Back-to-School: Forecasting 101 Mastering the Art of Predicting Contact Center Demand

Posted by Kary Horsley on August 16, 2023

As the summer sun sets and the back-to-school season approaches, it’s time to sharpen our pencils, gather our knowledge, and delve into the fundamentals of forecasting in the contact center world. Just like students preparing for a new academic year, contact center professionals must equip themselves with the essential techniques to predict future contacts with precision and finesse. Welcome to “Forecasting 101,” where we’ll guide you through the key concepts of forecasting and equip you with the tools to excel in this critical aspect of contact center operations.

You can also find additional tips in Laura’s blog on forecasting for back-office: Unleashing the Potential of Back-Office WFM: Mastering the Forecasting Challenge.

Introduction: Unraveling the Mystery of Forecasting

In the world of contact centers, forecasting plays a crucial role in predicting the future. It’s the process of using historical data and trends to anticipate the volume of incoming contacts, such as calls, chats, and emails. The insights gained from forecasting are instrumental in making informed decisions about staffing, capacity planning, and budgeting.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of forecasts used in the contact center environment:

  1. Long-term forecast: Spanning from 6 months to 2+ years, this forecast provides a broader view of future contact volumes.
  2. Mid-range forecast: Covering 3 to 6 months, this forecast helps contact centers plan for the medium term.
  3. Short-term forecast: Encompassing one week to 3 months, this forecast focuses on immediate needs.
  4. Daily forecast: This forecast provides a daily snapshot of expected contact volumes.
  5. Intra-day or Interval level forecast: The most detailed forecast, it predicts contact volumes in smaller time increments.

In contact centers, different teams handle various forecasts—the Forecaster, Planner, and Scheduler each contribute their expertise to this complex process.

The Journey of Forecasting: From Data to Patterns

The first step in forecasting is collecting relevant historical data. This data, typically derived from the contact center’s ACD, SQL, PowerBI, or other reliable sources, should cover a timeframe of 1-3 years, if available. Metrics such as contacts handled, contacts abandoned, contacts offered, and average handle time are essential for accurate forecasting. Additional metrics like chat concurrency, IVR, web, or chat deflection rates add depth to the analysis.

Next comes the analysis of patterns in the data. Identifying seasonality, trends, and other significant patterns helps in refining the forecast. Removing outliers and normalizing days with extraordinary events, such as holidays or severe weather impacts, ensure the forecast’s accuracy.

Continuous Improvement: The Refinement Process

Forecasting is not a one-time task but an ongoing journey of improvement. By analyzing forecast errors and discrepancies, contact centers can enhance their forecasting models. Adjusting parameters and incorporating new data sources contribute to the accuracy of future forecasts. Consideration of upcoming marketing campaigns or events helps prepare for potential impacts on contact volumes.

Keeping a Watchful Eye: Monitoring and Adaptation

Once the forecast is set, it requires continuous monitoring and tracking. As new data becomes available, contact centers must update their forecasts to adapt to changing conditions and trends. Regularly reviewing forecast performance ensures it remains relevant and aligned with the contact center’s needs.

Unraveling Variance: The Detective Work

Sometimes, the forecast may not align with actual results, creating variance. In such cases, contact centers need to investigate the reasons behind the discrepancy. Is it due to marketing campaigns, changes in IVR or web pages, or other factors? Talking to frontline employees can provide valuable insights into the drivers behind the variance.

Side note: Check out our very own Nate chat about the importance of machine + human logic when it comes to forecasting in this quick video.

Understanding the Magic and Limitations

While forecasting is a powerful tool, it’s important to recognize its limitations. It’s not an exact science, and there will always be some degree of uncertainty. Contact centers should be aware of the assumptions and constraints of their forecasting models. Rather than seeking absolute predictions, forecasting is about making well-informed decisions based on available data.

Enroll with Call Design – Your Partner in Forecasting Excellence

Are you ready to ace the art of forecasting? As you embark on your journey to excellence, Call Design stands by your side as your partner in forecasting and Workforce Management (WFM) endeavors. Our team of seasoned experts is eager to guide you through the intricacies of forecasting, ensuring you are well-prepared for any challenges that lie ahead. As the back-to-school season commences, don’t miss the opportunity to elevate your contact center’s performance with stellar forecasting. Reach out to Call Design today, and let’s embark on a transformative journey together. With “Forecasting 101” under your belt, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate the path to success in your contact center’s future endeavors.

Kary Horsley