Forecasting customer service volume for Q4 has always been tough. But e-commerce growth due to Covid along with logistics nightmares that are happening is making forecasting even harder.
Either way, you can simplify customer service forecasting by converting transaction or revenue forecast into a valid agent headcount forecast.
At HelpFlow, we run 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for over 100 stores. We’ve been through five holiday seasons and have built an incredibly robust forecasting in KPI process. In this post, I will walk through how to simplify Q4 customer service forecasting to make sure you’re ready to rock (and not get rocked) this holiday season.
Most Important Metric For Forecasting
Most important metric for forecasting is your transaction to ticket ratio. In short, you can forecast the number of tickets created for every 100 transactions and be extremely confident that this will hold steady as growth and transactions happens.
Here’s how to set your transaction to ticket ratio:
- Get transaction count for a recent time period, such as April to August. Post Covid is best.
- Get ticket count for the same time period.
- Calculate the ratio. Transactions divided by tickets.
We see the transaction to ticket ratio anywhere from 20 to 50% plus depending on the level of sophistication in the customer service operation (automations, self serve, etc) and scope of issues with fulfillment at any given time.
Use The Ratio To Project Volume
Once you have the transaction to ticket ratio, you can forecast customer service ticket volume in a few ways.
You can use your media spend plans to project traffic and then use your conversion rate to project the number of transactions that should result in.
You can also use revenue forecasts or your demand planners data to project the number of transactions for Q4.
Once you have the projected transactions, simply use the ratio to convert that into ticket volume.
How Many Agents Are Needed?
Once you have the projected ticket volume, you can easily figure out how many agents you need to handle the workload without sacrificing customer service quality or burning your team out.
- Use historical data to calculate agent capacity per FTE (full time equivalent) agent.
- And forecast the total FTE agents needed based on the ticket volume you projected.
- If you realize you’re going to need to bring in temporary staff or hire new people, consider discounting down the agent capacity a bit or ideally use new hire agent capacity if you track that.
Covid Has Thrown Everything Off
Covid has been a blessing for many e-commerce stores by shifting much of consumer buying habits online that used to be offline. For this reason, everyone agrees that this Q4 is going to be bigger than we thought before Covid.
But Covid has been a blessing and a curse. E-commerce shipping has become a nightmare, and with the growth of holiday spending, it’s likely to only get worse. Consumers know that shipping is a problem, but e-commerce brands are usually the ones blamed with negative reviews and chargebacks.
To accommodate for this in your forecast, skew heavily towards recent data for your transaction to ticket ratio. Definitely use post Covid data, but if you recently started to have massive shipping problems then skew more heavily to this recent time period where those problems have happened. Don’t assume it will get better in Q4.
What to do next?
Get a forecast in place for Q4 so you can maximize success while not breaking your business or your brand. The main steps are to calculate your transaction to ticket ratio and just got to figure out additional agents needed.
Here at HelpFlow, we were on 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for over 100 stores. We’ve been through five years of holiday shopping and have a very robust forecasting in customer service operation for our clients. I’d be happy to talk through how we may be able to help you, or just get on a call to talk through a few questions you may have to prepare your internal team.
Jon Tucker is CEO of HelpFlow, a provider of 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for 100+ eCommerce stores. Launched in 2015, their team of agents has produced nearly $100M in chat revenue for a wide range of stores using a conversion-focused approach to live chat.
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