Call Center Scheduling Feature Article
February 16, 2010
What is Schedule Adherence and Why is it Important in the Call Center?
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
This includes ensuring that agents are sticking to their schedules – in other words, that they aren’t showing up late for their shifts, taking excessively long breaks and clocking out early.
The degree to which agents stick to their schedules is called schedule adherence. Considering that labor is the single biggest cost facing any call center – and that every minute counts when it comes to meeting customer service levels (especially with a “bare bones” staff) – it’s easy to see why call center managers are putting an increasing emphasis on improving it.
The important thing to realize about schedule adherence is that it isn’t just about whether your agents are showing up for their shifts on time or leaving early – it’s also about whether they are showing up on time for scheduled “intra-day” events, such as training and coaching sessions, and then getting back on the phones when they are supposed to.
Schedule adherence is particularly important for ensuring smooth transitions between shifts: For example, if an organization has cut its call center staffing to the bone, there is an increased risk for “dips” in service levels when an agent – or agents – show up late. The period of time during which these agents are not on the phones – even if only minutes – can result in increased hold times which in turn results in decreased customer satisfaction.
Call center schedules tend to be very complex – which means there can be a lot of junctures during a shift where an agent will go out of adherence. For example, an agent might show up for his shift five minutes late; log on to the ACD seven minutes late; show up for a training session eight minutes late; and go over their break time by 10 minutes -- resulting in the agent being a total of 30 minutes out of adherence for that one shift!
Multiply these “out of adherence” events across a center with dozens if not hundreds of agents -- and then multiply that by the total number of shifts -- and its easy to see how schedule adherence can quickly become a serious problem.
Keeping track of schedule adherence using manual systems such as spreadsheets can be incredibly time-consuming and challenging. This is where today’s call center scheduling solutions are playing an increasingly crucial role.
Using these Web-based systems, call center managers can deftly uncover every “out of adherence” instance – plus they can track call center performance in terms of schedule adherence and “shrinkage” (which is the amount of time agents are on the clock but not on the phones) as a whole.
Then, once you have your schedules optimized, you can build in a little bit of a “cushion” – maybe 10 minutes for arrival and departure times and 5 minutes for intra-day scheduled activities – for regular out-of-adherence events. This way, you won’t be implementing schedule changes that are unreasonable.
Then you must “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.
Finally, you must provide “incentives.” Reward agents that adhere to their schedule (95 percent within adherence scores) through recognition within the team and tie bonuses to good scores. It is also critical that all agents are aware of the consequences for out-of-adherence behavior, as this establishes their responsibility towards the success of the call center.
Schedule adherence is a very basic metric which must be tracked in order to hold down call center operating costs and improve customer service. But it doesn’t have to feel like “Big Brother” – a little bit of information will go a long way toward preparing your call center agents for this change, which they will ultimately embrace.
Monet Software is a leading provider of Web-based workforce management solutions for the call center. The company’s WFM solution, Monet WFM Live, automates key tasks that have an immediate impact on the bottom line through more accurate call volume forecasting, optimum scheduling and daily performance tracking. To learn more about Monet WFM Live, click here.
Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard