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Wait Times Matter


Understanding Wait times

There are many differences between Wisdom WFO and all other planning systems on the market. Many of the differences can be summarized quickly in three words:

“Wait times matter”


Really? Call Centers Shouldn’t Care?

On the surface, it is obvious that having to wait too long does matter to customers and will have a detrimental impact on business and growth. However, for decades, WFM vendors and call center planning schools have steadfastly insisted wait times should not matter to planners when formulating a forecast.


Broken Lessons

If you want to understand the benefits of how Wisdom WFO forecasts, you need to unlearn some of the wrongs that the industry has imposed on the planning profession.


Dark Decades

When a call center’s business grows, very often the first signal is increases in wait times. For the past 30 years, how have WFM solution responded to those wait times? You may be surprised to learn that the answer is “not at all”. With the exception of Wisdom WFO every other vendor has relied exclusively on interval based forecasting. This is the 100 year old classic forecasting method that relies on average talk times and call counts as the exclusive historical inputs. When limited to these two inputs, the forecast gives no consideration whatsoever to historical wait times. Even the call counts are falsified through the substitution of answered plus abandoned calls counts.

So for 30 years, customers have paid top dollar for modern forecasting. Yet those same forecasts have had no idea what the wait times were. That means no adaptation to growth and no relief for the customers that may be driven away by increasing wait times.


Perfectly Different

Wisdom WFO is the only WFM solution on the market to completely walk away from ancient forecasting methods that rely on simplistic interval data. Instead, Wisdom WFO provides SCO forecasting. SCO stands for System Capacity Optimization. Interval based forecasts and SCO forecasts have a completely different approach to interpreting historical data — including wait times.

SCO forecasts intricately respond to the exact wait time experienced by each and every customer. If you business grows, your SCO forecasts responds by shifting resources to precisely support a return to prompt service.


Ancient Justification

Vendors for the most part think it’s normal and acceptable to forecast with no knowledge of wait time. The same vendors defend their forecast’s ignorance of wait times as a proper implementation of Erlang’s original teachings. Indeed the call center schools are on the side of the vendors on this matter. They confidently attribute the following statement to Agner Erlang.

“Wait times are not an input to the forecast, they are just an outcome.”


Oops, Not Exactly

Erlang never taught anything of the sort. He worked during an era when switches could neither queue calls nor record wait times. This meant that the wait times were unknown. As an unknown, there was no wait time data – so nothing available to input to the forecast model. Erlang did recognize that the wait times were important and he stipulated this in his key assumptions.

Call center “experts” frequently misinterpret Erlang’s wait time assumption by stating that he assumed callers were willing to wait infinitely. He actually said the opposite.

Erlang’s wait time assumption can be paraphrased as follows:

Callers that encounter no available lines will not result in a call count on the switch. These callers may redial their call to the system. The Interval based forecast that we create is based on the call count data that we collect from switch odometers. It is the planner’s hopeful assumption that all callers will redial until satisfied. This is unlikely if the wait times are unacceptable to customers. Accordingly, the degree to which we can trust the forecast most certainly hinges on the assumption that wait time has been negligible during data collection. If the wait time is not negligible then we can be certain that the forecasts will be based on flawed data. Such forecasts would naturally be unreliable and could not provide sound projections.


Risky Business

Call Centers that unknowingly rely on flawed forecasts face great perils. The business’s growth, revenue, profitability and reputation are at risk when agents are scheduled according to forecasts that have no knowledge of wait time increases. Growing businesses face the greatest risk.


The Wrong Direction

Now if you ask any WFM vendor what they do about wait times many will say that they do take wait times into consideration because the customer can input the number of seconds of patience into their “Patience and Loss Model” (PALM). The forecast then calculates an expected abandon rate and reduces the call counts accordingly. This is also known as calculating loss.


Loss and Confused

Patience and loss calculations are actually one of the most harmful things that you can inflict on a call center that is having difficulty delivering reasonable wait times. The calculation is essentially saying “callers don’t like to wait too long – some will hang-up in frustration — so we’ll plan to service only the patient ones”. This just ensures your call center will service fewer customers. It also ensures that most customers will experience longer wait times.


False Economy

The use of a patience factor will always staff below an offered call forecast. The simplistic view of a smaller forecast is that it saves money. Of course that’s not true because frustrated callers are expensive to service and ultimately take their revenue with them to competing providers.


Wrong vs. Right

Accurate planning is not about scheduling too few agents to save money. Instead, it’s about understanding the flow of demand so well that you can time the agents that you have in harmony with the needs of customers. If you take the right number of agents and time them wrong, the outcome is long wait times, idle agents and lost profitability. The fastest route to these worst case scenarios is to ignore the wait time experiences of your customers.


Supporting Growth and Profitability

Wisdom WFO evaluates the detailed wait time experiences of each and every caller to calculate the appropriate way to absorb every caller into a brief wait time experience. The result is a consistently acceptable wait time for all callers. The mechanism for achieving this is a SCO forecast. SCO Forecasts place no weight on interval call counts and talk times. Instead, the SCO forecast consumes every element of the perfectly descriptive call details that are readily available from every modern ACD. The details are analyzed and processed automatically. Planners quickly see the improvements that flow from making truly informed decisions about how to staff efficiently and effectively.

So perhaps your business is growing and has not responded with appropriate staffing changes. Perhaps your business has potential to experience growth in the future. In either case, responding to the changes in wait times is critical to your continued growth. If you do not resize and reshape staffing levels to respond to wait times, customers will become frustrated and revenue will leak out of your business.

Customers are very expensive to attract and acquire. Inconvenient wait times put your business on track to lose those customers. In most cases loosing a customer is not just loosing one sale, its loosing all of their monthly recurring revenue forever. You also loose their referral business. Inconvenient wait times inflict a cascade of inefficiencies on otherwise healthy call centers.


Under Prepared is Under Productive

Irate callers squeeze more time out of your agents. Longer calls mean fewer customers are processed. With a reduced call processing rate, queues become longer. Agents are stressed by unhappy callers. Stress affects the productivity of each call, the amount of down time that agents take between calls and the number of times that agents call in sick. The total productivity hit of increasing wait times is enormous.


True Costs

With the downsides of unacceptable wait times being so high, what is the true cost of continuing to invest time, trust and money in WFM solutions that are purely structured on the premise that wait times do not matter at all. The real cost is all the revenue and profitability that leaks out of an underprepared call center


The Right Change

If you believe wait times do matter to your business then the natural next move is Wisdom WFO.