Hello all,
I was wondering if any of you could share your center's current practices around schedule adherence and compliance. The center I'm with currently has a goal of 95% Adherence / Compliance. Agents are allowed schedule exceptions of 10 minutes or greater. The goal of 95% generally allows 23 minutes per day to be out of schedule compliance without needing an exception input in the scheduling application.

As with many goals in the contact center, the compliance score has now become a managed number. Meaning, exceptions are input up to the point where the goal is met. We find many "systems" exceptions around breaks. And numerous situations where schedules are changed or exceptioned to meet the goal.

A proposal is on the table to completely eliminate the process. Phase 1 is to lower the goal. Phase II is to eliminate it altogether. Remove the exception process in the majority of situations and we can get a better idea of what's actually happening with capacity and shrinkage.

Senior Leadership is cautious of moving forward for fear that eliminating the process may actually increase shrinkage. A group of managers and myself are arguing the exact opposite. To aid our argument we would like to present examples of best practices that other centers engage in.

Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated!

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We are contact centre specialists that work assisting call centers in North America to increase performance by implementing best practices, processes and knowledge transferrence. If I can be blunt; Your schedule exceptions are not realistic and you are not providing proper measurement nor managing this key process and associated key metric of ASA and Abandon rate; which are probably all over the map. A simple seminar we conduct with Reps and Team Leads that we call; "the power of one" is easily implemented and the Reps love. We utilize the centres actual data from the day before that displays call volumes and ASA figures to show Reps the affect 1 to 2 Reps "not" adhering to schedule have on the call centre, customers behaviour and the stress levels of those Reps that are adhering to schedule. It is shock therapy in it's simplist form. The Reps get it and in most cases police the Reps that are not adhering to schedule moving forward. Because it is always the same few Reps that are the cause of adherence problems, the many who are affected by customers' impatience caused by higher delays, quickly find a remedy to the adherence to schedule issues. This is simplified but it works...we did this for a major Telco and we enabled adherence to schedule problems in numerous centres to disappear immediately. We have this testimonial of our website; Please feel free to contact me directly if you wish to discuss this further.

Don Rudman
We use two model for measuring adherance to schedule,

1- Adherence to schedule is a measurement of how much time during an agents shift they are taking calls or available to take calls. For example if adherence is expected to be 90 percent, each agent should be able to handle 0.90 x 60 minutes or 54 minutes on average, per scheduled hour. Agents can’t control the number of calls coming in, the knowledge of the caller and the nature of their enquiry but they can control being in the right place at the right time.

2- As for compliance, calculating staff roister is a good measurment
Roistered staff factor, also referred to as shrink factor or shrinkage, adds realism to staffing requirements by accounting for breaks, absenteeism, training, leave and non-phone work, and tardiness Example below:

Event Amount Rate Percent

Breaks 30 Min/Day 7.14%
Sick 7 Hour/Month 3.84%
Holidays 210 Hour/Year 9.62%
Vacation 211 Hour/Month 14.62%
Meetings 2 Hour/Month 1.10%
Training 4 Hour/Month 2.20%

Tardiness (Compliance) 1 Hour/Month .80%
Total 39.38%

Hope this will answer your quiry


Walid Sherif
Thank you both for your responses.

Donald, actually the ASA and Abandon Rates are consistent and within acceptable parameters. The challenge I think we have with the model you suggest is logistics. We have agents working from home and 3 sites operating as a virtual center via IP end points. Therefore, it could be difficult for agents to police each other. I hope my explanation didn't give the impression that our current schedule compliance process is chaotic. It is not. The agents are where we need them the majority of the time. We're simply trying to address the outliers now and perfect the scheduling process.

Walid, we have very similar measures to the ones you describe. We calculate both an "Adherence" to schedule and a "Compliance" with schedule KPI. Our definition of Adherence is identical to yours. Our Compliance measure is similar to what you describe. Login and Logout pairs from the ACD (Avaya CMS) are compared with schedule to determine how many minutes an agent was on the phone when they were scheduled to be on the phone. That goal for us is 95% of their day.

This measure will always exist. However, it is a managed number at present because it is a performance goal for the agents. We do not know what the true number is because exceptions are input for events resulting in 10 minutes or more time being out of compliance. This creates work for the agents, supervisors, and workforce management teams that results in a useless measurement. A big waste of time IMHO.

Our remedy is to simply reduce or eliminate the goal. This should result in fewer exceptions being input or required, in turn giving us a better picture of true shrinkage. The challenge we have now is proving to senior leadership that droping the compliance goal will not increase shrinkage. It's common sense to me. But they want to see what's happening in other centers for reassurance.

If I'm reading your post correctly Walid, you do not have a compliance goal for your agents. Correct?
Dear Brian,

First, I would not eliminate the process. Remember what gets measured gets managed and what gets managed gets better.

I would like to suggest one way to use adherence to find out your productivity. Let's say you have a 100 person center with 82% adherence and you hae 60% occupancy and 75% attendance. If you multiply your attendance to 100 people, that eans 75 people are at work. From that multiply your adherence, here it's 82% and that means 61.5 people are on time. When you take 60% of that number (representing occupancy) you find that 36.9 people are doing their job, being productive. And you're paying for 100!

If you increase to your numbers of 95% and if you had 100 people, that would mean 95 of them are at work. But I think it's important to rub these other numbers together to get an accurate picture of productivity.

Hope this is useful.

Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D., Customer Service Expert,
From my experience the best method regarding adherence exceptions is to not manage them at all. What I mean is that your goal is always to try and have 100% adherence to the schedule but the more that you manage that process by changing or making approvals to the exceptions the more you take the responsibility out of the agents hands. Agents are adults and yes there are situations where they are out of adherence but approving the time when they are missing takes the responsibility out of their hands and puts it in yours. I always say "the more you approve, the more you approve". If an agent forgets to log out makes it a good time to remind them that they should make that part of their daily process. The only exceptions that I can think of that should be approved are exceptions that are generated by management..out of the control of the agent.
I could not agree more. I like, "the more you approve, the more you approve." That's exactly the type of reframing we need to do at the management level in my center. I'm sure my Vice President will be able to relate to that statement.

There is no reason why we can't measure compliance without exceptions and derive a goal from the "real" numbers rather than the "managed" numbers.
Hi Brian. I lean strongly to where you're headed. You could be on the verge of becoming the first recipient of the "I refuse to drink the Kool Aid award". This response could take as long to read as a fifteen minute break.

If all that measuring works for others, why kick sand at the idea? My opinion is no more valid than the others you received, but here's experience upon which I base it. For every call center where you've seen these measures work I've been brought in to others to help dismantle them, all or part.

Who among us would ever allow ourselves to be managed that way, so why do we wonder why it's not working when we force it upon others? How does one even determine if it works? Certainly these employees can have their behavior shaped to force them to hit the targets. That however seems a lttle to much like Skinner's operant conditioning and his use of electrical shock to get the desired behavior. Simply getting the employees to meet compliance targets does not mean that the firm has accomplished anything other than hit otherwise meaningless objectives. It means there are warm bodies available to answer a projected number of calls provided that everything else that could happen falls within two standard deviations of not happening. And we all know those things will happen every day.

Those things include; car problems, late babysitter, sick children, snow, unforeseen medical and dental appointments, illness, new bill formats, new product launches, lunch took too long, higher than normal repeat calls, customer growth, training, employee churn, trading shifts, saving break times for a week in order to be able to attend a child's play, new trainees…

I recently evaluated a call center where in addition to getting performance dings for spending too much time on call, not up-selling enough, and not making enough saves, CSRs had to line up to sign in, sign out for breaks, sign in for breaks, request doctor appointments and vacations weeks out—unfortunately they didn’t know two weeks out if their children were going to have an ear infection or a snow day. The supervising CSR kept a large clock by her desk and marked them down each time they were a minute off. They had to eat lunch in the break room because they were the only people in the firm who were not allowed enough time to go to lunch. The techs, who were also hourly, floated in around eight, had coffee, told stories, loaded their trucks, headed off to their jobs, went to lunch, and all met back at the bay in the afternoon for coffee and more chat.

Imagine this job description for any degreed person in operations, sales, IT, or HR—no attempt made to make it total to 100%;

Coffee Breaks 30 Min/Day 7.14%
Meetings/Month 13.84%
Using the copier 3.84%
Rest room 9.62%
Phone calls 14.62%
30 minute lunch
Spread sheets 2.20%
Late elevator 9.62%
Ebay/Internet searching 27%
Mindless chit-chat with others at your desk 11.10%
March Madnness office pool 2.20%

Firm-wide compliance goal 95%. Anyone off by 1% gets written up. Anyone off by 2% gets remedial training. Anyone off two months in a row has to sit in the corner and is made fun of by everyone else.

It sounds ridiculous only because it’s meant to sound that way to make a point. We wouldn’t accept this and we wouldn’t be asked to work this way. The reason none of us are asked to work this way is because the mission would suffer, and people would quit.

Why do we then force this upon call center employees? Because they are paid hourly? Because they won’t do their best without these strictures in place? They are paid the least, they are trusted with the firm's most important assets, and they are measured like baterium in a petri dish.

At the example I described above we got rid of the clock, the sign in/sign out sheet, trusted people on their breaks and arrival and departure time, and eliminated several other nonsense rules. Guess what happened? Performance went way up and their churn went way down. Did some people abuse it? You bet they did. Do you know people in the rest of your firm that waste the firm’s investment talking on the phone to neighbor, browsing the internet, returning late from lunch? Of course you do.

My favorite metric is, are they being treated like adults (Yes or No). If firms want to measure compliance for call center employees, let’s redefine it against what it will be measured. Let it be measured against two standards; did the employee solve the customer's problem X% of the time, and did they do it in the first call Y% of the time.

After all, when was the last time anyone reviewed a customer quality recording and overheard someone saying, "Customer service certainly has improved since you implemented those compliance metrics. Limiting breaks to 7.14% is what really makes it hum."

Having experienced the joys of being a CSA myself, I completely agree with your assessment. Customer service agents are not livestock and the contact center environment should not be a sweat shop. I don't think there is a manager out there who would disagree with that. At least I hope there isn't.

The primary challenge to the paradigm shift you suggest is a lack of Business Intelligence. Is it possible to determine "once and done" service or the % of time the agent solved the customer's problem? In large scale environments where many "hand-offs" occur in the work flow, how are these KPI's measured? Most "back office" or "customer sat" data is not as easily accessible as the data coming out of our switches. Complex products, antiquated systems, and poor communications between system platforms contribute to the lack of Intel. It is a huge undertaking to measure "once and done" processing.

In my current environment the quality review program is the only process in place able to provide that data. However, the current quality budget allows for less than 1/10th of a percent of calls be reviewed. The logical answer here is to increase quality spend and lose the unnecessary processes related to the sweat shop environment. But that is most certainly not a 1:1 trade-off. And we all know what senior leadership tends to do with quality program budgets. The measures required for this paradigm shift may be out of budgetary reach.

Personally I feel treating service as the primary differentiator, the competitive advantage, is absolutely the way to go. One of the better methods of achieving that in the contact center is providing the right environment for the CSA. Removing the Compliance goal is certainly a move in the right direction. But again, when senior leadership comes calling wondering why the Service Level target was missed or the ASA is through the roof, there need to be controls in place to provide answers.

"Were the right resources in the right place at the right time?" How does one answer that in absence of a schedule compliance measurement?

Do we see ASA increase or decrease when the Compliance goal is eliminated and no longer enforced?


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