Call Center Management Feature Article
April 29, 2009
Schedule Adherence a Critical Aspect of Call Center Management
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
As such, it’s become critically important for call center managers to account for every minute of every agent’s time. After all, labor is the single biggest expense facing any call center, and any increase in productivity is bound to have a positive impact on the bottom line.
Those call centers which are still using manual processes, including time clocks and/or spreadsheets, to track agent time are at an operational disadvantage compared to those centers which have adopted workforce management solutions. If you’re running a call center and you know you have agents who are arriving late, taking long breaks and leaving early, then it would be wise to invest in a workforce management system that can accurately track, down to the minute, how agent time is being utilized.
With today’s workforce management systems, such as those offered by industry leader Monet Software, managers can quickly and easily see who is arriving late or on time, among other trends, just by tracking schedule adherence. With these advanced systems, which can be either on-premises or Web-based, managers can track schedule adherence by individual agent, group of agents or the entire center. What’s more they can look at schedule adherence by agent skill set (for example, agents who only handle Web chats); agent location (in the main center, a satellite center, or the home-based agent); or type of shift (day, evening, special project, etc.).
This information can then be neatly packaged into daily, weekly or monthly reports which the manager can use to improve schedule adherence, and hence, overall call center management. This would be nearly impossible to achieve using a manual system -- such as a spreadsheet system -- especially if the manager is running a mid- to large-sized center (with, say, more than 30 agents). And it becomes even more challenging with multiple, geographically-dispersed centers.
As mentioned in last week’s article, schedule adherence is one of the main factors contributing to “shrinkage,” which is the overall amount of time agents are on the clock but not on the phones. Multiply the average minutes lost per agent per day, week, month or year by the total number of agents you have and it’s easy to see how even a small problem – like a group of agents that consistently clocks in a few minutes late – can blossom into a major operational loss. What’s more, this can lead to reduced service levels, and customer churn.
That’s why workforce management solutions have become so important for achieving effective call center management. With these essential call center management tools, call center managers can accurately see who is arriving late, leaving early, or taking long lunches or excessive restroom breaks. What’s more they can track activity on the agent’s phone and desktop to ensure the agent isn’t sitting there, idly, doing nothing.
But deploying a WFM system is much like providing a traffic control cop with radar: It doesn’t serve any purpose unless the officer is prepared to pull over violators and issue them infractions. So what are some of the other things call center managers should do to improve schedule adherence?
First, inform and educate: Agents need to understand the relevance of schedule adherence, how a mere 10 minutes here and there impacts other agents and the entire call center performance.
Second, measure and manage: Measure and track adherence using workforce management tools and solutions, tracking adherence in real-time and running reports. Share these adherence reports with your agents and discuss how they are doing. It is important to give regular feedback regarding adherence statistics.
Call center management isn’t an easy task – especially in light of the fact that companies are so aggressively cutting staffing. Making sure that every agent is at their desk and on the phone as soon as his or shift starts is critical to ensuring proper service levels are being met and that customers are getting the best service possible. Let this one critical aspect of call center management go to pot and you could be needlessly increasing customer churn. And in this crumbling economy, losing customers due to poor service is a risk you simply cannot take.