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Solving the capacity planning issue in service

13th Jul 2022
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Business is dynamic, and hiring is dynamic. If the past two years has taught us anything it is that long-term capacity planning needs to change. A period of intense flexibility was placed upon businesses and their teams leaving those unable to handle the change left behind.

In the customer engagement and support areas capacity planning cannot be static. The process of long-term forecasting and planning for staffing matters is not a one-and-done activity for team leaders to tick a box.

In a poll conducted by Playvox, contact centre leaders were asked how they were feeling about their current staffing plans. A mere 20% said their staff numbers were in line with where their capacity plan said it should be.

A staggering 80% said their staffing plans were not being followed. Common reasonings behind this were hiring shortages, new training requirements, attrition, and protracted employee onboarding sessions. 

The story is repeated in many industries. A capacity plan and budget were set earlier in the year but they are not being followed as they should be.

Perfecting the capacity planning method 

A number of assumptions go into capacity planning sessions. Hiring timelines, forecasted churn rates, the nature and amount of work, length of training, and the amount of paid annual leave. These all create an intricate network of guesswork used in planning stages. 

Except, when just one of those aspects change the whole system can fall apart. We are long overdue a significant shift in how we handle capacity planning. 

Today, we are looking at five possible ways to revamp capacity planning for your teams: 

Adapt in Real-Time 

No company can truly be the same in every aspect. Each organisation faces unique pressures, subtly different hiring timelines, and any number of the assumptions used earlier can change without notice.

When this happens, the onboarding and training schedules are also impacted and the whole system collapses.

Static capacity plans created annually worked at one point, but as the list of factors grows and new pressures emerge so too does the need for an adaptable plan. Regularly review, update, and assess the algorithm being used for a regular refresh of your current staffing situation.

Bring in short-term workforce schedulers 

When your static plans start to fall apart, workforce schedulers are the first to feel the effects. In larger organisations it is not unheard of that those responsible for long-term capacity plans and those organising regular schedules are operating on different systems. 

Where one is focused on meeting Service Level Agreement targets, another is stressing over daily quotas. This barrier creates problems across a company and can cause plans to fall apart.

Bring in all workforce schedulers to your capacity planning sessions. All plans need to be shared and reviewed regularly to ensure the needs of the business, and ultimately the customers, are being met.

Include hiring, training, finance, and operations 

No matter the situation the business is in, scheduling staff is challenging. It is made even trickier when hiring practices are lagging behind the numbers of employees needed and planned for. 

Creating a plan of action without including all key stakeholders in each division is akin to throwing darts at a dartboard blindfolded. You know you are in the right place, throwing towards the correct location but you are blinded from the full picture needed for accuracy.

Collecting data from all areas of the system is vital, including members from the hiring, training, finance, and operations teams can help transform some of the assumptions in the capacity planning formula into facts.

Equipped with hard data, workforce managers can flexibly adapt plans in real-time alongside hiring activity with monthly hire targets adjusted based on real-world trends.

With the continued growth of advanced technologies such as machine learning and AI, workforce management systems should be armed with the tools to complete plans in automated fashion. Therefore, creating an all-in-one system in which all areas of the business feed data, staffing insights can be near instantly applied through the use of AI in the future. 

Include capacity planning in daily conversations 

As the business environment shifts, it is too easy for long-term plans to fall aside before anyone notices. Leaving teams understaffed and customers unimpressed. 

Creating a culture in which targets and plans are regularly included in business conversations helps turn a plan into a living, ever-changing strategy.

With staffing projections and budgets regularly reviewed it is easy to reference capacity plans during meetings, fine tuning the details as needed. When it is part of a conversation you may find that workforce management systems will naturally change regularly to reflect the real-world situation. 

Act radically 

Keep on track of your system daily, without fail. This is a significant change in the way that traditional long-term forecasting has been implemented but the business landscape has significantly changed too.

Taking the risk of operating with blind spots, short-staffed creates unnecessary, preventable risks which will ultimately negatively impact the customer service being delivered.

Creating an arrangement which draws together data sources from cross-department teams ensures original targets are achievable, and those that are not are amended accordingly.

Annual, static capacity planning is best left in the past. Today more than ever the business world is in flux. Failing to evolve your capacity planning formula will leave some centres left behind as others charge forward delivering top-tier customer service for all.


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