Predicting inbound call volumes

Generally speaking it’s easier to predict larger call volumes in larger teams.

Call centre or Contact Centre Managers have lots of proven, and reliable techniques for this along with resource planning. Some even use sophisticated software and calculations such as Erlang b c d etc.

274/365 Mathsing it up, Jordan curve theorem style! stuartpilbrow via Compfight

In a small business it’s less predictable.  The variances to a model for things such as volume, call duration, wait time between calls, skill levels has consequences that are magnified!

Unexpected call volumes or unplanned absence or even popping to the loo can lose work instantly!

So what can small businesses learn from the big companies?

Well I think it’s common sense and basic analytics rather than rocket science.

1) Measure stuff – call volumes, call patterns, call duration, wait times, time to record notes etc.

2) Build in contingency – it’s much better to have spare time than to ever have to cope with overflow or over-demand.

3) Be flexible – flex your costs and resources to cope with demand rather than have fixed costs that are under-utilised and avoid having to pass this cost on to your clients. Look for flexibility with technology, staff, and how tasks are prioritised.

Looking back over phone bills may help identify busy times. Even better if you can get some management information from telephone supplier.

Failing that a method of recording calls manually as they come in can help identify patterns.

You don’t need sophisticated software to do this in a small business. Methods such as a five bar gate by reason can help or a timesheet style list can help. To do this get a piece of paper and every time a call comes in put a | on the paper in the time interval ie; 9am to 9.30, 9.30 to 10am etc.  At the end of the day you can quickly see where you had your most calls offered.  At the end of the week you will easily see what was your busiest day.

Doing a similar exercise but recording the purpose of the call and really help with business efficiency too.  You can then hopefully find ways of satisfying the customer without them having to call in unnecessarily ie; for a copy bill or a piece of information that could be made available on your website.  Evaluating the call purposes into “desirable” and “undesirable” can help to clarify things for ideas for improvement.

In a sales and marketing context it is useful too to see what kind of response a marketing activity generates so it’s a good habit to get into.

I hope this has given you some tips and please feel free to share your tips too.


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