Forecast Accuracy: An Oft-Overlooked Yet Essential Metric
Forecast Accuracy may not be as well known or as sexy as other members of the contact center metric club – e.g., FCR, C-Sat, Contact Quality – but that doesn’t make it any less critical to contact center success.
Unfortunately, many centers don’t bother to track Forecast Accuracy. This explains why, when we call many companies as a customer, we often have the sudden urge to learn voodoo or how to box.
Forecast Accuracy measures the percent variance between the number of calls (or chats) predicted to arrive during a given period and the number of contacts that the contact center actually receives during that time. (You’ll sometimes hear Forecast Accuracy described as “forecasted contact load vs. actual contact load.) Most contact center managers who measure this metric consider a 5% variance to be acceptable. Naturally, they strive to do even better – that is, try to achieve a lower % variance – but a 5% variance is generally good enough to keep senior management and customers from trying to hurt them.
For those of you new to this metric, you can retrieve data on forecasted contact load from whatever system or tool you 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.
Workforce management experts consider it a best practice to report forecast accuracy at the half-hour (ideal) or at least the hour interval level, rather than across days, weeks or months, as interval-level tracking gives a much clearer view of how badly your center botched the forecast.
If you truly care about your customers, agents and contact center costs, you simply must add Forecast Accuracy to your center’s list of key performance indicators. Once you get a handle on this metric, you’ll find under-staffing will occur much less frequently, as will the furious callers, frustrated agents and excessive hold and handle times that go along with that.
Keep in mind, inaccurate forecasting can also result in over-staffing. Sure, your customers won’t mind, but over-staffing is costly and wasteful and thus will certainly cause ire in the C-Level Suite. Furthermore, it gives agents too much free time between calls to think, which increases the likelihood of them realizing how grossly underpaid they are.