Professional Comment

Why Hospitality Contact Centres Need to Plan, Schedule, and Forecast Differently

By Nathan Stearns, Vice President, Product Management, WEM, NICE (

In an industry where many customers expect 24/7 service, the contact centre is indispensable. With leisure and travel demand currently growing faster than expected, customers are reaching out after hours and from different time zones. And they’re communicating via a wider range of channels, from chat and SMS to social media and more.

That makes for a complex contact centre. Interactions can involve multiple agents. With a hotel booking, for example, there’s potentially one agent who speaks to the customer, another who processes the booking request, and in the case of an issue, someone in the claims department working to resolve the problem.

With the soaring adoption of digital channels, it’s increasingly common to have omnichannel, blended work streams where an employee works on multiple channels or different types of tasks simultaneously. This makes it harder to manage staffing requirements across contact centres, back-office operations, and digital teams effectively.

To address these challenges and maintain excellent customer service, hospitality leaders can implement three key workforce management tactics:

• Generate activity-based staffing requirements: In the hospitality sector, as well as across all customer-focused industries, companies with a large base of agents are shifting from being call- or work-item-based to being activity-based. By looking at not only how many work items are being received but also how many become active in each interval across the contact centre, back office, and digital channels, you can translate every work item into the activity required to complete it.

This gives you the ability to generate activity-based staffing requirements and ensure that the right employees, with the right skills, are on hand at the right times, performing the right activities. The result? Customers get prompt answers, bookings are completed, issues are resolved quickly, and employees are able to work efficiently and effectively.

• Normalise work planning and scheduling: To effectively blend work items across the traditional phone contact centre, the omnichannel digital centre, and the back-office operations, you need a common planning interval. It’s unreasonable to expect a contact centre to move away from a 15- or 30-minute planning interval in order to cross-utilise people with the back office which is much less sensitive to 30-minute increments.

Normalise work planning and scheduling in the back office and digital channels to the smallest planning interval by deconstructing long asynchronous work, analysing the time it takes to handle an interaction over the course of multiple planning intervals, and forecasting activity volume and scheduling agents using this interval specific activity per interaction. The result? Greater insight into staff utilisation and service level performance across all blended channels.

• Implement “True to Interval” data analysis: Asynchronous work items like chat or email or back-office work typically have long life spans from start to finish. For example, a work item received via chat in the morning may not be completed until later in the day, but it only has a few minutes of work effort occurring sporadically during the overall life span. To understand what’s happening to a work item as it spans intervals, ensure that the amount of agent time applied to the contact is reported in the interval in which it occurred.

This requires you to deconstruct contacts to the interval in which work occurred, count the contact when it arrives and again in each subsequent interval in which the contact is worked or active. The result? By deconstructing contacts into the amount of time and number of contacts worked in each interval, you are positioned to generate accurate interval staffing requirements.

These three steps represent a paradigm shift for the evolving blended digital contact centre and back-office operation, but modern workforce management (WFM) solutions can help. By leveraging WFM tools to generate activity-based staffing requirements, normalise work planning and scheduling to the smallest planning interval, and implementing true to interval data analysis, you can plan and forecast blended work streams more accurately to make best-in-class service, in the most cost-effective manner, a reality.