I’m responsible for the development and enhancement of our contact center capacity planning and analysis product line. I tripped into the call center industry about 22 years ago and can honestly say that I still love it. I hold an M.S.C.E., B.S.C.E., and Ph. D in Operations Research and Engineering from Purdue University (go Boilers!). I reside in Maryland with my wife and four children. I love being a dad and enjoy coaching kid’s football, basketball and lacrosse.