The success of your business’ call center depends on how well employees perform when servicing customers.
However, optimizing their workflow is a complicated process that needs to take into account several variables.
Today we’ll focus on an often-overlooked management metric that has, in fact, a tremendous impact on businesses’ outcomes: schedule adherence.
In this article, we’re going to explain what schedule adherence is, why it is crucial, and how to calculate it to improve your rates and — as a result — boost your performance.
What is schedule adherence?
Schedule adherence is a crucial performance management metric that can help you tweak your call center’s operations.
More specifically, schedule adherence refers to the overlap between the time frame your call center agents are supposed to be logged in and the actual time frame during which they are.
In essence, it measures how closely agents follow their scheduled activities.
It can be expressed as a percentage that shows to what extent your call agents worked during scheduled log in hours.
To have a crystal clear picture of the matter, let’s take an example.
Let’s say one of your call center agents is scheduled to work an 8-hour shift, starting at 8 AM.
He’s 14 minutes late and decides to make up for the lost time by working during his lunch break.
So, instead of a one hour break, he only has a 30-minute break.
Although your agent recovered the 14 minutes and conformed to the number of hours he was supposed to work, he didn’t adhere to the schedule.
He worked when he was, in fact, supposed to be logged out.
Conformance and adherence are two metrics often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.
While adherence focuses on working in specific time frames, conformance considers the total worked time, irrespective of when it happens.
When calculating schedule adherence, be sure to make this distinction, because it is easy to confuse these two similar notions.
Why? Because knowing your schedule adherence percentage is vital for custom care businesses.
Why is schedule adherence crucial for call centers?
Customer care is a vital part of business and requires big investments.
Considering the stakes are so high, optimizing the resources you direct towards your call center should become a priority.
And, since call center agents are the most important resource you have, it’s your job to monitor how well they do their job.
If you manage a call center, you know perfectly well a lot of effort is directed on forecasting and scheduling, because of their tremendous impact on performance.
However, most call agents don’t understand the magnitude of this effort, nor the importance of sticking to their schedule.
Most of them wrongly believe that it’s the overall hours they put in that matter and not how much they adhere to their schedules.
But each time an agent is out of schedule, the average waiting times for your customers increase.
With fewer agents logged in to maintain service levels, more customers are left hanging.
Unsurprisingly, longer waiting periods build discontent and can deepen whatever frustration already existed.
The first step in managing these situations is to analyse and understand to what measure your employees respect their schedule.
Measuring your call center adherence rates can give you valuable data to efficiently plan staffing and increase customer satisfaction by lowering average waiting rates.
Monitoring adherence can result in smoother shift transitions, benefiting both employees and customers.
Moreover, you’ll be able to make better operational decisions to increase productivity, reduce occupancy and improve performance.
As a result, you’ll get closer to your goals and have more hands on deck when it matters.
Because in call centers, a few seconds can make the difference between a satisfied customer and a disappointed one, whose negative experience can escalate to affect your good image.
How to calculate schedule adherence
Adherence is calculated by following a simple formula that considers the time agents are in adherence with their schedule and out of adherence.
Simply put, the formula considers the hours worked while agents are supposed to be logged in, and the hours worked when they should have been logged out.
Here’s the call center adherence formula you can use to calculate your adherence rate:
ADHERENCE GOAL = _% Formula = Total IN Adherence / (Total IN Adherence + Total OUT Adherence)
To make sure you crunch the numbers correctly, you can use the schedule adherence goal calculator from The Reporting Engine.
To make sure you have an even better picture on what’s happening at your call center, you can also choose to calculate conformance.
By analyzing how adherence and conformance measure up, you can make better staffing decisions in the future.
To calculate conformance in your contact center, you can use this formula:
CONFORMANCE GOAL = _% Formula = Total Actual Minutes / Total Scheduled Minutes
(Where Total Actual Minutes = Login Adherence IN + Logout adherence OUT)
While understanding how schedule adherence and conformance rates are calculated is important, you can’t manually compute the number for all your call agents, day in and day out.
To achieve this, you need a specialized tool to automate the process.
Ideally, you can use a reporting solution such as The Reporting Engine to calculate your call center adherence.
You can easily integrate it with your workforce management system (WFM), from where it can extract adherence data and even feed you real-time information about your agents.
The best part, though? Comprehensive adherence reports.
After the data computed by The Reporting Engine’s schedule adherence calculator is analyzed, you’ll get access to reports that will enable you to compare your agent scheduled working hours with their actual activity.
Based on these, you can create better training programs and improve overall performance and customer satisfaction.
You can also better assess your center’s real work volume and make any needed changes in your staffing planning.
By following the data in your WFM and the performance reports from The Reporting Engine, you can see if your agents are logged out when they are supposed to answer calls or if they don’t take breaks when scheduled.
Because remember: working on beaks is considered out of adherence.
Any minute spent out of adherence can cause delays that can mount up and affect other agents.
That’s why, to meet your service level goals, you need to hold employees accountable for adherence results.
At the same time, you want to make sure you equip them with everything they need to stick to their schedules.
Speaking of which…
How to improve schedule adherence rates
Set realistic goals
When setting your adherence goals, keep in mind that hitting the 100% mark is almost impossible.
That means you shouldn’t go above and beyond to improve, let’s say, that untraceable 2% — the resources and energy required for that might do more harm than good.
Aiming for a reasonable target might be a better, more efficient option.
Take into account that some adherence issues are beyond your agents’ control.
For example, agents might fall out of adherence due to longer calls, unresponsive software, or last-minute calls.
These are all realities that can strike at any time.
It would be a bad-management decision to penalize your employees for something not even you could predict.
Look for individual non-adherence
Most of the time, intentional out-of-adherence can be spotted by looking at the granular data.
If you find that your agents’ adherence rates fall more or less around the same percentage, and only a few cases are disproportionately out of average, dive deeper into the latter ones.
By analyzing the extremes, you’ll find the individuals who are slacking, but you’ll also discover how your most productive agents keep their high rates.
Before you jump to conclusions, make sure to assess the whole picture.
Compare adherence and conformance rates to understand if low performing employees are avoiding work intentionally or struggling with issues out of their control.
Look for patterns and pin-point issues so you can fix them later on (e.g. software system upgrades or shift adjustments).
Take your time to analyze and understand these individual cases thoroughly.
To make a fair assessment, look at more data generated by reporting systems such as The Reporting Engine.
Refine your agent training programs
The number one reason agents don’t adhere to schedules is that they fail to understand their importance.
Agents don’t see how their lack of adherence influences other colleagues and — ultimately — customers.
To improve call center adherence rates, you need to help your agents comprehend the importance of sticking to their schedule.
Teaching from the get-go is much simpler than trying to correct bad habits once they’re formed.
That being said, tweak your on-boarding process and focus on teaching correct methods of handling customers without diverting from schedules.
Also, create regular training sessions and workshops to refresh knowledge and reinforce how crucial
Provide incentives for high adherence rates
Significant differences in adherence rates can also influence your top performing agents, who might feel disappointed in seeing their efforts go unnoticed.
To recognize their merits, and also motivate less productive agents, consider designing a rewards program.
Bonuses or other types of incentives that can prove attractive to your employees can help you improve your adherence rates and close the gap.
Remember that rewards don’t necessarily have to be expensive.
What’s important is for the incentives to have a high-perceived value.
Alternatively, internal recognition and career advancement programs can prove equally effective for boosting call center adherence rates.
Calculate and monitor adherence rates
Last but not least, calculate adherence rates with a specialized tool such as The Reporting Engine.
By monitoring how much your call agents adhere to schedule, you’ll be able to increase fairness by adjusting shifts, tweaking staffing, penalizing non-adherent agents, and rewarding high-performing ones.
As a result, these actions will translate into more performance for your call center and happier customers.
With your schedule optimized, you’ll reduce waiting times and raise the quality of your services.
It’s a snowball effect that starts with the simple formula for call center adherence rates.
Want to calculate your schedule adherence automatically?
If you’re serious about improving your call center’s performance, consider using a reporting solution that will help your decision-making process.
The Reporting Engine has been created by specialists who have decades of experience in call centers and understand the industry inside-out.
Knowing what issues businesses face, we have designed a solution that meets the most pressing needs.
And scheduling is one of them.
The Reporting Engine has a specialized tool that can help you calculate your call center adherence and pin-point opportunities and weaknesses.
Reach out to us today and let’s see how we can optimize your call center operations for better ROI.
Or, better yet, request a demo to learn more about the benefits you’d enjoy.