Editorial Series

Call Center Survey Reveals Shrinkage Impact

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor  |  April 01, 2011

 This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Knowlagent recently conducted a survey to answer some important questions about contact center shrinkage. The intent was to determine how much time call center agents spend in shrinkage across different types of centers and to understand what activities contribute to this type of loss.

With the introduction of chat, text or social media for handling customer interactions in the call center, expectations for what agents must accomplish in any given day increase. Understanding how this expanding role impacts shrinkage and the differences across industries and of varying sizes was also a focus of the survey. These factors also give way to a larger concern: how can call centers gain better control over shrinkage.

Defining Shrinkage Categories

Two categories of shrinkage occur: Primary, which includes absenteeism, vacation, paid holidays, tardiness, breaks and lunch; and Secondary, which includes activities such as training, team meetings, coaching, paperwork, call research, knowledge base, e-mail and call backs.

Primary shrinkage comprises 54 percent of overall shrinkage and is largely outside of the call center’s control. Activities in the secondary category – the remaining 46 percent – are more easily controlled through efficiency. Because these activities are not typically required to occur during specific times, they can take place when call volume is low, while agents sit idle, waiting for the next call.

Agent Time Spent in Shrinkage

Across all respondents, the average amount of time for an agent to spend in shrinkage is 24 percent. While call centers supporting newer channels, such as text, chat and social media, did not reveal a significant difference in overall shrinkage; industry, size and contacts handled filters provided additional insights.

By contacts handled, the highest percentage of shrinkage occurs with collections, at 26 percent, while technical support has the lowest, at 21 percent. Across industries, outsourcers experience the least amount of shrinkage. According to those surveyed, the average sized call center experiences the most shrinkage, while the smallest and the largest centers have the lowest percentages.

Meaningful Improvement of Shrinkage

When survey respondents were asked what they would consider a meaningful improvement in shrinkage, the overwhelming majority would be satisfied with improvements between 1 and 10 percent. Those with collections and tech support functions are looking for more meaningful improvement of shrinkage (10 percent or higher). Twenty-two percent of collections respondents selected this higher range, while 15 percent of tech support selected this improvement rating. In contrast, sales functions are more likely to look for improvement in the 1-5 percent range, with 54 percent selecting this, as compared to customer service at 45 percent.

Based on industry average calculations, improving secondary shrinkage by just two percent could equate to a $600,000 savings for a 1,000-agent organization. With the right technology, recuperating loss associated with shrinkage is easy to achieve.

Achieving Improvements with Active Wait Time

Knowlagent can take activities that normally contribute to secondary shrinkage and deploy them through dynamically scheduled sessions during idle time. Since the technology integrates in real time with the ACD, it continually monitors service levels to ensure these standards are maintained.

Technology identifies and collects idle time across many agents to deliver larger, more usable segments of time that can be used for deploying shrinkage activities – creating active wait time.

To learn more about how active wait time can reduce shrinkage for your call center, visit www.knowlagent.com or call 888-566-9457.

Outsourcers And Shrinkage

One of the most interesting facts from a recent study conducted for Knowlagent on contact center shrinkage is that outsourcing firms experience the least amount of shrinkage, compared with other industries. Less than 20 percent of outsourcers’ agents’ time is accounted for by shrinkage, compared to more than 20 percent for financial services, healthcare, retail and telecommunications. This insight should come as no surprise to those who work for or have done business with outsourcers. Here are two likely reasons for this:

1.                   Outsourcers cannot afford shrinkage. For them, time not well spent is literally money wasted and profits lost. This is a very competitive business where outsourcers go against each other and in-house contact centers. The outsourcer culture is, therefore, focused on performance and output: from screening through training and to bringing up agents at speed and keeping them productive, and ensuring client satisfaction. Outsourcers have, therefore, long been leading edge adopters of productivity-enhancing solutions and methods.

2.                   Outsourcers typically offer shared-agent programs (i.e., the same agents handling contacts for multiple clients as opposed to dedicated-agent programs, which in-house contact centers tend to be, and which outsourcers also offer, though often at a higher price. With shared-agent programs, agents are busier than in dedicated-agent programs. Shared-agent programs work best, though less complex programs,  which very often get outsourced

Interestingly enough, the other industries that outsourcers were compared to in the Knowlagent study utilize outsourcers for many of their programs.

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi