Winter is here, and with it comes a group eager to devour all that may lie in their path.
Luckily, it’s not the white walkers from the hit show Game of Thrones, but a whole other type of army – shoppers waiting to grab the latest bargains in the lead up to the festive season.
Black Friday takes place this year on November 24th and if it’s anything like 2016 which saw an estimated spend of 2.9 billion* (with savvy shoppers also browsing online in order to avoid the high street chaos), contact centres handling inbound customer contacts will need to be ready to handle the repercussions of online as well as offline customer purchases.
How can contact centres make sure they are fully equipped?
Workforce planners worldwide will all nod their heads in agreement when we say that regardless of the sophistication of the workforce management tool or processes in place, the foundation of optimising staffing relies on the precision of forecasting and efficient workforce planning. Optimising schedules to meet the demands of Black Friday, will not be successful unless staffing requirements have been identified correctly.
The question then is: How can we best predict the demand for such special events?
Here are our top workforce management forecasting tips for contact centres in the run up to Black Friday:
Make use of historical workforce planning data
Before any scheduling can be done, an organisation needs to understand what has happened in the past.
Identifying the workload
In order to forecast the workload for each channel type, you must consider the historical data (both volumes and average handle times). Whether you are using a Workforce Management solution and have the data ready at your disposal, or whether you are still using Excel, you should be making use of the historical data from previous Black Fridays.
The period itself needs looking at, not just Black Friday, as the days before and after will also be influenced. More and more companies are promoting “Cyber Monday” and “Black Friday Weeks”, meaning that periods requiring bespoke forecasting outside “business as usual” levels have become greater.
Use Event Profiles
As well as using historical data to forecast workload for each channel type, it is equally important to use this data to identify and create an event profile as well as one for the surrounding days.
Event profiles will be used to understand how and where the workload will be coming from and will therefore help you effectively manage your resource planning. Creating a profile for your Black Friday (period) forecast will allow you to see where your spikes will be and enable you to plan accordingly.
‘What-If’ WFM scenarios
The preparation in the lead up to Black Friday for any workforce planner is vital. During this time period, and before any specific details are available around the different deals, planners should be preparing for varying levels of impact on the contact centre which will affect their workforce planning.
In order to prepare, planners should put together different forecasts, making use of “what-if scenarios”. When further details come to light it may be clear that the expected impact is more/less severe than previous Black Fridays you have witnessed. Having different WFM forecasts on hand that are ready to be pushed into your default scenario when needed will be of huge benefit to you and your resource planning.
If this is the first year that your company is extending deals (such as ‘Black Friday week’) then you may wish to have scenarios ready to quickly/dynamically reflect varying levels of impact on volumes, as you start to establish how volumes are being affected.
WFM Real-time Management
It is also important for planners to use real-time management during Black Friday and the period around it, in order to compare and identify any misalignments between planned agent activity to actual call and contact volumes on the day.
Real-time management will provide you with the insight you need to assess if and when you will need to re-forecast on the day. This is extremely important and should be identified as early as possible in order to promptly realign resources to meet your demands and effectively manage your resource planning.
If you do find your forecasts are misaligned with business needs, do not act hastily and realign forecasts to meet demand but make sure you analyse the situation and why this might have happened.
Scenario: It’s Black Friday and for the first four intervals of the day, web chat volumes are 40% higher than inbound, which was not expected.
The question now is: do you adjust forecasts to support the shift in demand?
However, before you decide, you need to ask yourself: Why are chats up? Perhaps this is due to a flash sale which consumers could only be a part of online. If this is the driver, and the flash sale has ended, then no action may be needed here other than to monitor this channel.
On the contrary, if volumes (across channels) are down against what you forecasted and you identify the reason for this is that competitors have significantly undercut you on key products within the market that you were looking to push, then it’s unlikely the volumes will get back to the forecasted level today. Action should be taken – re-forecast and adjust staffing levels accordingly (flex down).
Workforce Management (WFM) can play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of your organisation. With over 30 years’ experience in voice and Workforce Optimisation technology, our team have seen it all.
If you need advice on how to optimise your workforce management solution or whether you are still considering implementing one, then talk to our expert team of workforce optimisation consultants.
Lastly, we’d love to hear from you! How have you been preparing your contact centre for Black Friday?
*Black Friday sales rush reported by retailers – BBC News