Yellow, Red and Green
Let’s get the bad news out of the way. It’s impossible to eliminate contact centre shrinkage. Off-call activity, from training sessions to bathroom breaks, is an inevitable part of the business. Aggressive efforts to eradicate shrinkage in call centres can negatively affect team cohesion, agent training, morale and retention.
Excessive shrinkage, however, is a barrier to meeting service levels and achieving profitability. A data-driven approach leveraging a high-performance workforce management solution can help identify where shrinkage in your call centre is getting out of control, so executives and on-the-floor managers can target a response.
The key to effective action is granular shrinkage statistics by cause. For explanatory purposes, we’ll break common contact centre shrinkage types into three categories:
- Yellow for largely uncontrollable causes of shrinkage
- Red for negative staff behaviors that contribute to shrinkage
- Green for activities that can have positive impacts on the call centre, but also boost shrinkage rates
This category includes causes of shrinkage which day-to-day contact centre management practices will have little effect, such as:
- Vacation time
- Personal days
Time off is typically allocated in employment contracts, and there’s no recourse if the flu strikes in February. Most contact centres find it best to consider these sources of shrinkage “facts of life,” examine historical data for each area, and include similar percentages as assumptions for budgeting and staffing purposes. Aiming for significant reductions here is rarely successful.
On the other hand, schedule adherence by employees is extremely important and must be consistently underscored. Contact centres strive to minimise agent behaviors that drive up shrinkage without offering any benefits to the call centre, employees or clients. Such shrinkage causes include:
- Extended and unscheduled breaks
- Socialising and personal calls
These designated ‘green’ activities can pay dividends in agent skill and enthusiasm, but can also eat into the budget. Cost-benefit analysis will help determine the appropriate amount of time to devote to:
- Post-call work, such as order processing
- Up-training and cross-training programs
- Call reviews with quality-assurance specialists
- Company events
- Scheduled and necessary breaks
Finding Patterns in the Data
There is a saying that “what gets measured gets managed.” This is the power in workforce management software solutions, enabling call centre planners to monitor shrinkage and make informed decisions to help maximise the impact of every agent hour.
Detailed analysis can help identify shrinkage outliers in need of immediate intervention and locate patterns worthy of facility-wide attention. Workforce management solutions will also help generate accurate forecasts taking contact centre shrinkage into account.
The shrinkage-reduction process usually involves multiple steps:
- Include all activities, from pre-shift meetings to lunch breaks, on the schedule to facilitate tracking.
- Analyse the sources of shrinkage over which managers have some degree of control, with emphasis on low-hanging fruit and areas driving the greatest negative impacts.
- Evaluate what policies, motivational techniques or other initiatives may help reduce absenteeism, tardiness and general lack of attention by agents on the floor.
- Find the Goldilocks zone for “green area” causes of shrinkage in call centres. For example, is up-training for help desk agents taking too much time, not enough time or about the right amount?
- Implement targeted interventions and monitoring results to determine what’s working and where further effort is required.
- Use real-time shrinkage data to improve schedule adherence throughout each shift.
Contact centre analysts must be sensitive to seasonal and other changes as they assess initiatives to reduce shrinkage. For instance, increased shrinkage during the holiday season is often temporary. Workforce management solutions can help distinguish signal from noise in shrinkage statistics.
Shrinkage and the Budget
Shrinkage is an issue that benefits from transparency. When shrinkage in call centres hasn’t been effectively accounted for, financial pressures can drive a heavy-handed response. Suddenly chiding agents about breaks or targeting aggressive reductions in post-call time devoted to paperwork can weigh on employee engagement, retention and performance.
On the other hand, the more data and insight workforce management teams can bring to internal discussions, the easier it is to use reasonable, targeted measures to slash excessive shrinkage and keep the contact centre within budgetary parameters.
Of course, shrinkage is not the only complex variable that must be addressed in a call centre budget. To get a better handle on the many factors affecting profitability–from facility costs and technology needs to occupancy forecasts and average answer time estimates–download our white paper.
“The Ultimate Guide to Budgeting for Your Contact Center” is a beginning to end look at call centre expenditures and the critical role workforce management plays in budget preparation. Use it to get your 2020 planning off to the right start!