Schedule Adherence Monitoring:
Big Brother Or Better Bottom-Line?
By Penny Reynolds, The Call Center School
Getting the 'just right' number
of staff in place to respond to incoming calls requires a four-step process
of analyzing call history, forecasting future workload, calculating staff
requirements and creating work schedules that match the workforce to the
workload. Once an efficient set of work schedules has been designed,
managing daily service means ongoing observation to ensure the frontline
staff is actually working the assigned schedules. Some call centers monitor
schedule adherence on a manual basis, simply walking around and checking to
see if agents are in their seats when they're supposed to be. Larger centers
may have workforce management tools in place to automate the checking and
Managing schedule adherence brings up two issues. First, what is the cost to
the center of non-adherence? We'll explore how much it may be costing the
center in terms of staffing and service when agents aren't on the phones
when scheduled. We'll then discuss briefly the payback of automated
monitoring tools and the ways they can be used effectively to improve the
bottom line without becoming too Orwellian.
Cost Of Lost Time
So what's a few minutes here and there? The table below illustrates the cost
of lost time, assuming that the center loses only 20 minutes per agent per
day ' only four percent of an eight-hour workday.
Calculation: 20 minutes per day x 5 days per week x 52 weeks / 60 = annual
lost hours. Annual lost hours x fully loaded wage rate x number of agents =
cost of lost time.
These costs can be viewed as hard dollar costs if the lost time is accounted
for as shrinkage with additional staff factored into the scheduling plan to
account for the lost productivity of non-adherence. If this lost time is not
accounted for as shrinkage, then there is no cost of additional staff. But
with fewer people on the phones, service would suffer, meaning longer delays
for callers and possibly a higher telephone bill if toll-free services are
provided by the call center.
While it is virtually impossible to recover all lost time, imagine the
savings of cutting the costs (in the table below) in half by decreasing lost
time from 20 minutes to 10 minutes a day. To the extent that real-time
adherence monitoring tools can help an organization accomplish this
adherence improvement, the tools typically can generate a very quick return
Making The Most Of The Tools
One of the most popular features of an automated workforce management system
is real-time adherence monitoring and reporting. This capability takes
activity and status information about each agent from the ACD and compares
it against schedule information from the workforce management system. Agents
out of adherence will show up on a supervisor's screen, providing a way to
easily see only those agents who aren't doing what they're supposed to be
doing at any given time.
While many call center managers view the arrival of a real-time adherence
tool as a godsend in controlling and managing schedule adherence, others
argue this will create too much of a 'Big Brother' atmosphere in the call
center. However, the ability to 'see' what each person is doing all of the
time is not new information. Managers have previously had access to
log-in/log-out and activity records in the form of historical reports. These
real-time tools simply make the information available much quicker and
The tools will certainly be viewed negatively if the information is used
only as a watchdog. However, if used constructively to identify good
performance as well as consistent patterns of adherence abuse, it can only
improve the availability, performance and morale of the staff. The use of
such a tool can free supervisors from time-consuming reviews of historical
information and give them more time to spend with their agents.
Keys To Improved Schedule Adherence
There are three ingredients to a successful schedule adherence program:
1. Education. Frontline staff must understand the relevance of schedule
adherence. In a center of 100 staff, it may not seem like a big deal if
someone is off the phones 10 extra minutes a day. Showing agents what impact
even one person can make on service and occupancy of his or her peers is an
important part of the process (see 'The Power Of One' article in Feb. 2004
issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions').
2. Information. Feedback is another important ingredient of the process.
Each agent should receive information on adherence statistics on a regular
basis. Obviously, the more automated this process, the easier it is to
report down to the agent level.
3. Consequences. There has to be a system of consequences in place to shape
adherence behaviors. Staff who adhere regularly to the planned work schedule
should be rewarded for doing so. And staff who are not where they're
supposed to be on time should receive a negative consequence to help share
the desired behaviors.
Penny Reynolds is a founding partner of The Call Center School, a
Nashville, Tennessee-based consulting and education company. She is the
author of several call center management books, including Call Center
Staffing ' The Complete, Practical Guide to Workforce Management.
Contact her at email@example.com
or call 615-812-8410.
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