Optimizing Your Contact Center Through Agent Adherence

Updated: August 23, 2010

While the term workforce management is familiar to many people, there are specific terms in the WFM that require definition:

  • Schedule Conformance - Percentage of on-line time an agent actually provides that he or she was scheduled to provide
  • Schedule Adherence - Percentage of time agents performed the activity listed on the schedule at the time the activity was scheduled
  • Shrinkage - Percentage of time agents are not available to take calls -Positive and Negative Shrinkage
    • Positive - Training, Coaching, Meetings, Planned Breaks and Lunches
    • Negative - Unplanned Breaks, Lunches, Excessive AHT
  • Schedule Exceptions - Approved/Unapproved Exceptions to Agent Schedules

While Schedule Conformance can provide many of the same benefits as Schedule Adherence, your schedules and agent utilization is not fully optimized unless you are measuring and monitoring Schedule Adherence.

For example, a small, simple 35 seat call center that is staffed from 7 am to 6 pm with a call volume and handle time that meets forecast can have exceed the planned hours for workforce availability that day - and still miss the Service Level objective. Why? In this example, you planned for 31.53 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) for that day, needed 30.94 FTEs, and actually had 31.00 FTEs working.

But - your agents were not in the right place at the right time, and thus you lost the opportunity to maximize your opportunity for training and coaching time - which is critical to allow for the increased demand to educate your agents on new marketing efforts as your organization works to rebound from the 2009 economic crisis.

Steps for a successful agent adherence program include:

  • Planning
    • Baseline your metrics and determine your planned vs. unplanned shrinkage, your call volumes, and determine your average agent state metrics for call and non-call activities.
    • Determine your acceptance agent state threshold through use of your baseline - but keep your thresholds realistic. For example, allow enough of a window of overages for your agents to take a call right before a scheduled activity (such as lunch) so that the agent can finish the call before leaving for lunch without penalty.
    • Forecast your new shrinkage levels and determine how much savings you can achieve.
    • Get support from your executive management, human resources, and union (if applicable) before you move forward to ensure that your support team understands the program and supports it.
    • Determine ownership of adherence. Who will monitor the agent states? Who is responsible for alerting the agents when they are out of adherence? Who will coach the agents and hold them accountable?
  • Implementation
    • Prepare your Rollout. Implement your thresholds into your WFM/ACD solution, develop an exception management program (track of approved, non-approved adherence exceptions), train everyone, and then implement your monitoring and notification process.
    • Monitor your results and adjust your thresholds as needed. Make sure that you notify your agents of out of adherence issues when they happen. Ensure that your owners are managing per the ownership plan, and communicate your results to executive management, your call center management team, and your agents.
    • Incorporate Adherence into your balanced agent and supervisor scorecard to ensure accountability.
  • Ongoing Management
    • Incorporate adherence into your new hire and refresher training, staff meetings, and team building events. There are some great and fun games for showing agents the importance of adherence - use them!
    • Hold your supervisors and WFM team accountable. Teach your supervisors how to coach with metrics and make sure they do it. Both teams should be accountable for success - not just your WFM team
    • Measure and Understand your Metrics - incorporate your adherence metrics into your intraday, daily, weekly, and monthly reporting cycle.

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