Hi Folks! Before we get going on this — my first post here, by the way — I wanted to introduce myself. I am the founder of Bay Bridge Decision Technologies, recently acquired by Interactive Intelligence. My specialty is helping contact centers most effectively use forecasting, capacity planning, staff planning, and budgeting technology to reduce costs, increase operational efficiency, and ensure consistent customer service.
This technology, which falls generally under the category of “capacity planning and analysis solutions,” helps contact centers more accurately project required staff and resources – anywhere from one week out, to eighteen months out. This is critically important when you consider that contact centers frequently deal with seasonal peaks and valleys in call volume. They also need to account for agent sick time, agent attrition, call handle times, etc. Given these many dynamic factors, it’s clear that manual methods for planning often result in wasted money due to over staffing, or poor service due to under staffing.
So, as an introduction to the world of capacity planning and analysis, I’d like to offer three tips that will ensure you get started on the right foot:
Tip #1: Make sure your long-term plan is long enough. If your contact center has a planning horizon of only a few months out, it’s tough to identify seasonal peaks and valleys in call volume. When staffing is viewed over the long-term, however, these trends can be identified and then addressed more economically by overtime staff or outsourcers. Keep in mind though that long-term capacity planning isn’t easily accomplished using the common (and cumbersome)
Erlang C-based spreadsheets, which leads me to Tip #2…
Tip #2: Validate your planning process to make sure it’s accurate. To effectively perform long-term capacity planning, contact centers need to move from Erlang C-based spreadsheets, to simulation-based systems. These factor in your last week’s actual performance data to prove that the performance predicted mimics the performance you achieved. This helps create confidence in your plans and any what-if analyses you develop.
Tip #3: Use a forecasting technique to plan for shrinkage and assume your shrink is seasonal. A common mistake contact center planners make is to assume that agent shrink — time away from the phone from illness, training, or vacation — is consistent week over week. By recognizing that shrink is typically seasonal with peaks and valleys, and using your planning process to account for this, you will end up with much more accurate resource projections.
To learn more about contact center capacity planning and analysis, check out the following educational white paper authored by Interactive Intelligence: “A Contact Center Crystal Ball – Marrying the Analyses of Service, Cost, Revenue, and Now, Customer Experience.”
Of course, I always like to hear from folks directly so feel free to contact me with your questions and suggestions for improving contact center planning and analysis!