Workforce planning in a call center is about having the right people focusing on key business goals and working productively. However, 44% of companies rely on three or more internal systems to handle their workforce management process.

But what exactly is workforce planning? And what are the fundamental rules that leading call centers are using to consistently provide outstanding customer experiences? In this guide, we will answer these questions. Let’s get started. 

What Is Workforce Planning? 

Workforce planning is the process call centers use to ensure that they have the right employees with the right skill set to handle incoming customers’ queries. 

Workforce management helps reduce operational costs, churn rates, and provides a better customer experience. Whether you use spreadsheets or contact center workforce management software, the basic components are the same. It includes:

  • Forecasting
  • Scheduling 
  • Monitoring
  • Reviewing

Let’s take an in-depth look at each of them and some golden rules for each. 

Forecasting:

This is where we predict call volumes based on historical data, trend, and seasonality. 

how do you forecast

Here are some ways to improve forecast accuracy. 

1- Create At Least Three Forecasts

All the forecasts you create will have a certain amount of uncertainty within them. Therefore, it is advisable to make at least three forecasts to prepare for the unexpected. 

One of your forecasts should be based on historical data. Another forecast should include insights into emerging trends that might impact call volume. The last one should represent various scenarios that might change over time and how many customers might want to call you. 

2- Remove Outliers From Your Contact History

Outliers in call centers refer to the calls that are random and least happening. For instance, you might receive calls related to issues that are caused by confusion and can be solved without expert guidance. 

Removing outliers from contact history can improve your forecast accuracy. However, you need to carefully analyze what and when to remove. 

3- Make the Forecast As Granular As Possible

Making the forecast as granular as possible will improve your accuracy and help meet your overall service level target. One way to do so is by forecasting for a 15-minutes level. However, if your average handling time (AHT) is near 15 minutes, you can use a 30-minutes interval level. 

Scheduling:

This is where you will make a plan to deal with your expectations using the forecast made above. Here’s how: 

4- Leverage Erlang Calculator

An Erlang calculator will help you calculate the number of staff you need to handle all the incoming calls. To use an Erlang calculator, you will need:

  • Expected number of incoming calls per day
  • Expected number of incoming calls for every 30 minutes/hour
  • Average handling time
  • Service level and target answer time
  • Target the occupancy rate of call center
  • Shrinkage percentage

If you are not sure how to do that, you can refer to our call center staffing guide here. You can then plan your shift patterns accordingly. 

5- Analyze Your Incoming Calls Time Pattern

Most contact centers see a rise in incoming calls just before and after the hour. Why? Because most people have lunch breaks, meetings, and finish other important tasks just before and after the hour. 

Analyze Your Incoming Calls Time Pattern

If you also see the above-shown pattern in your contact center, make sure to start your shift between hours and not at the start. This will ensure your customers don’t have to wait for long to get their issues resolved. 

6- Design Shifts That Your Employees Want to Work In

When you design shifts according to your employees’ lifestyles, they get a good work-life balance. As a result, there will be fewer absentees and more productivity in your call center. 

Ask your agents if they have any issues with their current schedule. And if they have, try to work around a new plan. 

Monitoring:

This is where you should monitor whether your service levels, occupancy rates, and other business targets are being met. Here’s how: 

7- Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

SOPs define everything in call centers, from staffing schedules to handling incoming calls and specifying how to meet business objectives. SOP helps ensure everyone in your call center is on the same page. 

When creating SOPs, make sure that you define each person’s roles, so they don’t need to seek permission to enforce emergency actions.

8- Have Processes In Place to Support Workforce Planning

When doing workforce planning, you should have processes to manage real-time absences and other unexpected scenarios. This will help ensure that the workforce planner has the authority to make necessary changes in real-time. 

9- Ensure That the Occupancy Is Not More Than 85%

Occupancy rate refers to the time your agents spend handling calls compared to available time. While you might want the occupancy rate to be as high as possible, it could negatively impact your service level, with your agents feeling overworked. 

The ideal occupancy rate in call centers is between 75% and 85%. If yours is more than 85%, it’s time to reconsider your workforce planning. 

Reviewing:

This is where you will review whether the forecasting, scheduling, and monitoring strategies are working. Here’s how: 

10- Evaluate Your Forecasts Against Your Tolerance

It is practically impossible to achieve 100% forecast accuracy. However, you should set a tolerance that allows you to be 5-10% off that mark. 

Compare your real-time daily, weekly, and monthly call volumes with that of your forecast. If it is more than 10% off the mark, you should reconsider your forecast planning. 

11- Re-Optimize Your Schedules

Schedules play an important role in your agent’s productivity and efficiency. However, many call centers plan schedules and make only small changes over time. 

Re-Optimize Your Schedules

When reviewing your forecasts, you also need to check schedules to see if you can change shift timings, advisor breaks, team meetings, and coaching sessions. This will help you get the most of your team in terms of efficiency and productivity. 

12- Review Your Time to Competency

Time to competency refers to the average time a new advisor takes to perform at a level your call center expects. Improving your time to competency ensures all your agents operate at a level you desire, thereby boosting productivity and efficiency. 

Wrapping Up

Workforce planning helps provide the best possible customer experience, increase job satisfaction, and reduce operational costs. Make sure to follow the fundamental rules of workforce planning in all the four key areas (forecasting, scheduling, monitoring, and reviewing). 

Do you follow any other workforce planning rules in your call center? What is it? Let us know in the comments. 

Updated : July 19, 2021

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