Workforce Management

Tips for more effective call center forecasting, scheduling and agent adherence

Schedule Adherence Hints, Tips & Best Practices

How Complete is Your Schedule Adherence Tracking?

Posted: December 23 2013 by: Chuck Ciarlo

Managing agent adherence across all contact center activities is one of the most challenging call center tasks and is often the cause for poor call center performance.

Workforce management software plays a key role in schedule adherence tracking. The goal is to make monitoring easier and more accurate through a reliable automated system, and reviewing results to achieve goals in service levels, productivity and cost management. But this can be challenging if WFM stops short of comprehensive adherence tracking.

Every activity that goes into a schedule, even non-call activities, should be tracked regarding adherence. That requires an added layer of flexibility, the option to set up "custom states", and the ability to monitor activities in real time. Is it time to replace your WMF solution? These questions may help to make that decision:

  • Can you add any agent activity type into adherence monitoring as "customer states"?
  • Can you program custom thresholds and variances designed meet the specific needs of your call center?
  • Can you monitor such activities as special after-word and outbound preparation?
  • Can you monitor adherence in real-time on a dashboard?
If not, it may be time to find a new product that supports customizable adherence tracking, resulting in a new level of accuracy in managing call center performance. Watch this video about schedule adherence in action or download our whitepaper with Seven Strategies for Improving Adherence.

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Improving Schedule Adherence

Posted: November 18 2013 by: Chuck Ciarlo

Schedule adherence plays a critical role in the success of any contact center. Workforce management (WFM) software makes the goal of optimal schedule adherence easier to achieve.

How? Monet has created a video demo that illustrates the capabilities and key benefits of using adherence tracking and monitoring tools as part of a workforce management solution. Check out the video and learn about real-time schedule adherence:

The video should prove particularly enlightening for any contact center still using spreadsheets. If that is how forecasting and scheduling is handled at your call center, this is the time to discover how a workforce management system can:

  • Monitor agent status in real-time
  • Monitor and analyze key performance indicators and trends to reforecast, reschedule, and adjust staffing levels
  • Track and compare forecasted and actual center statistics
  • Evaluate adherence and take action to improve performance
Not only will the WFM-generated schedules provide more accurate information, they will make a dramatic change in the manager’s schedule as well. How long does it take to run all of the necessary numbers with a spreadsheet? With WFM, managers can access better numbers more quickly, so they have more time to address other issues, or leave the office on time for a change.

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Schedule Adherence Automation

Posted: August 27 2013 by: Chuck Ciarlo

We offer a wide range of free resources on our website, including whitepapers on several important subjects related to call center technology and the call center industry. From the number of downloads, it is apparent that schedule adherence is a key topic of interest for many call center managers.

However, many of these managers also indicate that they have no Workforce Management (WFM) solution in place, and are still relying on spreadsheets. Without WFM, the vital practices of tracking, monitoring and improving schedule adherence is much more difficult, if not impossible.

With an automated solution in place, a call center manager has the capability to streamline schedule adherence goals and practices. Here’s how it works when you have the right tools for the job:

  • Forecasting – through simulations based on historical data, you can create a reliable schedule.
  • Schedule Creation – adherence is improved when a schedule takes into account agent availability, skills, holidays, breaks and other variables.
  • Intra-day Management – when adjustments are necessary, WFM provides real-time updates so schedule goals are met regardless of changes.
  • Real-time Adherence – this is the fastest way to compare forecasted data with actual daily activity. The results will aid in future forecasting and scheduling, toward the goal of more consistent adherence.
  • Performance Analysis/Metrics – how do you know which agents are doing their part for schedule adherence and which may require additional guidance or training? WFM dashboards and real-time alerts provide the answers.
To find out more, read our schedule adherence strategy brief, or review the whitepapers available on our call center resources page.

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The Challenge of Agent Adherence

Posted: June 11 2013 by: Chuck Ciarlo

Agent adherence is a metric that can be measured and tracked, but knowing how your call center is doing in this area and making changes for the better are two very different things.

If an agent goes off script, training and call recording can make certain they go back to using the company-approved verbiage. Some calls taking too long? Again, coaching and strategic changes can probably shave a few minutes or seconds off the typical customer engagement.

But agent adherence is a trickier challenge, because even outstanding agents can be vulnerable to distractions and other outside factors than can impact job performance. You can create a schedule that should be sufficient, but keeping agents focused and aware throughout their shift requires additional support.

Why? It’s human nature to get distracted, and distractions can emerge not just internally but throughout the call center environment. Agents may not be aware of how these “mental check-outs” impact not just the service level they provide, but that of other agents and the entire call center.

Also, as call centers become contact centers, engaging customers through email, chat and social media, it can be more difficult to assess adherence across these multiple channels, and make sure all are getting the attention they deserve.

However, there are strategies that have helped call centers with their adherence issues. We have published a whitepaper that outlines strategies for improved agent adherence and we hope that this might help you get new ideas on how to address this issue in your call center.


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Do You Measure Your Agent Schedule Adherence? Is it 70, 80 or 90%?

Posted: May 3 2013 by: Chuck Ciarlo

Schedules only work if employees stick to them. Most will but as call center managers have discovered, even a small drop in adherence can severely impact both productivity and costs. Many call centers are now pro-actively focusing on improving schedule adherence for increased service levels and reduced costs. Raising the adherence from 80 to 85%, or from 90% to 95% can result in huge cost differences. For example, in this Adherence whitepaper there is the case of a 300 employee call center and the assumption that each employee is 10 minutes our of adherence every day, resulting in $250,000 per year.

Fixing adherence issues is one of the quickest ways to avoid angry customers and rising costs. But first, you must determine your current adherence level. Yes, there will be math involved – but these are numbers that are vital to know.

Here’s the formula:
[phone time + other work related activity time] / ([shift time] - [lunch/dinner] -
[break] + [exception time] + [overtime]) = schedule adherence

Once you’ve got the results, you can add up the money now being wasted and put a stop to it.

What Causes Adherence Issues?
Are some agents taking too many breaks or absences? Is the schedule too rigid? Are employees showing up late and leaving early? Address these issues with agents, and make sure they realize how important schedule adherence is to the call center – and to their job.

This need not be a confrontational situation – one method that has worked at call centers is the setting of adherence goals, with rewards offered to agents that aid in their achievement. Monitor progress whether the goals are achieved or not, and keep the lines of communication open.

The Role of Workforce Management
A workforce management solution can play a key role in agent adherence. First, you don't have to calculate adherence, the system does that for you. Second, real-time tracking and monitoring makes it easier to adjust forecasts and schedules right when there is an adherence problem. Third, adherence reporting helps you analyze data from the past, identify potential issues that impact adherence and the opportunity to discuss with your team.

For more information, please download the Monet white paper Strategies for Improving Schedule Adherence.


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Agent Schedule Adherence Visualized

Posted: March 28 2013 by: Chuck Ciarlo

Monitoring call center agent adherence to a rotation schedule is yet another task that used to be handled manually, and now can be achieved in less time and with greater accuracy through a workforce management solution.

With workforce management, a call center can monitor and record the schedule adherence status of all agents in real-time. The system tracks data on every status related to this issue, from lunches to daily breaks to when agents log out.

By having this information easily accessible on a workforce management dashboard, managers can quickly compare the agent’s actual daily activity to the objective intended by the company. One can even create custom states and guidelines to address atypical needs for a specific call center, such as after-hours work.

Once guidelines are customized and set as to which states (or statuses) should be included or not included in a schedule adherence measurement, the system does the rest. The different states are color-coded and can easily be monitored from a dashboard. It is now simple to review each agent’s efforts and classify their work time as within schedule adherence, or find out where he or she is coming up short. Too much time spent away from assigned functions can impact the call center’s productivity.

Accurate time management can be a challenge, as minor exceptions and changes happen each day. Perhaps an agent is scheduled to go on an approved break, but cuts into that time to complete a call that takes another 10 minutes. An effective workforce management solution can be configured in such a way as to record this time extension, and not count the lost break time against that agent. For more detailed information about how to implement effective strategies for schedule adherence, please click the link to download our whitepaper.


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Call center schedule adherence definition, impact and tips for improvement

Posted: October 2 2012 by: Chuck Ciarlo

This blog has published many articles and advice on call center schedule adherence and this topic seems to be on top of the list for many call center managers because we see a lot of interest. So, here is another summary of the top articles about schedule adherence for you:

There is also a whitepaper about schedule adherence you can download if you are looking for more information


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The advantages of real-time schedule adherence in your call center

Posted: August 3 2012 by: Chuck Ciarlo

Real-time schedule adherence functionality continuously monitors and records the real-time status of your staff to show which agents are on the phone and which ones are not, so you can quickly take corrective action to streamline workflow processes. Call center schedule adherence screens display when agents are available for calls and when they take their lunches and breaks based on predetermined schedules.
A manager can easily compare planned agent activity to actual activities throughout the day, and can see the real-time status of each agent against the planned activity. Intra-day management features provide real-time views of forecasted, actual, and predicted call volumes, handling times, and other key performance indicators. You get alerts when agents are out of adherence, enabling you to adjust schedules accordingly, begin live monitoring, or record calls for future training sessions. Here are some key capabilities:

  • Monitor agent status in real-time
  • Receive instant alerts for out-of-adherence states
  • View agent exceptions in real-time and approve or deny them in one-minute increments
  • Monitor and analyze key performance indicators and trends to reforecast, reschedule, and adjust staffing
  • Track and compare forecasted and actual center statistics schedule overtime or time off during high and low call volume situations
  • Evaluate adherence and take action to improve performance

A key component to managing adherence is to reduce shrinkage, which is the time for which agents are paid during times when they are not available to handle calls. Shrinkage can dramatically affect your center's ability to meet service levels. To learn more about this topic, please read the whitepaper about agent and schedule adherence.


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5 Strategies to improve call center schedule adherence

Posted: July 25 2012 by: Chuck Ciarlo

One of the biggest challenges of running a call center is making sure that employees adhere to their schedules. Applying a strategic approach to improving adherence is crucial for contact centers struggling with rising costs, low service levels, and low customer satisfaction. This whitepaper summarizes five strategies to help boost agent adherence in your call center.

  1. How to quantify the cost and service implications of missing staff
  2. Learn about options for setting adherence performance goals
  3. How to identify the reasons why staff don't adhere to the schedule plan
  4. How to develop reward and consequence programs that support adherence goals
  5. How to effectively track, monitor and measure adherence

The whitepaper also explains how Workforce Management software helps call centers implement those adherence strategies more effectively. If you want to learn more about real-time schedule adherence, please visit also our main website.


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What is schedule adherence and why is it important in the call center?

Posted: May 9 2012 by: Chuck Ciarlo

Schedule adherence is the degree to which agents stick to their schedules, measured as a percentage. Considering that staffing is the single biggest cost facing any call center – and that every minute counts when it comes to meeting customer service levels – it’s easy to see why call center managers are putting an increasing emphasis on improving it and are looking to their workforce management software for solutions.
 
If you run a small call center with 5 to 20 agents, you might think schedule adherence isn’t all that important. But if you take a closer look at all the different junctures throughout the day where agent time is “lost,” you’ll realize that it can add up to a serious loss of revenue over the course of a year.

Call center workforce management schedule adherence strategy whitepaper
Download whitepaper

Schedule adherence is particularly important for ensuring smooth transitions between shifts. 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 web-based call center scheduling solutions are playing an increasingly crucial role. They track schedule adherence in real-time and and automatically send you alerts.

When implementing a new program for improving schedule adherence in your call center - perhaps through the deployment of a workforce management system - it’s a good idea to discuss those changes with your employees first. The one thing you don’t want is a negative backlash from your valued employees, who might not be all that thrilled to be working under the watchful eye of “Big Brother.”

In order to reduce any negative backlash from your agents when implementing a new program to improve schedule adherence, you must first “inform and educate.” Agents need to understand the relevance of schedule adherence, how a mere 10 minutes here and there impacts other agents and the entire call center performance.

Then you should “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 can 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.

For more information, please read our 5 Strategies for improved Schedule Adherence whitepaper.

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What is advanced real-time schedule adherence?

Posted: February 14 2012 by: Chuck Ciarlo

One challenge in tracking and monitoring schedule adherence is that agents can have so many different non-call tasks, exceptions and states that it is difficult to plan for and then monitor those states. That's where Advanced Agent Adherence comes into action. It allows the creation of custom states and rules to match the unique needs of your the call center, such as:

  • Create custom states for any number of activities, such as call wrap-up, special after call work, or outbound preparation
  • Set thresholds for each state, indicating how much time is considered “in adherence” so that time in a particular state can automatically be broken down into acceptable and unacceptable time
  • Define which states are included or not included in the agent adherence calculation
Exceptions and non-call activities will be added by default and will be considered “scheduled activities,” along with available, break, lunch, and logged out states. Call center managers can customize which statuses are allowed and not allowed for each scheduled activity.

Since every call center has unique agent activity types, this flexible approach to agent adherence monitoring gives centers a new level of accuracy in managing call center performance and the potential to dramatically reduce non-productive agent time.

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Schedule Adherence for Call Centers - A Strategy Whitepaper

Posted: February 1 2012 by: Chuck Ciarlo

Schedule Adherence still seems one of the top challenges for call centers. This new whitepaper talks about the challenges and how to overcome those, helping call center managers and supervisors better manage adherence. The paper discusses the following topics:

  • How to identify the issues that cause out-of-adherence
  • How to monitor and measure adherence
  • How to work with your team on improving schedule adherence
  • How to establish an "adherence culture"
  • How to use tools to better monitor adherence
If you still struggle with out-of-adherence issues, or can’t reach and maintain your targeted adherence level, then this whitepaper is for you.

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How to Improve Agent Schedule Adherence in a Call Center

Posted: November 28 2011 by: Chuck Ciarlo




Adhe
rence: Are You In or Out of It?

One of the biggest challenges of running a call center is making sure that employees stick to their schedules. A strategic approach to improving agent adherence is crucial for call centers struggling with the challenges of rising costs, lower revenues, and frustrated customers. The following whitepaper summarizes five strategies to help boost agent adherence in your call center.

In addition to the five strategies, the whitepaper also explains how WFM software helps call centers implement those adherence strategies more effectively.


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How to improve call center schedule adherence

Posted: July 12 2011 by: Chuck Ciarlo

Watch this recorded webinar by The Call Center School and learn how to improve schedule adherence in your call center. During the session, call center experts share proven practices such as:

  1. How to quantify the cost and service implications of missing staff
  2. Learn about options for setting adherence performance goals
  3. How to identify the reasons why staff don't adhere to the schedule plan
  4. How to develop reward and consequence programs that support adherence goals
  5. How to effectively track, monitor and measure adherence
Here is the link to the recorded event

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