Schedule Adherence Goals: How do you pick the right one?

Contact centers that have the ability to measure the schedule adherence of their agents are generally more efficient and have less unproductive time than centers that don’t.. but not always.  One of the hardest and most important parts of rolling out schedule adherence as a metric and a culture in your contact center is selecting the right schedule adherence goal. 

When selecting a goal, you need to choose one that both employees and leadership team members will understand and support.  That can be a really tough thing to do when your employees say things like "I don’t think adherence is a fair metric.  It forces me to rush the customer off of the phone when its time for my break or lunch."  Setting the goal too high can impact customer satisfaction and employee engagement.  Setting the goal too low can erode all of the efficiency gains you have worked so hard to achieve during the workforce management process.  What is a call center leader to do?

Start by figuring out the total number of minutes that your average agent is scheduled in the office.  For the traditional FTE that works 40 hours per week with a 5×8 schedule and a 30 minute lunch, that number is 510 minutes per day (8.5 hour schedule x 60 minutes.)  Next, the hard part… figuring out how many minutes out of adherence you should allow to achieve the balance of efficiency and customer satisfaction you are looking for.  There are two ways to get to this information.  One is to use the reporting from your telecom and workforce management systems.  If the reports don’t provide the level of detail you need, you can also use general assumptions.  For our example, lets go the assumption route.  The next key metric you need is the number of minutes per  day/week/month your agent is genuinely stuck on calls serving customers when they should be at break or lunch.  For our example, lets assume that our agent misses an entire break every day (15 minutes) and that they also miss the the start of their lunch by another 10 minutes so thats a total of 25 minutes out of adherence every day.  If that happens every day, every week, all month long, the agent will achieve 95% schedule adherence. 

AHT can also be a consideration when trying to determine how many minutes your agents are actually stuck on calls when their break/lunch rolls around.  Contact types that have extremely long AHT’s have a greater chance of missing their entire break/lunch.  Technical support contact types where the agent is on the phone troubleshooting a problem for the customer and could be on that call for 35-45 minutes are a great example.  If you have contact types like that, you should assume that the frequency of going late or missing a break/lunch entirely will happen more often.      

In this example, the average agent can be out of adherence for 25 minutes each day and still achieve a 95% schedule adherence.  To some, 95% may sound like a pretty tough goal but think about the math.  If your agents are consistently performing at 95% adherence, that means that they are actually out of adherence a little over 2 hours each week and a whopping total of 8.5 hours each month.  Essentially, if you set a schedule adherence goal of 95%, you are giving your agents a whole day every month to be out of adherence for free. 

Generally speaking, adherence goals should be somewhere in the 90-95% range in most contact centers including those with long AHT’s.  If you are currently using a goal of less than 90%, you may want to re-evaluate that goal as you may be giving away a little too much each day/week/month and not getting the full benefit of your workforce management process.

I would love to hear from our readers on this topic.  What is your schedule adherence goal?