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Your Budget is a Discussion. Get to the Point!

George, the barber in the little town I grew up, was a gifted storyteller, and it was entertaining to listen to George elaborate in great detail about his endeavors. However, he was also opinionated about how stories should be told, and if you took too long unspinning your own yarn, he would interject, “Get to the point!”

Little did I then realize that George was giving me sound advice for the budget cycle. Every year we in contact centers take our world and share it with the rest of the company through the budgetary process. Any good partnership on the budget involves communication, and communication can’t exist without understanding. You have to tell your department’s story well!

Here are a few tips for telling the story of your budget to the finance department and to others outside the world of the headset.

Create a No-Acronym-Zone

You may know a few combos of letters so well, but “SVL”, “AHT,” and “ACW” may not be the right terms to convey “ROI”. Spell out what these terms actually mean to the uninitiated. Sometimes, holding a “Contact Center 101” for non-contact center partners, or having a reference deck to explain both the “what” and the “why” cements the foundation needed for a successful budget discussion.

Also, test for understanding, and don’t trust the head nod.

Go Big or Go Home

When discussing efficiencies, it can be tempting to nickel and dime the terminology. If the cost per contact changes from $12 to $11.75, we might be tempted to characterize it as a twenty-five-cent savings. However, if you multiply that by a million calls a year, you’ve saved $250,000, and that’s a number more likely to get attention.

Likewise, over-reliance on percentages can cause eyes to glaze, and it may not do your department’s work justice. You may be working on a project where contacts will increase 10%, and the person across the hall is working on a project where contacts only increased 500% - but those percentages don’t tell us which is more important to the bottom line. Put the big dollar-sign behind that information.

One big word of caution - in the day of AI and contact deflection, chances are cost per call will be going up. There may be a lot of head-shaking unless you can help people look at the whole pie of the cost. You are making a smaller pie, which costs less, but the slices may be slightly bigger. Make sure your audience gets that.

Make Service Level and Occupancy Two Sides of the Same Coin

The key relationship between service level and occupancy is often a question that comes up, but the answer to that question is rarely understood. They are parts of the same equation, yet I have often seen separate goals set for each in a budget. This applies to budget especially when a queue is small or has very low volume overnight. You may be asked why you need any availability at all.

Be prepared to explain how calls don’t arrive in a linear pattern or the same every day. Make the case why service is important. You will also potentially run into the conversation of how much you will save if you raise your service level threshold. Explain that raising the service level threshold does not make the work go away—it delays the work from getting done!

Go For a Big-Tent Budget

Make budget planning something that helps everyone see how your department values the other departments, and how interdepartmental interaction can positively impact everyone if planned efficiently. Here are some items to consider:

  • Bottoms up shrinkage. Plan with each group in the contact center what is really needed, and not just what you did last year. For example, will the July training really take place the same week and be as long or short as last year?
  • Training and HR. Make sure you think of the timing of meetings or HR training and how it will be delivered. If these departments understand the “when” and “where,” and that you want it to be a success, you will be surprised how much partnership you can achieve.
  • Recruiting. Are there certain times of year when it’s easier to recruit or you get better candidates? Are you planning a recruiting push when your lead recruiter has a daughter getting married? Turnover and engagement are a cornerstone of the workplace in this industry. Ensure you are realistically accounting for these factors in budget planning.

Create a Partnership

The most important part of the budget process is creating a partnership in which you can look forward to seeing each other during the process each year. You are all on the same team, just playing different positions.

For successful budget delivery year after year, you need to plan the plan and work the plan and be transparent. Finally, remember you are telling your department’s current and future story, and you have to tell that story well. Get to the point and keep your listeners with the purse-strings engaged.