Forecasting is hard. Without workforce management (WFM) software doing the heavy lifting, it’s even harder. But how do you choose the right WFM tool when you need to significantly improve your forecasting accuracy?
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Whether you’re ditching spreadsheets or choosing better software, here are some criteria to help you decide the winning solution that’s right for you.
Cutting-edge forecasting technology
If you’re doing your own forecasting as a planner, it may be hard to trust new software to do the job for you. How do you determine which forecasting technology is the best?
Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms
One key indicator of world-class WFM software is the use of machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI) for forecasting. Whether it's forecasting call volumes or average handle time (AHT), a WFM tool should leverage AI to give you better forecasting accuracy every day. This is becoming a technology standard across various industries for many reasons.
AI forecasting algorithms recognize patterns and trends much faster than a human and with better accuracy. They consistently outperform standard forecasting models, too. While it may take you a few days to forecast the workload for the upcoming weeks, a WFM tool can do this in a matter of seconds. And continue refreshing and improving the forecast, around the clock.
The best part? The more data that an AI forecasting algorithm is given, the more accurate it becomes over time. With this much power, you can predict your call volumes and average handle time (AHT) much more easily and with greater accuracy.
Tech that proves its own accuracy
A cutting-edge forecasting tool will let you see exactly how accurate it is. An essential feature for you to check for is the ability to save versions of a forecast for later use. This allows you to compare your forecast against actuals. For example, you can compare the call volume forecast that you used to create your staffing schedule with your current incoming calls. This type of feature comes standard in injixo. If it’s important to you, you may want to add this feature to your must-have list.
Forecasting accurately for your data
Your next WFM software may have all the tech bells and whistles, but your data is important, too. The accuracy of your forecast depends on your historical data. That’s why this is another must-have criterion for choosing your ideal WFM tool. Your integrations and the quality of the data may determine your choice of software. Let us take a closer look at some examples.
Your integrations matter
In a perfect world, the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) you use is perfect. You have few or no outages. The data collected is accurate and usable. For you, the logical next step is to choose a WFM tool that integrates best with your ACD. In this scenario, the choice of your winning WFM software is clear. But in reality, the world is not always that simple…
What if you have an unconventional ACD?
If you have a custom or homegrown ACD, the quest to find the right WFM solution may be harder. Some companies may try to sell you their own ACD solution as part of their WFM suite. If you are happy with your ACD, a WFM vendor should not force you into an IT overhaul.
At injixo, we believe that your ACD should always be your choice. That’s why we offer many native integrations that you can set up with a couple of clicks, and we're building more all the time. Want to create a new integration by yourself or with your ACD partner? You'll need a WFM application like injixo that comes with an open integrations API that enables the transfer of contact data and real-time adherence data. For smaller contact centers with homegrown ACDs, injixo has standard integration solutions that update once per day.
What if you have multiple integrations?
An ACD may not be your only source of data. In fact, an ACD may not even be your primary source of data. You may be forecasting for multiple contact centers and consolidating data from multiple ACDs. Similarly, you may depend on a CRM, customer engagement software, or another tool as your primary data source. In these situations, you may prioritize a WFM that can support multiple integrations.
For example, in injixo, setting up and managing multiple integrations is supported natively. Within this setup, the features of each integration— including call history, agent status, and RTA— are also supported. Being able to incorporate all of your data into your WFM tool is fundamental to accurate forecasting.
Your data matters, too
Integrations matter, but so does the quality of your data. If you’re forecasting with spreadsheets, you know how foundational your data is. Why? Your forecast is only as good as your data. Having sophisticated WFM software is not going to magically make your forecasts accurate. That’s why you may want to ask about the data support your prospective vendor provides.
Your future WFM vendor should be as concerned as you are about your data. Inquire about how they will support your data’s quality and integrity. Learn about the training, customer success support, consulting services, and other professional services they provide. Ask about how the onboarding process ensures your data integration is done right. Knowing how your data needs will be met helps you succeed in your forecasting goals.
Forecasting for your activities
Adjusting for future campaigns, events, holidays, and activities
Like your data, future campaigns and events influence your forecast. Upcoming holidays and marketing create fluctuations in your activity volumes. Being able to factor your business intelligence into a WFM tool is ideal for solving these forecasting problems.
When vetting your next software, ask about how you can adjust for known anomalies and events in a forecast. See how seasonal variations and market trends are referenced and analyzed. Assess how these features may work for you and your business. In injixo, for example, events are simple tags while public holiday calendars are preloaded for ease of use.
Trust your judgement
There may be many more factors to consider when selecting your WFM finalist. But you and your team are the ultimate decision-makers. Forecasting accurately with the right WFM software is important for getting the right staffing and supporting your goals (including your service levels). Trust your judgement and focus on the goals that you are trying to achieve.
Here are some quick takeaways from this article:
- AI forecasting algorithms are making big strides in forecasting accuracy and it’s important to see how these technologies can work for your business.
- Look for software that allows you to save “snapshots” to compare forecasts against actuals.
- Your ACD is your choice. Don’t feel forced to change it for your WFM tool.
- If you have multiple integrations, factor that into your WFM software choice.
- Data quality and integrity should be as important to your next WFM vendor as it is to you.
- Ask about training, onboarding, consulting, and other support services they may offer for ensuring the data feeding your forecast is accurate.
- Get a demo of features that record future activities— like holidays and marketing campaigns— that may influence your forecast.
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Originally published on Feb 11, 2020, updated on Mar 29, 2023.
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