Andreas Mai, Consultant
Staff planning and forecasting for customer service
"I have a question about my bill" is one of the most common reasons why a customer contacts the service center. To ensure that this question is satisfactorily answered and that the customer has a positive experience with customer service, a well-organized staff schedule is essential. As a result, the customer will then get exactly the right employee on the other end of the line. But how should successful workforce planning for customer service be structured?
One basis for a solid staffing plan is historical data from all contact channels served to date. However, you should not only consider customer service, but also the business development over the last few years. The more data you have available, the more accurately you can plan the staffing requirements needed for the months, weeks, days, and hours for the coming fiscal year.
An important component of historical data is the customer base development:
- How many new customers have you acquired in recent years?
- How often does a new customer contact you in the first few months and on which channels?
- How often is your service contacted by existing customers?
When analyzing this data, it is important to identify trends that have been triggered not only by automation and innovation, but also by identified process errors and to evaluate them accordingly for planning purposes. Important events, such as product releases, holidays, or vacation periods, must also be considered. On this basis, it is possible to create an initial plan for service requirements.
For further planning, it is important to include the business development expected for the planning period. The planned optimization of existing customer service measures must also be considered when calculating the expected customer contacts with their possible positive or negative effects. Sales also plans its new customer growth for the coming fiscal year. This information, coupled with the experience gained from historical data, indicates the expected impact for customer service.
It is important to remember that the more data and more information you can gather, the more accurately you can calculate the expected contact volume.
A Step-by-Step Approach in Determining Personnel Requirements
The first step in planning is strategic forecasting. This forecast contains expected contacts, for example on a monthly or weekly basis, and enables long-term personnel requirements planning, usually for a fiscal year. Having this information allows for enough time to recruit and train additional employees. Moreover, targeted training and leave can be planned and allocated during periods when staffing requirements are lower.
The second step is called tactical forecast and maps the coming annual quarters. Customer contacts are planned on a weekly and daily basis. Just as in the following operational forecast, the findings and announcements from other areas that influence the service are considered in the preparation.
In the final planning step, an operational forecast is created. The operational forecast can be planned down to 15-minute intervals, depending on data availability. This forecast is the basis for the precise employee scheduling and is carried out on a recurring basis. Even at short notice, all events from the recent past and their effects on customer service can be included in this forecast. For example, a new product may be more service-intensive than expected, the new billing may not be as comprehensible to as many customers as announced, or the “summer slump” may be more pronounced than expected in June.
Taking Individual Differences into Account
At this point, it is a matter of using these figures to deploy the right employees at the right time. In this case, it is also possible to rely on historical data. In smaller teams, however, planning is often done by the team leader themself. Additionally, the “human factor” can be taken into account, because people work at different speeds. For example, it may be that new colleagues are not yet as familiar with the CRM system and therefore, take a little longer. An employee with many years of experience may work faster, but if he has to explain a new product to the customer, he may find it difficult. This knowledge about your employees can help you with scheduling and compensate for over- and under-coverage in daily planning. After all, the productivity and efficiency of each employee is important in this step.
Finding the Faulty Planning – an example from Junokai's consulting practice
On a Saturday, the service area of a telecommunications provider was only able to accept 60 percent of telephone customer inquiries. Although according to their plan, significantly more employees were deployed than necessary. During the analysis, we were able to quickly determine that 70 percent of the employees deployed on that Saturday had completed their initial training only a few days before. These employees lacked the necessary experience, and their processing times were significantly higher than those of experienced employees. However, this factor was not taken into account during the planning process. This is a perfect example of how average processing time and productivity play a decisive role in workforce planning.
Good and forward-looking planning is important in customer service. It is also the basis for a high level of customer satisfaction. Good accessibility is the first step to a positive customer experience, loyalty, and willingness to buy more.
Junokai is the consulting arm of Majorel. The Berlin-based consulting company supports clients from various industries in all areas of customer service. Junokai was founded in 2013 by experienced managers with extensive professional expertise in sales and marketing, and customer service. The company’s strategic pillar is its operational experience and focus on customer experience, customer service and sales.
For more information, please visit: www.junokai.de