Schedule Adherence: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Schedule Adherence: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

What is Schedule Adherence?

Schedule adherence measures how closely agents follow, or “adhere to,” their scheduled activities.  When an agent’s actual activities match his scheduled activities, the agent is in adherence.

Why Does it Matter?

Schedule adherence plays several important roles in the contact center beyond simply reinforcing the necessity for agents to be where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there.

  1. It ensures that the right number of agent resources, as determined by the forecast, are supplied throughout the day to handle customer contacts
  2. It reduces customer wait times and, as a result, increases customer satisfaction
  3. It minimizes idle time, increases agent productivity and drives greater operational efficiency
  4. It ensures service levels are met efficiently and reduces labor costs
  5. It promotes proactive coordination and communication between supervisors, operational leaders and workforce management staff
  6. It gives management insight into projected staffing levels and promotes effective intraday decision making
  7. It enables the business to more effectively project future staffing needs based upon the historical use of agent resources

Bottom line: without schedule adherence, it’s impossible to ensure you have the right people in the right place at the right time, which is, incidentally, the primary point of workforce management.


The REAL ROI of a Workforce Management Investment

The REAL ROI of a Workforce Management Investment

The REAL ROI of a Workforce Management system investment is not within the software. It’s what the software enables you to DO with it that counts.

Despite the obvious economic challenges of our time, contact centers continue to invest in Workforce Management technology. Why? Because any technology that directly impacts your business’s most costly resource (in this case, your people) has the potential to deliver a HUGE return on investment.

What? Your contact center doesn’t have a Workforce Management system?  Well,  as strange as this may sound, that’s kind of good news. I say this because…

…any contact center that does not have a WFM system in place has the most to gain by investing in this technology.

There’s never been a better time to be a WFM system buyer. The number of vendors offering these systems is at an all-time high and you have a ton to choose from. That said, it’s important not to forget that a Workforce Management system is simply a tool…an enabling technology.

  • When this tool is purchased by companies who are willing to consider changes to existing processes and policies when needed, it has potential to transform your contact center into a model of efficiency. 
  • When this tool is placed in the hands of individuals who have been trained how to use it and who have developed a solid understanding of Workforce Management principles, it has the potential to be the best investment your contact center has ever made.

The real ROI of a WFM system has less to do with the system itself, and more to do with the willingness of the company purchasing it to use it as a tool to realize their potential. So don’t look to the system to supply your return on investment. The power of the WFM ROI is in YOUR hands. 

WISE READ- Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster and Better

WISE READ- Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster and Better

Whether you consider yourself to be high-tech, low-tech or no-tech, this book is guaranteed to teach you something you didn’t know about how to more effectively use your tools and, ultimately, your time.

One would think that those of us who make a living focusing on the productivity of others would be experts when it comes to our own productivity. But even productivity experts can use a little bit of help when it comes to maximizing individual operational efficiency and getting WISE about our personal Workforce.

I just finished reading the book “Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better” by Adam Pash and Gina Trapani. Instead of waxing poetic about all the things I love about this book, let me just make a bold statement: you gotta get this book. 

Admittedly, there are many more tips and tricks (a.k.a. “hacks”) in here than I will ever use (for example, I won’t be setting up a personal VPN anytime soon). But the couple of hacks I have implemented have already been more than worth the price of the book.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Hack 1: Empty Your Inbox (and Keep it Empty)
  • Hack 11: Organize Your Documents Folder
  • Hack 14: Instantly Recall Any Number of Passwords
  • Hack 25: Make Your To-Do List Doable
  • Hack 34: Take Great Notes
  • Hack 62: Automatically Clean Up Your PC/Mac
  • Hack 81: Set Up One Phone Number to Rule Them All
  • Hack 86: Make Your “Dumb” Phone Smarter via Text Message
Again, there’s something in here to make everyone smarter…yes, even those of you high-tech types who roll your eyes when working with low-tech types like me (you know who you are!). Regardless of which tech-camp you fall in, I hope you check out the book and enjoy.
Want to Reduce AHT? Focus on the Metrics Inside

Want to Reduce AHT? Focus on the Metrics Inside

Apart from shrinkage and necessary overhead, there are three key things that drive staffing costs at our contact centers: service level objectives, call volumes and average handling times.

If we attempt to reduce our service level goals and are told “it is what it is” (see related blog post here), we’re left with either reducing our call volumes or our average handling times. Of those two, the one that’s our fastest-path-to-cash (or cost savings) is average handling time.  Why? Because much of the power to reduce AHT lies within our direct control as Workforce Management and Operational Professionals.

Now, before I go any further, please notice that I did not say “ALL of the power.” Quite the contrary. In fact, I would argue that most of the power lies much higher up. Even our best agents can only do so much with the tools we give them. So if our desktop systems are not exactly technological models of efficiency, significant reductions to AHT may require that the powers that be invest in solutions to either replace or increase the effectiveness of existing  desktop applications (and thereby increase the efficiency of the agents handling the calls).

That said, agents can also do a lot to reduce AHT without cutting corners on quality, provided we help them to pay attention to the right things. How? By minimizing, or even eliminating, the emphasis on measuring AHT at the agent level and focusing instead on the components of the call that make up AHT. (Note: If you think that the suggestion of eliminating AHT as an agent metric is crazy talk, check out this recent discussion on Linkedin to learn what others are doing.)

We cannot reduce AHT just by focusing on AHT itself

AHT is a compound metric, which basically means that it’s made up of other metrics.  When you measure the metrics inside the metric, you focus improvements on the elements of the call that are largely within our agents’ direct control.

Talk Time: One thing we must always remember is that the metrics we use to measure how much time we spend TALKING to our customers are the same metrics that measure how much time we spend LISTENING to our customers. Cut this time too short, and we risk cutting customer satisfaction as well. For this reason, I recommend that you put this metric on the scorecard with the objective based upon the average talk time of seasoned agents. However, in order to drive the right customer-focused behavior, I would minimize its weight in the overall score.

Hold Time: Customers often have to hold a long time just to talk to someone in the first place. When they are put on hold again, it just adds to their irritation. Longer hold times for newer agents are a given, but average hold time for seasoned folks should be pretty similar across the board. I recommend that you put this metric on the scorecard and base the objective somewhere in between the average of seasoned agents and the average of top performers. Keeping in mind that excessive hold time is perceived as a negative by the customer and something we want to eliminate if possible, I would weight of the objective in the overall score higher than that of  average talk time.

After Call Work Time: After Call Work Time (ACW) is a metric that can add significantly to AHT, but for some reason, it doesn’t seem to get the focus I think it deserves. The customer is off the phone and, presumably, the agent has solved their problem. Now there’s something that needs to be done in the system in order to “wrap-up” the call that couldn’t have been done while the customer was on the line. Is there really? Or are our agents just using this time as a “buffer-zone” between calls? My hope is that we’ve staffed our centers sufficiently so that agents don’t feel the need to escape into ACW for a bit of relief. That said, even in the best of centers, this can happen when an unexpected call spike kicks in. My point is that we won’t know our agents’ behavior patterns as it relates to ACW if we don’t measure this very important metric. I would base the objective somewhere in between the average of seasoned agents the average of top performers and weight it the same as average hold time, if not a bit higher.

As important as AHT is, holding our agents solely accountable for reducing it is not a Wise Workforce Strategy, in fact, it’s futile.  However, agents can have a greater impact on AHT reduction if we help them to focus on the metrics within.