What is call center shrinkage and how to minimize it

What is call center shrinkage?

One of the most important concepts in schedule adherence is shrinkage. Shrinkage can be defined as the time for which people are paid during which they are not available to handle calls.

There are many reasons that can cause shrinkage - and it has to be taken into account when scheduling the required number of agents to meet call volumes. But the truth is that most companies badly under-estimate the sheer volume of shrinkage that besets their call centers. This comes about due to a host of potentially hidden areas of shrinkage. Many managers keep their eye on several of these, but few are able to stay on top of all of them: lateness, talking to associates, personal calls and emergencies, leaving early and taking longer breaks. The bottom line on shrinkage is the amount of minutes per day that agents are being paid to be on the phone when they are not actually working or available to receive calls or work on customer related issues.

How to track and manage shrinkage?

So, how should you track and manage shrinkage in your call center? Shrinkage can be a major factor in failing to meet service level targets. Call centers that take shrinkage parameters into account in their forecasting and scheduling typically achieve higher service levels at lower operating costs. They often do that by including all call related activities into the forecast and schedule planning process. 

Why is calculating shrinkage important?

You can calculate shrinkage using the following call center shrinkage formula. First, determine your base staff requirements for typical call volume at each point in a given day or a given shift.

Within those calculations, estimate the typical percentage of workers who will be unable to handle calls during the interval. This amount may vary, but the usual range is somewhere between 10% and 40%. With this number, you should now divide your base staff requirement by that result to arrive at the number of workers you should schedule.

For example, with a 20% shrinkage rate and 160 call center agents on the day shift, you would divide 160 by (1 minus 0.2), for a total of 200. Now you know that if you schedule 200 people, but 20 percent can’t answer phones for various reasons, the remainder available will be 160, and the phones will be adequately covered.

This brings us to our next important question - how can you reduce call center shrinkage?

How to reduce shrinkage?

There are two main items to keep in mind to assist with reducing shrinkage in your call center:

  1. Increase forecast and schedule accuracy by including all activities into your schedule. The more activities you include in your schedule, the more accurate of a forecast you will be able to create. This can include such items as average call time, after work related tasks, emails, chats, meetings, training, breaks, lunch, and vacation.
  2. Monitor schedule adherence and work with your agents to improve over time. One remedy to help with this is to create monthly or weekly reports you can share with your team so they are aware of any reoccuring adherences to correct for the next time period. Maybe they didn't allot for a long enough break and that put them out of adherence, or maybe a meeting ran over that put them out of adherence. With a modern, workforce management solution you can also monitor adherence in real-time to quickly address problems to arise in order to get your agents back on track with your carefully planned schedule.

For more information about what call center shrinkage is, and how to manage it, please also read the following blog posts:

In addition, you can download our whitepaper about strategies for improving schedule adherence – it should provide some valuable insights into the relationship between shrinkage and agent adherence.

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