78: Forecasting in Support with Greg Skirving

78: Forecasting in Support with Greg Skirving

Greg Skirving discusses how you cope with needing an extra 3.4 people!


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Charlotte Ward 0:13
Hello, and welcome to Episode 78 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. The theme for this week is forecasting. So stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. I’d like to welcome back to the podcast today. Greg Skirving. Nice to have you back again, Greg. The topic for this week is forecasting. So I’d really love to talk about forecasting in support and what that means to you and how you do it.

Greg Skirving 0:46
Absolutely. Hey, Charlotte, how are you? Yeah, forecasting. Let me let me just start by saying It’s uncanny how our business resembles the grocery store. You walk into the grocery store. There’s six cashiers standing there doing nothing And you go around, you do your shopping and you go to checkout, and there’s to work in and the lines are all the way to the back. I mean, at the end of the day, we really, really can’t forecast accurately to, to the place that we would really like to, what we really need to do is look at the things that we actually know, obviously, we have historical trending, that’s, that’s really the first thing that we need to look at. I think there’s a couple of other things that I know that I look at, obviously, the release cycle. So that depending on when your release cycle is that can sway your, your seasonal trending, so you have to be careful about that. And typically, you know, depending on adoption rates, and you know, you can you can get some information from from your data out of that, a couple of months, you’ll start to see a spike in demand and cases. So if you can do a good job of understanding that, you know, you can get into how you book your your time. If your development days really is the biggie, obviously you can’t plan for for sick days. Also, what you’d want to look at is your team, the tenure of your team, what your overall headcount is, are you at full headcount? That’s that’s going to factor in already.

Charlotte Ward 2:18
The main thing that I’m taking away from this is that there are so many variables aren’t there. And that and that is just a huge part of the problem with forecasting. We can pull as much data as we like about how many tickets we had this time last year, what the expertise of our our team was this time last year, what the release cycle or what season we were in, there are those variables and yet so many more as well not not least the sort of the unknown, the forecast for growth within the organisation or the product or the customer base is another factor that is, is also somewhat nebulous, isn’t it I mean, people will attempt to put fingers to all of those things and they all impact the work, the we’re trying to deal with forecasting and yet they’re all uncertain in and of themselves, right?

Greg Skirving 3:06
Yeah, absolutely. There’s, there’s like I always say numbers. So the the questions, not the answers. So you have to dig deep and figure them out. Obviously, selling is is a huge thing, new customers, new customers are typically more demanding when they start out. Also your company’s self self service stance, do you have a good robust knowledge base? And also I’ll go back to the product a newer product has has typically more issues and and more customer demand for support.

So more variables yet again, do you think that this makes forecasting almost inevitably impossible? Do you think it’s something we should really just give up on? Or do you think that it’s worth trying to be as accurate as you can and accepting some variants and some aspect, not quite a failure that, that you know, there is there is an element here that we might be wrong.

Charlotte Ward 4:04
Yeah, there’s a there’s a degree of error in all numbers. And when it comes to forecasting, it’s the future we really don’t know. So, like I say, we can look at as many variables the products that people sales release cycles, historical trending factor all of that in No, I built a capacity planning sheet basically. And I use sort of a high end low so I can actually adjust and you know, at the end of the day, you can sort of stand back how many cases do we do we expect people to take and close in a day and in our week, close, you get a going, you know, ready, ready, fire, aim, get going and, and adjust, adjust as you can, but if you think you can make it exact, that’s that’s probably not gonna happen.

Aiming to be too exact about this is probably more stress than it’s worth. I love the idea of really actually of just building in a higher low and and figuring out the band that you’re likely to fall in.

Greg Skirving 5:03
That’s funny I worked with in a previous role, we would come up with 3.4 people to handle this price like okay, so is that three or four because I can’t hire a fourth of a person. So at the end of the day, we work in integers and you know, we do our best. Yeah, absolutely. Do you over resource or do you under resource for that? 3.4? Do you go for three or four? For sure you you you always try and get the the extra resource, you’ll need that extra resource to help with the the training and the mentoring of newer folks when they take on new products.

Charlotte Ward 5:40
Yeah, that’s actually something that I hadn’t realised in my early days is that even the growth itself as has an overhead that we often forget to factor in, we get 3.4 and we think right somewhere around the time I’ve got three I’ll need to think about hiring a fourth and you assume in your in your Certainly my early days of leadership, I would assume, right, if I hire that force, then we’re good to go. I’m over resourced by 0.6. But actually, I’m not because the lead time particularly with a complex product, on bringing that fourth person up to speed, it’s not even like you get a fraction of effectiveness for quite a while actually. And what, what we often don’t account for is the drain on the existing team of onboarding someone. So I think it’s worth considering. If you do have that 3.4 number, that around the time you tip anywhere above three, you’re going to have to plan slightly ahead of that, otherwise you will be stretching your team. That’s it for today. Go to customersupportleaders.com/78 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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