Long-term capacity planning needs a serious overhaul, and the best strategy for a turnaround is a radical one.
If your full-time employee count (FTE) is consistently under or over your annual capacity plan, you need Radically Operationalized Capacity Planning. While this approach may require entirely new thinking for some contact centers, its potential benefits are significant— and worth the shift.
Why Overhaul Capacity Planning Now?
Today, hiring and business are dynamic, and nearly everything around us is in a constant state of flux. That’s why yesterday’s static approach to capacity planning requires a major shift.
Contact center leaders I speak with around the country tell me there is constant change related to attrition, hiring timelines, training requirements, and onboarding. There is also a demand for businesses to do everything more efficiently. Annual capacity plans and budgets aren’t getting the job done anymore, and that’s having negative, organizational-wide impacts. This is especially bad news amid a flagging, volatile economy that allows little room for operational missteps. It has never been more important to tighten current processes and deliver experiences that delight—and keep—customers, while also keeping an eye on efficiency.
In the live webinar, Radically Operationalized Capacity Planning, I dive into five strategies for improving how you can better do capacity planning. I’ll share some of the highlights here, but if you want to dig deeper, listen to the full recording on demand.
What is Capacity Planning?
The better question is: What is effective capacity planning? Effective capacity planning stays relevant to the dynamic needs of your business and customers. A static annual capacity plan – one that is built a year or more ahead of time – can’t do that.
COVID forced us to rethink and rejigger our business processes and manage every aspect of our contact centers. In some areas, it exposed long-standing operational weaknesses, and capacity planning is one of the areas long in need of a reboot.
It’s time to forget one-and-done annual plans. Capacity planning must catch up with scheduling, intraday management, and reporting, and the prize for doing so is significant.
Staff Shortages Aren’t New But They Are Increasingly Problematic
Customer service center leaders were managing staffing shortages long before the pandemic. Although, over the last two years, we’ve seen considerably higher turnover rates and extraordinary hiring challenges: think “The Great Resignation.”
Most recently, budget cuts amid inflation and troubling recessionary trends are wreaking havoc on long-term capacity planning. As I travel the country speaking—and listening—to contact center leaders, only about 20% say their staffing matches their annual plans. And, I keep hearing the desire and demand to get more and more efficient with the staff contact centers have in place.
The most common hurdles to maintaining planned capacity are:
- Budget restrictions that limit hiring
- Longer hiring timelines due to a contracted labor market
- Increased attrition from The Great Resignation
- New training requirements that extend onboarding
- Volume shifts and longer time to resolution for complex issues
Some CX leaders are facing all of these challenges.
Related Article: 3 Tips for Optimizing Your Contact Center Schedule
The Alternative to a Complex Web of Assumptions
Long-term capacity planning is based on a complex set of assumptions, including hiring, onboarding, and training timelines, expected churn, and PTO policies. These assumptions are all based on factors that can change—and often do—with material effects on service-level agreements (SLAs).
When SLAs are not met and customer experience declines, executive management looks to workforce managers for answers – particularly when there is a drop in SLAs, paired with staff inefficiencies. And the best answer is to move away from the unreliability of a web of assumptions to data-based capacity planning.
That means radically operationalizing how you do capacity planning. Here are five strategies to get started.
1. Adapt in Real-Time
Our assumptions can quickly become obsolete because training, onboarding, and business processes all constantly change. For modern contact center leaders, change is the reality. That’s a given. So, the question is how to do capacity planning in today’s real-world conditions and do it well.
It takes adapting knowledge and expectations in real-time. That means adjusting your assumptions—even re-evaluating SLA expectations—based on the most current data available. The quickest way to do that is with Workforce Management and QA solutions that aggregate and report on changes in real-time, empowering workforce planners to adjust accordingly and optimize performance.
2. Ensure Visibility and Accessibility
Capacity planning should be visible and accessible to workforce managers because they are the first line of impact when an annual or quarterly plan fails. Frequently though, the data needed to plan well is in disparate systems across departments, preventing planners from raising the flag for help in time to make changes and avoid negative impacts.
Long-term capacity plans are a good—and necessary—start. But to be successful, they require daily scrutiny and insight to ensure customers are served every day, and that takes the right data.
Capacity planners are stymied without visibility and accessibility to accurate and timely insights. According to Forrester, the question is no longer about collecting enough data, it’s about ensuring that the data collected is accurate and liberated from company silos. Armed with information usually available somewhere in the business network, capacity planners can more effectively respond to change and set appropriate expectations, particularly SLAs.
The most sophisticated and effective workforce management tools aggregate critical data, make it available through a shared console, and even have the intelligence to make recommendations for effective shifts and responses.
3. Move Away from Assumptions
Look to solutions that can continually provide these insights. The most advanced solutions leverage the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to make recommendations and even connect data back to other systems.
While capacity planning does require some degree of supposition, capacity planners and our partners in recruiting, training, and operations must lean on workforce management tools to assimilate data in real-time and provide clear and realistic insights.
Data integration across systems empowers customer support leaders to accurately calculate valuable metrics like time-to-hire, time-to-effectiveness, retention rates, and even agent compensation, all of which directly affect capacity plan accuracy. And, if you’re looking to create efficiency in your customer support center, these metrics are all critical.
4. Become Referenced And Relevant
Too often, long-term capacity forecasts for customer support centers are used to budget and plan hiring, but as business conditions change, they’re thrown out and ignored. In some cases, they serve not as a realistic predictor of needs, but merely as the controls to restrict additional funding or hiring even as conditions change and needs increase.
It’s time for the capacity plan for your customer service center to become an integral part of every conversation—even when it’s inaccurate. The best way to do that is with resource planning tools that are simple to use and quickly accessible. For workforce planners, these tools should be an integral part of the everyday workflow.
The other significant benefit of intelligent capacity planning tools is they make the process data-driven. You have a clear advantage when you can support your plans with data over conjecture. And, importantly, the data is most impactful when it is continually updated to match existing conditions in your support center.
When your capacity plan is a constantly referenced, relevant part of your business model —and cross-functional conversations regularly happen around it—your capacity plans do the job they are meant to do – make the best and most efficient use of your talented team.
5. Be Radically Operationalized
Long-term plans are strategic, and they are important, but in constantly changing economic and organizational conditions, evolving your capacity plan to meet change is critical. Simply put, this is how capacity planning must be done to be effective— today and long-term.
The reality of everyday operations means we will inevitably miss our annual strategic goals sometimes. To avoid this, workforce planners must be armed with the capacity planning tools and relevant data to drive consistent success, improve efficiency, and eliminate overhead costs.
Move from strategic to radically operationalized to:
- Continuously update plan assumptions with data
- Connect real-time data across systems and departments
- Make capacity planning part of the everyday conversation
- Improve efficiency across your workforce
Playvox Can Help
While current economic conditions will change, many of the operational processes and strategies we have relied on are gone forever and no longer serve us. To meet the needs of our customers and employees, we must adapt for and with them. That’s how we build loyalty that lasts through any conditions.
Request a demo today to learn more about the reimagined Capacity Planner that’s part of Playvox Workforce Management. The tool enables contact center leaders to access historical hiring data, create staffing scenarios, pinpoint resource needs, enhance team efficiency, and determine how and when to scale workforce levels.