Is Schedule Adherence Off Because Agents Don't Know or Don't Care?
While call center managers have many headaches (and even some nightmares), schedule adherence is usually one of the biggest. Schedule adherence, or compliance, is a contact center metric that measures agents’ degree of compliance with their assigned schedules. It’s an important, but sometimes depressing, metric to measure because it has a direct impact on the quality of customer service.
“Enormous effort goes into forecasting workload, calculating staff requirements, and creating staff schedules,” according to the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP). “But all that hard work goes down the drain when the frontline staff don’t stick to the schedule plan.”
So how do you keep adherence metrics true? Contact center managers have tried shouting, threatening and even firing. These methods don’t do much for adherence, nor do they do much for contact center managers’ blood pressure. According to the SWPP, it takes some psychology and behavior analytics after a few basic steps that include:
Creating realistic schedules. If your call center schedules could only be met by Superman, you’re always going to be out of adherence. If you’re always out of adherence, chances are good that you’re not building realistic schedules.
Communicating schedules. If agents aren’t always sure of their schedules (i.e., they’re not getting them in advance, or getting them at all), they’re less likely to adhere to them. Be sure you’re using a call center scheduling solution that allows for communication and collaboration. Also be sure that you’re communicating with agents why adherence is so important, and how a lack of it could hurt the workforce as well as customers.
Precisely measuring adherence. If you’re not sure what “out of adherence” really means from day to day and hour to hour, you’re not going to be able to measure it. Choose a call center scheduling tool that features a dedicated adherence module. This will also help you understand how far out of adherence you can be before it begins to seriously affect customer service quality.
From here, it’s important to identify the two types of agents who continually find themselves out of adherence. There are the “don’t know better” agents and the “don’t care” agents. The “don’t know better” agents can generally be induced to try harder for compliance.
“The agent may not know what is expected in terms of schedule adherence,” according to SWPP. “Have expectations of start/stop times, breaks, and off-phone time been communicated clearly? Does the agent know how much deviation is allowed and what the consequences will be for adhering or not adhering? Make sure each person understands the schedule contract, grades of adherence, and consequences for following or not following the plan.”
If agents continue to underperform, it may not be due to ignorance, but they may simply not have the tools to do their jobs properly. Are they being delayed by a lack of desktop integration, bad or outdated databases, slow Internet connections, poor call quality or other issues outside their control? It’s time to fix those issues before you can expect to achieve adherence.
Finally, the “don’t care” agents probably can’t be fixed, and you may need to alter your work environment or change up your hiring process to avoid hiring apathetic agents who are simply “marking time” in the job.
The job of the workforce planner isn’t over when the schedules are complete: in fact, it’s just started. Adherence has a direct effect on both customer engagement and employee engagement, which is why it remains one of the most critical metrics in the contact center.
Edited by Alicia Young