Reduce Excessive Shrinkage with Workforce Management Software

Contact center shrinkage can be like a kid running a lemonade stand. Imagine you buy the lemonade packet and figure out how many cups you can sell at what price. Then someone dumps half the pitcher on the ground. It’s hard to serve the same number of customers or make the same money with less lemonade.

This is how contact center professionals often feel about shrinkage—it saps resources and steals directly from the bottom line. Defined as any activity preventing an on-shift agent from assisting customers, shrinkage is among the most commonly underestimated factors in staffing plans and budgets. 

Fortunately, workforce management software have grown increasingly sophisticated and make shrinkage easier to track and analyze. Armed with the right technology and a strategic mindset, call center leaders can slash shrinkage, devote more agent time to customers and improve service outcomes.

Yellow, Red and Green

Let’s get the bad news out of the way. It’s impossible to eliminate contact center shrinkage. Off-call activity, from training sessions to bathroom breaks, is an inevitable part of the business. Aggressive efforts to eradicate shrinkage in call centers can negatively affect team cohesion, agent training, morale and retention.

Excessive shrinkage, however, is a barrier to meeting service levels and achieving profitability. A data-driven approach leveraging a high-performance workforce management solution can help identify where shrinkage in your call center is getting out of control, so executives and on-the-floor managers can target a response.

The key to effective action is granular shrinkage statistics by cause. For explanatory purposes, we’ll break common contact center shrinkage types into three categories: 

  • Yellow for largely uncontrollable causes of shrinkage
  • Red for negative staff behaviors that contribute to shrinkage
  • Green for activities that can have positive impacts on the call center, but also boost shrinkage rates


This category includes causes of shrinkage which day-to-day contact center management practices will have little effect, such as:  

  • Holidays
  • Vacation time
  • Personal days
  • Emergencies

Time off is typically allocated in employment contracts, and there’s no recourse if the flu strikes in February. Most contact centers find it best to consider these sources of shrinkage “facts of life,” examine historical data for each area, and include similar percentages as assumptions for budgeting and staffing purposes. Aiming for significant reductions here is rarely successful.


On the other hand, schedule adherence by employees is extremely important and must be consistently underscored. Contact centers strive to minimize agent behaviors that drive up shrinkage without offering any benefits to the call center, employees or clients. Such shrinkage causes include: 

  • Tardiness
  • Absenteeism
  • Extended and unscheduled breaks
  • Socializing and personal calls


These designated ‘green’ activities can pay dividends in agent skill and enthusiasm, but can also eat into the budget. Cost-benefit analysis will help determine the appropriate amount of time to devote to:

  • Post-call work, such as order processing
  • Up-training and cross-training programs
  • Call reviews with quality-assurance specialists
  • Company events
  • Scheduled and necessary breaks

Finding Patterns in the Data

There is a saying that “what gets measured gets managed.” This is the power in workforce management software solutions, enabling call center planners to monitor shrinkage and make informed decisions to help maximize the impact of every agent hour.  

Detailed analysis can help identify shrinkage outliers in need of immediate intervention and locate patterns worthy of facility-wide attention. Workforce management solutions will also help generate accurate forecasts taking contact center shrinkage into account.

The shrinkage-reduction process usually involves multiple steps:

  • Include all activities, from pre-shift meetings to lunch breaks, on the schedule to facilitate tracking.
  • Analyze the sources of shrinkage over which managers have some degree of control, with emphasis on low-hanging fruit and areas driving the greatest negative impacts. 
  • Evaluate what policies, motivational techniques or other initiatives may help reduce absenteeism, tardiness and general lack of attention by agents on the floor.
  • Find the Goldilocks zone for “green area” causes of shrinkage in call centers. For example, is up-training for help desk agents taking too much time, not enough time or about the right amount?
  • Implement targeted interventions and monitoring results to determine what’s working and where further effort is required.
  • Use real-time shrinkage data to improve schedule adherence throughout each shift. 

Contact center analysts must be sensitive to seasonal and other changes as they assess initiatives to reduce shrinkage. For instance, increased shrinkage during the holiday season is often temporary. Workforce management solutions can help distinguish signal from noise in shrinkage statistics.

Shrinkage and the Budget

Shrinkage is an issue that benefits from transparency. When shrinkage in call centers hasn’t been effectively accounted for, financial pressures can drive a heavy-handed response. Suddenly chiding agents about breaks or targeting aggressive reductions in post-call time devoted to paperwork can weigh on employee engagement, retention and performance.  

On the other hand, the more data and insight workforce management teams can bring to internal discussions, the easier it is to use reasonable, targeted measures to slash excessive shrinkage and keep the contact center within budgetary parameters.  

Of course, shrinkage is not the only complex variable that must be addressed in a call center budget. To get a better handle on the many factors affecting profitability–from facility costs and technology needs to occupancy forecasts and average answer time estimates–download our white paper

The Ultimate Guide to Budgeting for Your Contact Center” is a beginning to end look at call center expenditures and the critical role workforce management plays in budget preparation. Use it to get your 2020 planning off to the right start!