We don’t often have the luxury of dictating when our customers calls us. So it stands to reason that, ultimately, Workforce Management only “works” if our agents are doing WHAT we need them to do WHEN we need them to do it.
Sure, we can spend countless hours perfecting our forecast. We can create a schedule where the coverage line matches the requirements line so closely, they’re virtually indistinguishable. However, when the day arrives, if we can’t count on our agents to be where they’re supposed to be (on the phone) when they’re supposed to be there (when their schedule says) much of our forecasting and scheduling efforts end up being a big fat waste of time.
The sad thing is that many agents, their supervisors and even members of Operations Management don’t “get” the real importance of schedule adherence. They don’t get the fact that when people don’t follow their scheduled activities, you end up with excess resources during certain portions of the day (resulting in paying for time on the phone you don’t need) and a shortage of resources during other parts of the day (resulting in missed service levels and customer dissatisfaction).
So what usually happens? A goal gets set and scores get tracked. Instead of following the schedule (which IS the goal), meeting the goal becomes the goal (do you follow me?). Instead of the schedule acting as a map to ensure we provide the right number of people at the right time, the schedule simply reflects a string of ad-hoc, unplanned events where every single tiny deviation from the schedule results in an after-the-fact adjustment to the schedule. Stuck on a long call and late for break? No problem- adjust the schedule. Pulled your team off the phone for an impromptu meeting? No problem- adjust the schedule. Had a long-overdue coaching session with Susie? No problem- adjust the schedule. Our over-under staffing line may be in the toilet, but check us out! Our adherence is 97%! Woo-hoo! Look at us!
Do you want to create a schedule adherence policy that sticks (as opposed to stinks) in your center? One that actually supports your operational efficiency objectives and customer service goals?
If so, you’ve got to go beyond simply communicating a goal and measuring attainment. You’ve got to EDUCATE people about the IMPORTANCE of adhering to schedules and the IMPACT of not doing so. I’ve found that when people understand the MEANING behind the MEASUREMENT, they’re much more likely to buy into the process and, ultimately, provide the desired behavior.
So when formulating your adherence policy…
- Do incorporate education about schedule adherence as part of new-hire training.
- Don’t aim for perfection. Set a reasonable, attainable goal considering the average handling time of your calls. Centers that have unusually long handling times, or that handle non-demand work items, may want to opt for measuring schedule conformance instead.
- Don’t adjust schedules to account for long calls. Long calls are going to happen to every agent at one time or another, so factor it into your goal instead of spending the manpower (and the money) to constantly adjust breaks and lunches for this common occurrence.
- Do require supervisors to submit schedule exception requests PRIOR to pulling an agent (or their entire team) off the phone. Taking folks off the phone only to report it later defeats the purpose.
In the eyes of the agents, the practice of measuring schedule adherence ranks right up there with the other Big Brother practice of quality monitoring. So I urge you to take the time to explain why this necessary evil is so….necessary. When they “get” it, they’ll be more apt to “get” with the program and “stick” to their schedules.
This is my opinion….what’s yours? Contribute to the conversation and help others get WISE about their workforce!