Would you?

That’s what you are doing when you use Excel to handle your contact center forecasting.

We know we could technically pound in a screw using a hammer….but you wouldn’t, because you have a better tool — a screwdriver.  And not only one but two to choose from, a flathead or a crosshead (normally known as a ‘philips’).  You use the best tool that gets the job done right – the first time.

Just because we are all used to using Excel (hammer), are comfortable with it, and can figure out how to leverage it for forecasting (flathead screw), or scheduling (crosshead screw), doesn’t mean it makes sense to use it.  Try a new tool:  WFM/uWFM (screwdriver).

Excel is extremely limited. In order to create new staff groups, forecast time periods, call types, forecast variables, or forecast methodologies a “power user” often has to go in and create new tables or worksheets (or entire new files). These files have to be stored and linked together. If you want your whole team to access it, you have to have it on network shared drives that they all need access to. You create a series of links between the spreadsheets, so when you change one variable it pulls through to the others. You manually add in erlang-C, or another algorithm for planning to get from workload to FTE required.

All this just gives you the workload demand. Now you need to create the spreadsheets that show the projected actual to compare this demand to, so you know the planning gaps that need to be solved. This means more spreadsheets with the rosters, projected attrition rates, new hire classes and productivity assumptions. Once you complete all of this, you need to go back and sift through this spaghetti of links and connections when something doesn’t work out right. It can be like looking for a needle in a haystack trying to figure out where you may have a disconnect or an incorrect variable.

Everything above is dependent on a few users who have the knowledge and access to make all of this happen. If you have this set-up, how well documented is it in case they leave and someone needs to step into their place and start working the forecast? Series of complicated Excel spreadsheets are a nightmare for organizations that are looking to ensure continuity and succession planning.

Forecasts have one purpose. It’s not “to predict the future”, as many would say. It’s actually to provide a mechanism for leadership to make decisions. A forecast is only a set of interesting numbers until it raises to the level of being understandable and actionable. This is one of the really weak points of Excel. When you review the forecast with senior leaders and someone asks why handle time in June is so high, what do you do? Have them wait while you pull up a random Excel spreadsheet that shows them the math that generated the number? As soon as that happens, you’ve lost your audience. You’ve changed the conversation around how to respond to the high handle time to trying to figure out why the forecast was high in the first place. The “death spiral” begins.

Don’t be another victim of Death by Spreadsheet where it comes to contact centre workforce management.

Look forward to our upcoming webinar where we discuss all the pain points and possible options.  More information to come soon!

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