The impact of special days in call arrivals forecasting: a neural network approach to modelling special days

Devon Barrow*, Nikolaos Kourentzes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


A key challenge for call centres remains the forecasting of high frequency call arrivals collected in hourly or shorter time buckets. In addition to the complex intraday, intraweek and intrayear seasonal cycles, call arrival data typically contain a large number of anomalous days, driven by the occurrence of holidays, special events, promotional activities and system failures. This study evaluates the use of a variety of univariate time series forecasting methods for forecasting intraday call arrivals in the presence of such outliers. Apart from established, statistical methods, we consider artificial neural networks (ANNs). Based on the modelling flexibility of the latter, we introduce and evaluate different methods to encode the outlying periods. Using intraday arrival series from a call centre operated by one of Europe's leading entertainment companies, we provide new insights on the impact of outliers on the performance of established forecasting methods. Results show that ANNs forecast call centre data accurately, and are capable of modelling complex outliers using relatively simple outlier modelling approaches. We argue that the relative complexity of ANNs over standard statistical models is offset by the simplicity of coding multiple and unknown effects during outlying periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-977
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Operational Research
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Call centre arrivals
  • Functional data
  • Neural networks
  • Outliers
  • Time series forecasting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Information Systems and Management


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