Schedule Adherence: WHITE PAPER. 7 Not- So- Best Practices and How to Make Them Better. Authored by: Rebecca Wise Girson Wise Workforce Strategies

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1 WHITE PAPER Schedule Adherence: 7 Not- So- Best Practices and How to Make Them Better Authored by: Rebecca Wise Girson Wise Workforce Strategies Sponsored by: NICE Systems

2 Executive Summary Many of today s workforce management teams spend their days putting out fires because people are not where they are supposed to be. When the day is done, they often face stacks of after- the- fact exceptions that must be entered into the workforce management system in order for adherence scores to look good. But a good adherence score cannot hide missed service levels customer dissatisfaction and lost agent productivity. Workforce management systems alone are not the answer. Although designed to help contact centers improve productivity, operational efficiency and customer satisfaction, a workforce management system is only as effective as the contact center s workforce management practices. Read this paper to: Understand the real purpose of schedule adherence Uncover issues associated with 7 common adherence practices and get practical tips for how to make them better Learn how to determine appropriate schedule adherence goals for your contact center Table of Contents Executive Summary... 2 The Real Purpose of Schedule Adherence... 3 Making Adherence Look Good Not- So- Best Practices... 4 How to Calculate an Appropriate Adherence Goal... 6 Achieving Adherence Results With Workforce Management... 7 Conclusion... 7 Copyright Wise Workforce Strategies, Inc. 2

3 The Real Purpose of Schedule Adherence Schedule adherence is a contact center metric used to measure how closely agents follow, or adhere to, their scheduled activities. When an agent s scheduled activities match their actual activities as reported by the ACD, an agent is considered to be 100% in adherence. Any deviation to the agent s schedule activities, which includes entered exceptions, results in a lower adherence score. On the surface, it might appear as if the reason for measuring adherence is simply to reinforce with the agents the importance of following their schedule. This is true in part, but considering this type of performance metric is rarely, if ever, used outside of the contact center industry, there must be a more compelling purpose behind schedule adherence. In the contact center industry, especially in inbound call environments, the purpose of measuring schedule adherence is to: Ensure accurate visibility into projected coverage necessary for intraday decision- making Promote operational efficiency, increased productivity, reduced occupancy, lower average wait times and greater customer satisfaction Enable the business to more effectively plan future staffing needs based upon insight into the historical use of agent resources Unfortunately, when the mode of operation is to update schedules after- the- fact simply to improve adherence scores, schedule adherence becomes a meaningless measure. Making Adherence Look Good In too many contact centers, the real purpose of schedule adherence has been lost. Regardless of their location, size or vertical market, a large percentage of the world s contact center processes and policies regarding schedule adherence and exception management are broken. People may claim to understand that these things are important, but the methods used for measuring adherence and managing schedule exceptions only serve to make adherence look good. Results from quarterly surveys conducted by the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) further support this claim: In their 2011 survey on schedule adherence, 14% responded other when asked about their adherence goal, with the most frequent comment indicating there was no goal. In their 2012 survey on managing schedule exceptions, 20% responded zero when asked how many FTE were responsible for entering exceptions. In the same survey, when asked about their cut- off time for entering exceptions, 65% percent responded there was none even though 79% of respondents reported that they had clearly defined standards for entering exceptions. These results are concerning, but they reflect a much larger issue. Too many contact center managers don t understand the real reason schedule adherence is important. Furthermore, they hold the agent population accountable for adherence results, but don t hold themselves accountable for working with the WFM team to maintain the accuracy of the schedules the agents are supposed to follow. Copyright Wise Workforce Strategies, Inc. 3

4 7 Not- So- Best Practices As with other aspects of contact center management, when it comes to measuring adherence and managing schedule exceptions, there are best practices, and there are not- so- best practices. The following 7 not- so- best practices are common across many of today s contact center environments. 1. Having No Adherence Goal By not measuring adherence, contact centers have little insight into where agent resources are spending their time, which ultimately impacts their ability to efficiently service their customers. When the center does meet its service level goals, it is almost certain that they are doing so by paying for more resources than they actually need. If schedule adherence is not currently measured at your contact center, it s never too late to start. As discussed, there are significant benefits associated with measuring adherence and doing so is an important part of running an efficient, high- performing contact center. When starting out, it s important that the goal you set not be too aggressive. Start by setting your target based upon the average adherence scores of your agents today and then periodically raise the goal as performance begins to improve. 2. Having the Wrong Adherence Goal In environments where handling times are relatively short, it is easier for agents to adhere to their scheduled activities without running the risk of getting stuck on long calls. Conversely, in environments where long calls are the norm, meeting break and lunch times can be extremely difficult. Trying to use a one- size- fits- all adherence goal results in a goal that is too low for some and too high for others. Is your center using the right adherence goals to measure the performance of your agents? Generally, adherence goals should be established based upon the average handling time of the calls. If handling times differ significantly between groups (more than a couple of minutes), then you probably want to consider setting different adherence goals for each. 3. Entering Exceptions for Long Calls Perhaps in compensation for not having appropriate adherence goals established, adjusting breaks and lunches when an agent gets stuck on long calls is a fairly common practice. Although entering exceptions for long calls does serve to improve agent adherence scores, the practice creates unnecessary administration and results in issues with morale when agents observe long call adjustments being applied inconsistently. Appropriate adherence goals already take occasional long calls into consideration. Therefore, the practice of adjusting breaks, lunches, or other activities because of long calls is unnecessary and only serves to mask an agent s true adherence. When the mode of operation is to update schedules after- the- fact simply to improve adherence scores, schedule adherence becomes a meaningless measure Copyright Wise Workforce Strategies, Inc. 4

5 4. Entering Exceptions After- the- Fact Entering exceptions after- the- fact just to improve adherence scores undermines the purpose of measuring adherence in the first place. This practice eliminates management s visibility into scheduled resources making it virtually impossible to make any proactive staffing decisions based upon projected coverage. As a result, the contact center loses its ability to answer customer contacts efficiently. If entering after- the- fact exceptions is the norm at your center, it is important to educate operational staff on the benefits of entering schedule exceptions in advance. In addition to this, work with the management team to establish policies that hold supervisors accountable for not reporting exceptions on time. Supervisors may claim that the policy of not excepting after- the- fact exceptions only serves to hurt the adherence scores of the agents, and this is true. This issue is easily remedied, however, by a policy that allows adjusted adherence scores for agents, but holds supervisors accountable for initial adherence scores. 5. Pulling Agents Off- line Without Approval One reason after the fact exceptions are so pervasive is because supervisors are often allowed to pull agents off- line without first getting approval from the WFM team. Supervisors don t typically have insight into projected coverage and other activities that are taking place on the call floor. Pulling agents from what they are scheduled to do can seriously impact the contact center s ability to meet service level objectives. Supervisors and other members of the operational team should coordinate all activities affecting agent schedules through the WFM team. By doing so, the WFM team can make them aware of potential impacts to customer service and, if necessary, recommend alternative days and times when there is sufficient overstaffing to compensate. 6. Measuring Average Adherence on a Weekly or Monthly Basis Measuring average adherence on a weekly or a monthly basis skews results and provides no insight into how well schedules were followed or managed when it really mattered. Schedule adherence should be measured and reported on a daily basis. By doing so, the contact center is in a better position to identify and quickly remedy any schedule management or adherence issues that are impacting customer service results. When adherence is measured and reported on a daily basis, not only does management have a more realistic picture into the previous day s performance, supervisors also have a more meaningful tool with which to coach their agents. 7. Only Holding Agents Accountable for Adherence Contact center managers often place most of the blame for poor adherence on the agents. In reality, it is the operational team s policies and processes regarding schedule management that is largely responsible for issues related to adherence. If the act of measuring schedule adherence is to have a positive impact on your contact center s results, everyone involved must be held accountable for achieving the goal. This means measuring adherence at the supervisor level in order to reinforce the importance of reporting schedule exceptions in advance. This means measuring adherence at the department level in order to reinforce the importance of maintaining intraday visibility into projected staffing levels. Only when everyone is accountable will schedule adherence be able to fulfill its true purpose at your contact center. Copyright Wise Workforce Strategies, Inc. 5

6 How to Calculate an Appropriate Adherence Goal A schedule adherence goal that s too high is unattainable and will drive the wrong behavior. But a goal that is too low is even worse, resulting in countless hours of lost agent productivity. By following the steps below, you ll be able to set a goal that is appropriate and achievable. Calculate the average number of total minutes agents are scheduled to handle customer calls each day EXAMPLE: 7.5 hours x 60 = 450 minutes IdenVfy the number of break stopping points, including when agents log off for the day EXAMPLE: Agents who receive 2 breaks and a lunch would have a total of 4 break stopping points MulVply the average handling Vme minutes by the number of break stopping points to determine the adherence "buffer" EXAMPLE: 5 minutes AHT x 4 = 20 minutes adherence buffer Divide the adherence buffer minutes by the total schedule minutes, convert to a percentage and subtract from 100 EXAMPLE: 20/450=.04, or 4% adherence buffer 100% - 4% = 96% adherence goal NOTE: Schedule adherence is best used for agent groups where the AHT is less than the break time. In cases where the calculated adherence buffer exceeds 10% of an agent s scheduled hours, schedule conformance, which measures an agent s adherence to TOTAL time scheduled, may be a more appropriate metric. TIP: If you re just starting to measure adherence, consider setting your target based upon the current average adherence scores of your agents and then periodically raise the goal as performance improves. Copyright Wise Workforce Strategies, Inc. 6

7 Achieving Adherence Results With Workforce Management Managing schedule exceptions and adherence results without the aid of a workforce management system is close to an impossible task. So much so that contact centers not using automated WFM rarely measure adherence at all- the manual effort involved is simply too time consuming. Features WFM systems provide that aid in managing schedules and adherence include: Real- Time Adherence (RTA): RTA provides managers with immediate visibility into scheduled versus actual agent activities, thereby alerting them to potential issues so they can take immediate action to ensure proper coverage of forecasted requirements. Historical Adherence Reports: By automating the process of comparing agent schedules with actual login/logout activity provided by the ACD, historical adherence reports provide supervisors with a valuable tool for coaching agents on the importance of following their schedules. Intraday Management: Intraday management screens provide visibility into projected service level results and coverage based upon actual volumes and scheduled resources. Using this insight, managers can be more proactive when making staffing decisions throughout the day. Drag- and- Drop Schedule Modification: By making it easy to modify schedules, workforce managers are better equipped to ensure schedule accuracy, which is critical for both schedule adherence and projected coverage. Agent Empowerment Tools: Workforce management systems that enable agents to automatically trade schedules with other agents and enter a limited amount of their own scheduling exceptions (like tardiness and customer call- backs), help contact centers streamline administrative tasks associated with managing schedules. Workforce management systems are designed to maximize contact center results. When used in conjunction with effective schedule management processes and practices for measuring adherence, workforce management systems increase agent productivity, improve operational efficiency and drive greater customer satisfaction. Conclusion A primary objective almost all contact centers share is to efficiently meet their established service level goals. Doing so ensures that customer calls are answered within a reasonable amount of time without the business paying for more agent resources than are needed. In order to achieve this objective, workforce managers and operational leaders must be willing to review and revise their current processes related to managing schedules and measuring adherence. When exceptions are entered in advance, and when everyone is held accountable for adherence results, schedule adherence will have more impact and meaning and become a metric that matters. Copyright Wise Workforce Strategies, Inc. 7

8 About Wise Workforce Strategies Wise Workforce Strategies, founded by Rebecca Wise Girson in 2011, is a contact center training and consulting firm specializing in workforce management. During her career, Rebecca has been a user, buyer, trainer, seller and marketer of WFM technology and has led workforce management departments for both AT&T Universal Card Services and Convergys Corporation. Drawing upon 20- plus years of hands- on industry experience, Rebecca helps contact center clients understand and realize the benefits of effective workforce management. For more information, go to WiseWorkforceStrategies.com. About NICE Systems NICE Systems Ltd. (NASDAQ: NICE) is the worldwide leader of software solutions that deliver strategic insights by capturing and analyzing mass quantities of structured and unstructured data in real time from multiple sources, including, phone calls, mobile apps, s, chat, social media, and video. NICE solutions enable organizations to take the next best action to improve customer experience and business results, ensure compliance, fight financial crime, and safeguard people and assets. NICE solutions are used by over 25,000 organizations in more than 150 countries, including over 80 of the Fortune 100 companies. For more information, go to NICE.com. Copyright Wise Workforce Strategies, Inc. 8

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