Three Common Operating Mistakes in a Catalog Contact Center
Obviously, such failures could be the result of many factors, but often it’s simply that managers don’t focus on the basics: accurately forecasting workload and staffing requirements and, most importantly, controlling the related labor costs. Given that labor runs at about 80 percent of a cataloger’s operating costs, it’s impossible to balance service and costs without closely managing the workforce.
To that end, here are three of the most common operating mistakes I find in poorly run catalog contact center operations, along with the techniques that well-run operations successfully employ to better handle the same processes.
Mistake No. 1: Ineffective Forecasting of Incoming Call Volume
Given the real-time nature of incoming call volumes, accurately projecting workloads is a critical activity for a catalog contact center. But in the case of weaker operations, the process often is ineffective and informal at best.
Typically, such companies must rely solely on an initial forecast provided by the marketing department at the beginning of a season, a forecast that’s never revised as the season progresses. Given this disconnect with marketing, the contact center manager is kept pretty much out of the loop with regard to any subsequent changes to the marketing plan.
As a result, such companies often must base their staffing levels solely on increases/decreases vis-à-vis last year’s sales volumes. Given the imprecision of this planning process, it’s no wonder their subsequent operating performance suffers.
How to avoid this: Better-run operations produce precise forecasts of call activity for every hour (in some cases, every half-hour) of every day of the year. They establish these based on the most current sales projections by involving marketing in the contact center’s forecasting process — in essence sharing with marketing the responsibility for the overall accuracy of the forecast.
This scheduling process typically centers around a weekly meeting involving contact center managers, the department scheduler, human resources and marketing personnel.