What is call center schedule adherence

What is Schedule Adherence in Call Centers?

Call centers use a variety of metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure the overall efficiency of call center operations and agent performance. Along with other critical metrics and KPIs like Agent Utilization and Agent Occupancy, Schedule Adherence is an important workforce management metric helping managers evaluate operational efficiency, agent performance, staffing levels, and customer service quality. 

What is Schedule Adherence?

Call center Schedule Adherence is a metric that measures whether or not call center agents adhere to their assigned schedules and meet the required work hours. Schedule Adherence is often confused with Schedule Conformance. Though these two metrics are related and are often used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between them. While adherence includes agents’ entire schedules, including call time, call wrap-ups, meetings, break time, and training, conformance measures the total time the agent worked compared to their schedule. 

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How to Calculate Schedule Adherence

Schedule Adherence is generally automatically tracked by a Workforce Management Software system. It is calculated by dividing the total number of minutes a call center agent works during a shift by the total number of minutes they are scheduled to work. The number is then multiplied by 100 to get the percentage.

Adherence can be calculated per single agent or averaged with the adherence numbers from all agents to get an adherence rate for the entire call center. The formula looks like this:

Schedule Adherence Rate = (Total Minutes Worked / Total Scheduled Minutes) x 100

For example, an agent is scheduled for 480 minutes of work (which makes a standard 8-hour working day), but they end up working 450 minutes during their shift. In this scenario, their adherence rate would be 450/ 480 x 100 = 93,75%.

There is no universally recognized call center schedule adherence benchmark as it can vary based on industry, call center type, and other factors, but adherence rates between 85-95% are generally considered acceptable. A high adherence rate indicates that agents are sticking to their schedules. However, aiming for a higher adherence rate (of over 95%) may lead to agent burnout and negatively affect their productivity.

Why is Schedule Adherence an Important Call Center Metric?

Schedule adherence diagram

Consistently measuring Schedule Adherence in contact centers has a number of benefits. Below are the most essential ones:

Better customer service levels

Schedule Adherence can directly affect customer service levels and customer experience. When agents adhere to their schedules, it means an adequate number of agents are available to handle the inbound call volume and timely resolve customer issues while meeting SLA levels. It helps ensure call flow runs smoothly, minimizes wait times for callers, and reduces call queue lengths, contributing to higher customer satisfaction levels.

On the contrary, low Schedule Adherence may lead to poor support quality due to reduced average speed of answer, longer wait times in queues, and more dropped calls. Schedule Adherence is especially important when managing a smaller call center. When fewer agents are scheduled to handle the current inbound call volume – even if one of them is not adhering to their schedule, that can negatively impact the overall service quality. 

Consistent operational efficiency

Schedule Adherence enhances operational efficiency in call centers. Understanding how agents spend their work time by tracking Schedule Adherence gives managers the information they need for efficient planning, appropriate staffing levels, and resource allocation.

When call center reps consistently adhere to schedules, that ensures operational efficiency during peak demand periods, helping call centers avoid understaffing or overstaffing and optimize resource utilization. A low adherence rate would indicate that a call center is operating inefficiently. 

Agent performance assessment

Alongside other metrics, Schedule Adherence is used to evaluate agent productivity and overall call center performance. Agents who adhere to their schedules demonstrate reliability, punctuality, effective time-management skills and tend to be more efficient while also contributing to the overall call center productivity by being present and actively engaged in handling customer inquiries.

Graph showing agents' schedule adherence rates

By assessing agent performance and efficiency through Schedule Adherence, managers can identify performance issues that need to be addressed and take proactive measures to optimize workforce management and improve the overall performance of a call center.

What Factors Affect Schedule Adherence?

Different factors can affect whether agents are able to stick to their schedules in a call center environment. Some may occur intentionally, while others are caused by unforeseen circumstances and interruptions. These are the most common ones:

  • Agent attendance: Personal circumstances, health-related reasons, or transportation issues may affect an agent’s ability to adhere to their schedule and shift start times.
  • Technical issues: Agents may be experiencing technical issues resulting in an inability to log into the call center software system, receive calls, or access customer information.
  • Shrinkage management: If shrinkage activities, such as breaks, lunches, training, meetings, or administrative tasks, are not effectively managed, it can negatively impact adherence.
  • Engagement and motivation: Poor engagement and low motivation, morale, and job satisfaction may ultimately lead to lower adherence among agents.
  • Staffing accuracy: Inefficient scheduling practices and inaccurate call volume forecasting may result in understaffing or overstaffing, making it difficult for agents to adhere to their schedules.

How to Improve Schedule Adherence in Call Centers

Set clear Schedule Adherence goals

Though most call centers would naturally aim for higher Schedule Adherence rates, some non-adherence is inevitable due to factors that might be out of agents’ control. When setting Schedule Adherence goals, it’s essential to ensure the adherence rate you are aiming for is realistic and achievable and that agents know what is expected of them (and what happens if they don’t adhere to their scheduled times).

Communicate the importance of Schedule Adherence

Agents should be taught the importance of adhering to their schedules and have a clear understanding of how failing to do it can negatively affect the overall customer service level and customer satisfaction. Besides that, agents should be aware of the impact of non-adherence on their teammates. When agents aren’t at their desks when they’re scheduled, fewer agents are available to take calls, making it more challenging for the remaining agents to handle an increased workload to compensate for absent fellow co-workers.

Offer flexible scheduling options

Consider offering flexible scheduling options taking into account agents’ preferences and personal commitments. That may include part-time shifts, split shifts, shift swapping, or self-scheduling options. Providing agents with remote and hybrid work opportunities that are becoming increasingly common in contact centers can also help improve adherence rates while enabling agents to maintain a healthier work-life balance and increase job satisfaction.

Provide feedback and training

Offer constructive feedback to agents who aren’t sticking to their schedules and consistently maintain open communication through one-on-one meetings. Identify the reasons behind non-adherence and help agents overcome whatever challenges they may be facing. Offer additional training and coaching opportunities to call center agents on time management, task prioritization, and work efficiency to help them manage their workload more efficiently and improve Schedule Adherence.

Offer performance incentives

Offering incentives and public recognition to agents who hit their Schedule Adherence goals is one of the ways to encourage agents to consistently stick to their schedules. These could be offered at an individual and team level. Monetary and non-monetary rewards tied to adherence can help keep top performers motivated while also encouraging and motivating those who fall behind their adherence targets. 

Improve engagement and job satisfaction

Foster a positive and supportive workplace environment to drive better employee engagement, increase job satisfaction, and improve morale. Ensure agents feel comfortable to share their feedback, express their concerns and challenges, and have the necessary support from managers and supervisors whenever needed. Keeping agents highly engaged, satisfied, and motivated to stay productive helps improve adherence for the long term.

Identify and timely address adherence issues

A critical part of improving Schedule Adherence is keeping track of what is causing adherence problems and taking proactive steps to address these issues early on. Regularly review and analyze adherence data to identify trends, patterns, inefficiencies in processes, and areas for improvement. Refine scheduling practices based on the gained insights to improve the overall call center adherence rate.

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Share this article:

  • What is Schedule Adherence in Call Centers?
    1. What is Schedule Adherence?
    2. How to Calculate Schedule Adherence
    3. Why is Schedule Adherence an Important Call Center Metric?
    4. Better customer service levels
    5. Consistent operational efficiency
    6. Agent performance assessment
    7. What Factors Affect Schedule Adherence?
    8. How to Improve Schedule Adherence in Call Centers
    9. Set clear Schedule Adherence goals
    10. Communicate the importance of Schedule Adherence
    11. Offer flexible scheduling options
    12. Provide feedback and training
    13. Offer performance incentives
    14. Improve engagement and job satisfaction
    15. Identify and timely address adherence issues
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