In this article, Global Bilgi’s PRM (Planning, Reporting, and Monitoring) team will share their experience in making an outsourced contact center work efficiently with the modern planning tools and digital products we use on our projects.
Our company employs more than 500 contact center agents who receive and handle inbound calls, online chats, e-mails, and conduct outbound telephone sales campaigns. Global Bilgi provides call center outsourcing services to international companies in the telecommunications, e-commerce, delivery, and retail industries and is experienced in providing the best quality customer service through accurate planning and forecasting.
Why Do You Need Planning in the Contact Center?
Instead of a standard answer to the question “Why do You Need Planning”, we will tell you how the planning cycle works in our contact center. First of all, we start with long-term forecasts, which are necessary for budgeting and strategic planning. In order to understand whether our workplaces and resources will be sufficient for the implementation of business plans of current and potential projects. After that, we move on to making medium-term forecasts, namely the forecast for the coming year by month. This is necessary for allocating the budget, planning sets by location, planning seasonal corporate events, as well as determining key indicators for most employees. The last in this cycle is the weekly forecast for the next week, it is mainly necessary for the formation of the operators’ work schedules for the week in advance.
There are many good programs for making a forecast for the contact center on the market, but the disadvantage of most solutions is the frequent inconsistency of the “price-quality” criterion. Taking into account the constant need for high-quality resource planning, our company has created its own solution – the ASOS system, which is a contact center WFM program by its functionality. Also, we use a conditionally free solution – the well-known Excel. Also, our company is actively working on the introduction of the Power BI system from Microsoft.
Contact Center Planning Techniques
We use qualitative and quantitative techniques to plan the load and optimize the work of the contact center. The use of different techniques is designed to provide the best result because contact center optimization requires continuous work and accuracy when creating forecasts and models.
Qualitative methods are used when we do not have any data, or when we predict general trends without exact results. Quantitative methods are used for forecasting sales and forecasting calls to the contact center. Most often, appeals to the contact center are temporary series. It is important to understand that different forecasting models are suitable for different time series.
What Does Planning in the Contact Center Consist of?
The first stage is to collect historical data in our systems, or we ask the client if it is a new project. Next, we proceed to data analysis, determine the presence of trends, seasonality, and interventions. After that, we move on to building prediction models, see if data reduction or replacement is needed. Next, we check the models and choose the best one that is more accurate. And in the next stage, we implement the best model of the company’s work. There are situations when there is very little data, for example, 3-4 months. This is not enough to determine the trend and seasonality.
In such cases, we use our own Global Bilgi system – ASOS. All you have to do is upload the data into the system, and ASOS will use the data to create an hourly load distribution pattern for each day of the week. Next, we compile the load pattern by day of the week, based on the same data. After that, with the help of a linear trend, the system calculates the forecast number of appeals and forms a weekly forecast based on existing patterns. When there is a sufficient amount of data, approximately 3-4 years, we make a forecast in Excel.
Using the Contact CenterWFM ASOS
Our company’s ASOS contact center software allows you to combine and automate all three stages of forecasting in one interface. Historical data, determination of seasonality, trend selection, forecast model, model validation and final forecast model in the format we need. Based on the medium-term forecast, we create an operational business model of the project’s work, and based on the model, we set goals for the majority of employees in the company.
In addition to budgeting, setting goals and drawing up recruitment plans, we use the model to create individual dashboards that display all the necessary indicators. It can be both a comparison of the required and actual number of operators on the project, and the average working hours per month per agent.
The capabilities of the ASOS system allow us to:
- Formation of the forecast of incoming appeals;
- Forming the schedule of contact center agents;
- Calculation of the number of employees for each hour;
- Control of the number of agents;
- Display of online statistics and reporting;
- Formation of the contact center load schedules.
Preparation of weekly forecasts in the contact center
Starting from the monthly forecast, we create weekly forecasts and as a result, we get the following data:
The screen shows the required number of operators broken down by the hour/15-minute interval, as well as the predicted efficiency of the operator by day of the week and hour. After that, we download data on the number of ASOS agents, it conveniently displays a comparison of the required number of operators and the planned number. Based on the load schedules, we create a schedule in the contact center WFM ShiftSwapper, which stores all the details and rules. Including control of scheduled time, shift type, operator skills and more. Also, we would not be able to achieve high efficiency without online monitoring. Monitoring specialists create specialized dashboards.
This is a real dashboard of our project, it monitors the achievement of goals every hour, and also monitors the efficiency of the operators. The dashboard is based on Power BI, it is interactive and can be customized individually.
Flexibility and Comfort in the Implementation of Planning
“Flexibility” in a tight contact center scheduling is also important. Previously, we spent a lot of resources on making adjustments to the established schedule. This was manual work for the monitoring specialists, as most of our operators are students, their plans can change daily, and a flexible schedule was critical for them. In turn, it is worth having confidence in the availability of a sufficient number of agents and business continuity, which is why we developed the ShiftSwapper system. Agents can now make adjustments to their schedules on their own. This freed up the time of monitoring specialists to solve more priority project tasks. Operators, in case of being late, can, for example, exchange a 15-minute part of the shift, by agreement with another operator. Such exchanges do not affect project performance and business performance.
Forecasting in the contact center: conclusions
Forecasting in the contact center is an important tool for effective resource management and ensuring high-quality customer service. The main goal of forecasting is to predict the number of calls, messages, requests that will come to the contact center in order to ensure that there is an adequate number of operators to service these requests and perform other tasks.
Forecasting allows you to ensure the appropriate number of operators in the contact center, reduce the waiting time of customers on the line, and reduce the costs of paying for extra hours of operator work. In addition, it helps to improve customer service and improve customer satisfaction.
Based on qualitative forecasting, our company saw the need to expand the number of locations in 2017. In 2018, we opened a new location in Nikopol, which allowed us to implement the business model of the project for which this location was opened. With the start of remote work in 2020, we successfully apply forecasting methods to realize business goals and use our own contact center software.
We can confidently say that forecasting in the contact center is an important tool that helps to ensure effective management of resources and improve the quality of customer service.
Specialist in planning, analysis, and IT products of the company Global Bilgi