Top 20 Tips on Spreadsheet Forecasting at a Contact Center

When you launch a call center or a contact center, you usually have a vision in mind. What do you want your business to achieve?

What is the whole point of it all? You must have a bigger picture in mind, right? Before we get into all of that, let’s come back to the basics.

By now, you should have an idea of the versatility of the field of customer care – not only is it versatile, but also ever changing.

There are new developments and inventions cropping up everywhere. While most software technology that comes up claims to be the best call center software, we beg to differ.

We believe that each software technology is unique and serves a definite purpose. Hence, be sure to make your call center software comparison using the correct metrics.

Well, that doesn’t mean you go for whatever technology is ruling the markets – the key is to identify what your exact requirements are at a certain point of time and acquire software technology that meets it.

For instance, it is important to be able to forecast the path of your business in the upcoming years. See how we only use the word “forecast”, instead of “plan”? Well, that is because we know that plans rarely work and the maximum you can do is have an idea of what you want and hope that it turns into reality.

Don’t worry – in customer care, circumstances aren’t all that dire.

In a cloud call center, spreadsheet forecasting is a very common practice. In fact, most call centers do it. Let’s say you are planning to launch a new product into the market – or better yet, let’s imagine a situation where you have already done so.

In that case, you will need to chalk out a plan – or rather, trace an exact map of what you expect the product’s sales to be a few months from now. That is what spreadsheet forecasting is all about.

The term “forecast” means predict. You basically have to estimate or predict what the course of your business will be in the next weeks, months or years. This not only helps you understand what the bigger picture is but also sets goals.

Your team members thus have the finish line in front of them – one they must cross. However, business projections using spreadsheet forecasting is a rather technical concept. To help you understand, we are providing you with a few tips:

1. In MS Excel, there are quite a few tricks and tactics which can make your work easier for you. For instance, while planning out your time, use the command – “[H] : MM : SS”. When you are doing anything that has something to do with time, this is what you should use.

This command basically lets you plan for anything more than 24 hours. It also makes your work a whole lot easier since your time related functions and calculations can be done in a single click.

2. In the case of spreadsheet forecasting, you will have to use several number of tasks more than once. In most cases, you will have to go for a lengthy procedure to complete the tasks.

However, it would be better if you had short cuts that allowed to you to carry out these tedious tasks with just a few clicks. Pivot tables is one such aspect of the spreadsheet you will be commonly using. You can make use of the ribbon short cuts to access the pivot tables and other such tasks.

3. You, the creator of the spreadsheet, know every little tiny detail by heart. You know what the table stands for. You know what each fact and figure on the table means.

But not every one might find it that easy to read a table. Not everyone might be able to understand what it stands for. When it comes to spreadsheets, you need to come up with graphical formats that even laymen can understand and follow. That makes it easier to use call center software solutions.

4. Most people make the silly mistake of adding extra columns to the data in hand. That makes your spreadsheet look clumsy.

Now you might feel that appearance isn’t all that important – it is the content of the spreadsheet that matters. You are right, to some extent though. Adding extra columns to your data will simply make it all the more complicated for you.

Instead, you can just calculated fields when it comes to your pivot tables in the spreadsheet.

5. While using the spreadsheet, you basically need to know each little trick of excel thoroughly. For instance, people often tend to select individual cells when it comes to working on the spreadsheets.

While that doesn’t cause too much of a problem, it takes up some precious time which could have been used for something more valuable. Instead, you could select whole columns. That would save you time.

6. In the spreadsheet forecasts, you aren’t just supposed to include data for the upcoming years. Basically, you have to take into account the track record of the previous years.

That is significant because it helps you get an idea of how your business will pan out in the future. You should be able to incorporate the past years’ data into your new spreadsheet. One way of doing that is using the WEEKNUM function.

7. When you are creating a forecast or an official business estimate, how can you leave out holidays and other such factors?

Your forecast spreadsheet should have a holiday column which records the volume and sales on particular days versus others.

This will help you come up with a specific pattern. You’ll see that there is a very specific trend when it comes to the records of the past years. That would come in handy while planning for the future as well.

8. Public holidays come every year. If you spend thanksgiving and Christmas last year, you are going to celebrate it again this year and for years to come as well.

They are unavoidable and there is at least one each month. Thus, there exists a very specific formula which can help you plan your spreadsheet forecast around it. The formula is, WORKDAY(Date,NumberOfDays,PublicHolidayList).

9. Statistics and figures show that people opting for a a standard percentage shrinkage tend to suffer more than people who don’t.

Earlier on, this method we considered beneficial; however of late, people prefer to use non business as usual activity tracking.

This kind of non BAU tracking makes your work easier for you and also helps you track patterns for the future.

10. In call center management software, there are basically two methods that are used when it comes to planning an estimate for long term purposes. One is exponential smoothing and the other happens to be weighted average.

Most contact centers would make the mistake of choosing just one. Because you must remember that exponential smoothing isn’t really caved out for long term. It is more of a short term solution. A combination of the two would help you get better results.

11. This might sound a tad bit silly to you, but you need to check the weather forecast before you proceed to spreadsheet forecasting.

While you plan your numbers and patterns, the Nature gods may have a different plan in mind together. Studying the weather forecast would tell you what is in store for you in the days to come. Accordingly, based on that, you can start your planning.

12. Spreadsheets and forecasts in call center software are designed to make your work easier for you. Many people have come up with the queries about a formula that can help trace the call volumes from more needy newer customers and those from older customers who are by nature, less needy.

Now obviously the equation is going to be pretty long and complicated, especially if you are planning months in advance. However, the pivot tables make it a whole lot easier.

13. If you are indeed using spreadsheets to trace forecasting and also to plan, then you will need to take into account the breaks that have been scheduled for your workers.

These breaks play a key role because it helps you understand overstaffing and understaffing as well. You would have to break your forecast down into 15 minute intervals – that is ideally the duration of the breaks taken.

14. You know how they say that you should prepare for the worst? The same goes for spreadsheet forecasting too. Do not set high expectations which you would fail to meet. Make sure the goals you set are practical and calculated.

However, while you prepare for the worst, you should work for the best too. That is what will get you across the finish line.

15. Earlier on, people had a tendency to maintain a spreadsheet forecast annually. That means, it would be updated annually. But think about it, by the end of the year, your forecast becomes quite stale.

How good is that, anyway? It is considered to be more beneficial if you update your spreadsheets monthly, or at least every six months.

16. Also, if you are dealing with products, you need to take into account discounts and how they affect the sale of your item.

Throughout the year, different kinds of discounts are offered for various reasons – it could be promotional or seasonal. In your spreadsheet forecasts, you will have to take these discounts into account.

Basically, you need to plan the timing of your sales well in advance if you want it to go off smoothly.

17. While using cloud call center software solutions to design your spreadsheet forecasts, you cannot work in isolation.

You need to get the sales team of your company involved; present the idea to them, maintain open lines of communication with them and take their opinion.

Listen to what they have to say – it might just help you plan your forecast better.

18. When you are planning the forecast, don’t just take into account the customers, but also yourself too.

Both the company, its past record, its performance so far, the prevalent trends and the attitude of both new and existing customers need to take into account.

A wholesome knowledge of the above and a fine blend will help you attain success in the years to come.

19. Spreadsheet forecasting in call centres is used to track call volumes.

If you are indeed tracking call volumes to get a grasp of what they would be like in the months to come, then you need to take into account the three kinds of calls – offered calls, calls that are handled and calls that have been abandoned.

20. From the last nineteen tips, you should have been able to figure out two key points. One, spreadsheet forecasting is absolutely essential if you want to get your sales rates up.

You should be able to trace patterns and also track where your sales are heading. And two, your forecast would be used to track call volumes. Estimating call volumes would help you in the long run.

The case study

By now, you have a clear idea of what spreadsheet forecasting, what call center software pricing is and how important it is.

Also, you should have a clear idea of why your forecasting needs to be accurate. In order to support the points that we have presented above, we are providing you with a detailed case study as well.

Spreadsheet forecasting is a technique used by a lot of major companies; however, it is how you use it that is more important.

A company that handled independent bottling for Pepsi had been following the standard and simple forecasting methods that were prevalent in the industry. However, their predictions were far from correct.

The company could realise the growing importance for the spreadsheet forecasting and accurate results.

Without proper methods of forecast, opportunities were whizzing by and were missed; employees too were taking longer to produce results that were essential.

Thus, it was important to completely reform the forecasting technology.

First and foremost, it was important for the company to understand where they were going wrong. It was also important to understand the impending doom and the challenges that the company was facing.

A visual representation was created of the challenges that were being faced and the current demand of the forecasting technology and how it could be improved.

A machine or a software technology was thus developed which took into account the forecasting activities and this application could augment the demand.

As part of the forecasting activity, the new application took into account information related to holidays, weather, economy, sales and so on. A fine combination of all these information would help in achieving further accuracy when it came to the forecasts.

As a result, the overall income of the company increased that year by nearly 300,000 dollars. It wasn’t just the net income that saw a sudden increase, the company also noted an improvement in the overall customer satisfaction rates.

Customers now left satisfied and were twice as more likely to be loyal to the company. To add to this, the company’s forecasts were now much more accurate and thus a whole lot more effective.

Thus, you can see how important accurate spreadsheet forecasting really is as call center software for small business.

If this concept is still alien to you at your call center, these tips and the case study could be just what you need.

Case study link:

http://content.nexosis.com/hubfs/docs/Nexosis_Pepsi_CaseStudy_FINAL.pdf?t=1479148634841