Forecasting and Scheduling: Adapting to the New Normal forecasting and scheduling

Forecasting and Scheduling: Adapting to the New Normal

Before 2020, contact center forecasting and scheduling was considered more of an art than a science. No two schedules were the same, and lots of intuition and calculations went into building a winning formula. However, since then, changing scheduling dynamics have added layers of complexity to deriving accurate and optimal schedule forecasts. To stay current with the “new normal” managers must embrace a modern approach to workforce management. 

The Hybrid Effect

Historically, we thought of the workplace as one location where employees showed up to work every day. That concept no longer applies as today’s office is distributed, mobile, and flexible. Consider this fact: a Pew Research study reported that more than a third of workers with remote jobs that can be done remotely are working from home all the time. The study also found hybrid work arrangements to be on the rise with 41% of those with jobs that can be done remotely working a hybrid schedule. 

The shift from full-time onsite work to a mix of hybrid and remote arrangements has forced contact center leaders to adapt and evolve. Striving to meet changing employee preferences around flexibility, while maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction, has created the need for advanced forecasting and sophisticated scheduling solutions. 

Forecasting and Scheduling: Adapting to the New Normal forecasting and scheduling

What Managers Need to Know 

In basic terms, contact center f​orecasting is the process of predicting the future contact volume. In the past, this typically referred only to the phone channel, but in today’s digital era, it now includes online channels such as chat and email. With an accurate forecast, the number of agents needed to handle the work can be determined and scheduled appropriately. 

Forecasting relies on data and trends to produce information that helps businesses prepare for forthcoming changes such as seasonal spikes, business-impacting events, and partner activities. Forecasting accuracy allows supervisors to make better, more flexible scheduling decisions. 

New developments in technology, along with rising customer expectations and employee preferences, have added significant complexity for contact center management.

Manual Methods of Forecasting and Scheduling are No Longer Enough

Spreadsheets were the logical forecasting and scheduling tool when agents were centralized in one location, handling only voice calls. However, with agents working from various locations and juggling a range of communication channels, a new approach is needed to maintain agile operations. Still, nearly half of all contact centers (47%) are still manually creating forecasting models. To overcome the challenges and limitations of working in spreadsheets, AI-powered solutions deliver a highly efficient and accurate way to bring automation to the scheduling process.  

The Digital Era is Different

With 57% of customers now preferring to engage companies through digital channels, the time has come for contact centers to fully embrace forecasting and scheduling software. In order to forecast and schedule accurately across different channels, managers must make complex calculations to ensure their contact center is staffed with the right people at the right times. Modern cloud-based workforce management solutions (WFM) overcome the added complexities of multiple digital channels and deliver the accuracy and context to make forecasting and scheduling easy, flexible, and fast. 

Flexibility is Key

Flexible work arrangements are critical to achieving agent performance and satisfaction among today’s workforce. In order to improve employee engagement with flexible work options, managers are faced with additional complexity in workforce scheduling. Fortunately, modern forecasting tools can handle many factors, such as WFH scheduling, shift exchanges, break options, and more. Ultimately, today’s WFM solutions make it easy for managers to be flexible with capacity planning, forecasting, and real-time employee scheduling.

Why Now? 

The landscape has changed dramatically, and more than ever, the name of the game is efficiency. Contact center leaders still using old school spreadsheets are likely spending far too much time trying to get it right. It is unreasonable to expect to be able to swiftly and accurately predict required staffing levels and schedule hybrid or remote teams of agents that handle multiple contact channels with flexible schedules without a powerful tool like automation.

What to Look For

Technology-powered forecasting and scheduling offer benefits to the organization, including time savings, cost optimization, customer experience, agent productivity, and employee satisfaction. Proven omnichannel WFM software solutions allow organizations to become highly efficient and effective. When considering adopting WFM for forecasting and scheduling, evaluate solutions with built-in AI and automation as they can deliver accurate and actionable insights, reducing manual work and human error. Also, solutions that measure asynchronous and synchronous channels independently will provide more accurate forecasting and flexible work arrangements across every channel.

It’s Time to Modernize 

Improving forecasting and scheduling operations can seem challenging when an older process is already in place. However, spending time on strategic planning will bring valuable savings and efficiencies going forward. To keep pace with the shifting contact center landscape, tapping into advanced forecasting and scheduling software will help you to meet and exceed your service goals. 

Learn the essential elements needed to modernize your forecasting and scheduling in our webinar: “Building the Agent Experience Innovation Center.”

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