The stories behind the numbers

We live in a world of numbers. Even though we didn’t enjoy the math class, we have to admit that there is a number behind everything we do. From our birth certificate to our bank accounts, numbers are telling the stories of our lives.

As I’ve been mentioned in the past as well, I work as a Workforce Management Planner. And I deal with numbers each day. Each number is having its own story. Either it’s the number of calls, the duration of it, even the numbers of agents that got ill can tell a story.

How can we create or read a story only from some numbers? Let’s take an example, an workforce one.

Let’s say we have a call center providing customer service for an internet provider. In a normal week, you have around 10.000 calls. But in one week, you get 12000 calls. And the call duration (the average handling time, AHT) is higher with 20 seconds more than usual. Why will you ask? What was the reason? There are normal questions to ask, when your volumes have  20% increase don’t you think?

If you investigate the matter you will find out that, because of some maintenance work on the cable network, the internet was slow and in some parts of the area it was down for a couple of hours. Of course people called to find out the reason. But, in your call center there is a flu epidemic and some of your agents are ill. So you are a little bit short staffed because of this.  So the story goes like this….

Because of the slow internet or no internet at all, people called your customer service. Because some of your agents got ill, you have less agents to answer for more calls. The agents were answering call after call after call, with little time for any break, so they got tired increasing your call duration overall. 

Now that we’ve got our story, when we will do with it? Well, you can learn from it. Could this be a recurring situation? Or it was just one time thing? How can you use this data, and the story behind it, in the future?

What does it have to do a story about a call center with you, you might ask? Well, let me tell you another story. A story of my bank account. At the moment of this writing, my bank account is almost 0 with four more days until I will get my paycheck for this month. What’s the story behind this number, almost close to 0? Well, it’s a quite short one. I’ve made some weird decisions this month and decided to buy some unnecessary stuff. I haven’t paid attention at my balance and my money depleted really fast. Are you familiar with this kind of situation as well?

Learning the story behind the numbers helps us makes some sense of what happened in the past. And in this way we can make better prediction for the future.

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