Off Center
If the key call center metrics were to form a rock band, Forecast Accuracy would most likely be the bass player – less flashy and famous than its fellow members like C-Sat, FCR and Service Level, but no less critical for an effective performance.

Forecast Accuracy is sometimes referred to as “forecasted contact load vs. actual contact load”, but only by managers who like to make things more painful than necessary. The metric shows the percent variance between the number of calls (or chats) predicted to arrive during a given period and the number of contacts that the call center actually receives during that time. Most managers consider a 5% variance to be acceptable, though they naturally shoot for better (a lower %) than that. Those that regularly achieve a 15% variance or worse are sent directly to workforce management prison.

Missed it by That Much

So how exactly does one go about tracking Forecast Accuracy?

I’m glad I asked.

Call centers can retrieve data on forecasted contact load from whatever system or tool they use for forecasting (e.g., the center’s WFM system or Excel spreadsheets), then compare that to the data on the actual contact load received, which comes from the center’s ACD, email/chat management system as well as other report sources. The best call centers report forecast accuracy at the half-hour or hour interval level, rather than across days, weeks or months, as interval-level tracking gives a much clearer view of how horribly you botched the forecast.  

Accurate forecasting is paramount in any call center that gives a darn about customers, agents and cost efficiency. Without a measure in place to gauge the effectiveness of the center’s forecast, under-staffing can often occur, causing queues to fill with furious callers, furious callers to verbally eviscerate innocent agents, and innocent agents to throw fists through expensive equipment. Of course, all of this adds expensive seconds and minutes to wait and handle times, causing irritated executives to cut budgets and rescind their promise to add a window in the call center. 

Inaccurate forecasting may result in costly over-staffing, as well. And while this may make customers happy, it will certainly ire senior management -- as well as give agents too much free time between calls to think and figure out that they could probably earn more money making balloon animals for children in the park.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, share it in the comment box below.

Nice comments are also accepted – after careful review.

8/25/2011 10:32:06 pm

WFM prison lol

8/25/2011 10:42:02 pm

GREG!!!! You have actually seen an Accurate Forecast!!! A real one!!!! I thought they were just something you read about in fairy-tale books.

8/25/2011 10:47:06 pm

Yes, Tiffany -- I am the warden of WFM prison. And I will tolerate no insurrection nor highly inaccurate forecasts.

8/25/2011 10:57:26 pm

Scott, accurate forecasts actually do exist. You can typically find them at the end of a rainbow or in the tallest tower of a far-away castle.

Best of luck!


8/26/2011 12:15:34 am

"Missed it by That much"....and do you also suggest that coaching conversations take place in the cone of silence?

8/26/2011 12:25:19 am

Yes, Lee -- I strongly advise CC managers and supervisors to "get smart" and adopt said practices.

Thanks for stopping by! (Don't let the automated sliding steel door hit you on the way out.)


8/26/2011 02:25:47 am

Keep things under "control". "Chaos" can kill you.


9/7/2011 11:31:15 pm

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as an accurate forecast. Unlike Santa Claus, accurate forecasts are possible and more likely than seeing the Easter Bunny. But then, I am blessed to have a teammate who has a history of creating forecasts at an interval level with a accuracy rate of +/- 1%. She is now working to share her crystal ball with the world...or least our clients, anyway.

Great post, Greg - as you pointed out, it's darn near impossible to accurately staff to meet your workload if you don't have a clue as to what your workload will be. While stuff always happens, the better we plan for stuff, the less likely stuff will actually hit the fan and land all over your agents.

9/7/2011 11:36:32 pm

Great input, Michelle. Such clever and captivating commentary leads me to think that you should have a blog of your own!



9/17/2011 01:26:11 am

Great article. I wish my CSRs were equal in their performance, but sadly I can easily have one guy doing the work of two or (more commonly) one guy, perhaps daydreaming of making a small fortune in balloon animals, who woefully underperforms.

A truly equal set of performers makes running the numbers close to margin a much safer bet. And one wrench in the works and your department is maxed out. Makes for great fun at the next meeting.


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