Preventing Call Center Shrinkage

According to the Society of Workplace Planning Professionals, (SWPP) call center shrinkage is:

"...the value used to determine the total required staffing levels necessary to meet your business goals."

Essentially, it means that contact center managers and operations professionals need to overstaff their teams because they need contingency resources to cover for unplanned and planned times when agents are not available to make and take calls, engage in online chats or work on other digital interaction channels.

Examples of events which cause agents to be inactive include:

Unplanned/non-discretionary reasons

  • Unplanned absence to illness or other personal reasons
  • Bathroom breaks
  • Late arrivals or early leaving
  • After-call administration time
  • Technology interruptions/outages

Planned/Discretionary reasons

  • Training time
  • Scheduled vacations or appointments
  • Coaching/manager reviews
  • Meetings

The SWPP says most contact centers average around 30 percent shrinkage, but it can vary between 20 percent and 50 percent. Mitigating long holding queues, disgruntled customers and service level agreement violations requires broad oversight, competent management, and innovative, reliable technology.

Here are five ways to manage contact center shrinkage and minimize the side effects it causes.

Improve performance/scheduling Oversight

Whether you manage a small business call center or an enterprise, visibility into your agents’ behaviors and activities is critical. Though call center agents generally dislike micromanagement, there are still several KPIs which need to be monitored, measured and met. They include call processing time, log in time, availability time and the volume of calls in queue.

A cloud-based call center management application with strong analytics capability helps managers and reps understand performance through data visualizations. The ability to compare agents with others with similar tenure, or over time provides context to meetings with team leads, coaches or managers.

Displaying historical or real-time performance data openly can be a great motivator to agents on the phone. Receiving alerts can help managers to proactively get agents out of training and back to their queues when calls or web chats are backing up.

Setting Shrinkable Targets

There is always going to be a certain level of call center shrinkage, and it’s all about control. Call center agents need breaks, to work their allotted shift hours and be trained. Breaks alone are about 10 percent of the average work day, and by scheduling agents to accommodate your entire workday, there are usually times of day when some agents are starting where others are hours into their shift.

Depending on the nature of your call center sales and support operations, the length and volume of interactions, and the amount of documentation required for each call, your ideal shrinkage percentage will vary. Some strategies contact centers use to offset times of excessive shrinkage include:

  • Cross-training experienced agents and team leads on multiple roles or lines of business
  • Meeting with agents that are taking long breaks or arriving late, and showing them their statistics
  • Implementing gamification strategies related to meeting KPI goals
  • Offering web or queued callback options during peak utilization times

Discovering how much shrinkage your teams can sustain over time is important, as is having a contingency plan when the unexpected becomes reality.

Proactive Call Recording and Listening

In some cases, a complex call with a difficult customer can be like quicksand. A demanding customer may keep an agent on the phone for an extended period of time. The more an agent tries to wrap up a call and move on to another, the deeper they end up sinking into that call.

A contact center agent supervisor console can help a team lead or manager “shoulder surf” on a call or web chat from their desk or office, and intervene in the call if need be. The agent may be following every standard and every strategy in your playbook, but sometimes a difficult call needs escalation and resolution.

A supervisor console is also a great way to mentor an agent for a similar situation by coaching them through web chat or having them remain on the line. Call recording enables after-call coaching, and mentors can pass on their knowledge about call management.

The supervisor console in 8x8’s SaaS contact center application also provides scheduling services to ensure coverage management relative to changing circumstances.

Virtual Contact Centers for Distributed Teams

Not every call center is situated within a single office, building, city or country. A virtual contact center platform is ideal for large enterprises which require the most reliable, secure contact center possible with the additional flexibility of remote agents.

Call center business continuity safeguards can be implemented to ensure customers can continue to be served, even in times of regional telecommunications disruption or other unforeseen events.

Customer Experience Tracking

If one of your contact center teams is over-utilized while another is less so, the ability to redirect calls to cross-trained agents can help to rectify this imbalance. The ability to track the utilization of customer journeys through different IVRs can help your operations team manage call routing to ensure customers are served without being held in queue for long durations.

Contact center shrinkage happens to the best-run businesses. The ability to monitor, mentor and manage your agents effectively is what will help your teams meet their performance objectives.

Call centers rely on their technology to empower them to be as productive as possible. With 8x8's Virtual Contact Center you get world class technology and everything your call center needs in one place. Call 1-866-879-8647 or fill out an online form to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 product specialist.

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