Call Center Shrinkage: 10 Ways to Reduce it

What is call center shrinkage and how does it impact your call center management and operations? Dig deep into the concept of call center shrinkage, causal factors and 10 failproof optimization tips.

Diksha Patro B
December 10, 2023
8 min read

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Table of Contents

What is call center shrinkage?

Call center shrinkage represents the difference between your agents' scheduled hours and the productive hours they spend interacting with customers. Think of it as the unavoidable gaps in time when your agents are not actively handling calls. These gaps can occur owing to varied reasons, such as breaks, meetings, training sessions or even unplanned absenteeism.

You can calculate your shrinkage using the following method:

Shrinkage % = (Number of agents needed to take calls / Number of agents available) x 100

Call center shrinkage is an important metric in call center management since it accounts for the time your call center agents are not actively undertaking customer support activities. Call center leaders can optimize staffing levels and workforce management by measuring shrinkage, ensuring smoother operations without overwhelming agents and supervisors.

Impact of call center shrinkage

Evidently, high shrinkage is not desirable in any call center since it impacts productivity and ROI in a big way. But there are many other short-term and long-term ramifications of high call center shrinkage, including:

  • Lowered agent availability

  • Extended customer wait time

  • Service delays and escalations

All of this, in turn, leads to customer frustration, decreased customer satisfaction or CSAT and even lost business opportunities.

Conversely, if you're able to manage call center shrinkage efficiently, your workforce management aligns with your agents' workload and your agents' well-being and overall morale soar.

What are the components and factors of call center shrinkage?

Optimizing your call center performance entails measuring varied call center agent performance metrics, including call center shrinkage. If you understand the factors responsible for call center shrinkage and its types, it becomes relatively easy to drive efficiency in your teams and organizations. Based on causal factors, shrinkage can encompass components such as:

Scheduled shrinkage

Scheduled shrinkage is akin to a planned pit stop during a race. It includes scheduled breaks, lunches and meetings. Call center agents need these pauses to recharge and regroup, but it's important to remember that every minute counts.

You should strike a balance between agent well-being and minimizing scheduled shrinkage. This can involve efficient call center scheduling techniques like breaks and lunches during periods of low call volume and meetings during non-peak hours that maintain staffing levels while allowing adequate time for agents to refresh.

Unscheduled shrinkage

Unscheduled shrinkage is the unexpected detour you never anticipated. It covers unplanned absences due to agent illness, emergencies or other unforeseen circumstances.

To minimize the impact of unscheduled shrinkage, contact center leaders should have backup plans, including cross-training agents and flexible staffing plans, to ensure smooth operations.

Auxiliary tasks

Agents often handle tasks beyond call answering, such as responding to emails and chats or updating databases. While these tasks are necessary, they contribute to shrinkage.

Streamlining these tasks and leveraging call center technology effectively can help mitigate their impact. With call center automation, you can perform routine tasks like sending customer surveys and writing case summaries on auto-pilot. Optimizing workflows can aid in reducing auxiliary task-related shrinkage.

Training and coaching

Training sessions are vital for agent growth and skill enhancement. However, they can divert agents from active calls. Striking a balance between skill development and call availability is challenging for contact center managers.

Implementing structured training programs, staggered schedules and simulation exercises can enhance agent competence while minimizing the disruption caused by training sessions.

Also read: A comprehensive guide to call center agent training

After-call work

After a call concludes, agents engage in after-call work (ACW) to tie up loose ends, such as taking notes, making updates or setting reminders. While ACW is essential for maintaining accurate records and continuity, it chips away at active call time. Efficient ACW processes, including user-friendly software interfaces and standardized documentation practices, ensure minimal time leakage and swift transition to the next call.

Sprinklr pro tip: Advanced call center software (like Sprinklr Service) comes with an AI-powered Agent Assistance feature that automatically detects the disposition of conversations and prefills after-call work notes, freeing agents of valuable time and reducing shrinkage.

Sprinklr’s agent assist reduces call center shrinkage

Incorporating these insights into call center management strategies can lead to more efficient operations, improved agent satisfaction and enhanced customer experiences.

10 Strategies to reduce call center shrinkage

Call center shrinkage is unavoidable in call centers. However, there are strategies to manage it efficiently and dilute its aftermath. Let's delve into ten such strategies.

1. Efficient scheduling and forecasting

Precise call scheduling starts with accurate forecasting. Analyze historical data to predict call volume patterns - identifying peak hours and slower periods - and align agent shifts with these predictions.

You can reduce the impact of scheduled shrinkage on active call hours by scheduling breaks and meetings during quieter times. Continuous monitoring and adjustments are key to keeping this strategy effective.

2. Cross-training and skill development

Having skilled agents who can step in when someone calls in sick or takes a break is critical to maintaining team and company SLAs. Therefore, cross-training your agents is a must. Whether you run an inbound or outbound call center, your entire workforce should be skilled in handling all kinds of calls so there is minimum downtime owing to shrinkage.

Invest in ongoing coaching and learning opportunities to sharpen your team's skills. Improved skills mean quicker issue resolution, reducing your call handling time and ensuring agent availability round the clock.

Learn more: How to coach customer care agents into super performers

3. Implement workforce management tools

Workforce management (WFM) tools enable better scheduling and forecasting. They use real-time data and historical trends to create optimized schedules. And if your tools are built on the back of AI models, your forecast accuracy improves multifold, driving predictability into your systems.

Sprinklr pro tip: Talking of AI, have you ever leveraged an AI-powered workforce management solution to simulate what-if scenarios in your call center? As the name suggests, AI simulates near-real scenarios that a typical call center of your size experiences, generating granular plans to forecast shrinkage and occupancy every minute.

Shrinkage and staffing forecast in simulated scenarios by Sprinklr’s workforce management module

4. Offer flexible work arrangements

When it comes to managing shrinkage, flexibility can be your ally. Adaptive schedules allow agents to adjust their work hours to their needs. Remote work options can also reduce unscheduled shrinkage due to commutes or personal issues.

Nielson reports that 80% of employees prefer some level of remote work. Such arrangements increase job satisfaction and promote a healthier work-life balance, reducing burnout.

5. Optimize break and lunch schedules

Break and lunch schedules can either contribute to or mitigate shrinkage. By strategically scheduling breaks and lunches during slower call periods or spreading out these breaks between different groups of agents, you can ensure that agents are available when needed. This simple division can have a significant impact on reducing shrinkage without compromising agent well-being.

6. Monitor schedule adherence

Adherence refers to agents sticking to their schedules and adhering to company policies. Monitoring adherence closely allows you to address issues promptly. Providing feedback and coaching to agents who consistently deviate from schedules can help improve their adherence. This, in turn, reduces shrinkage by ensuring that agents are where they need to be per their schedule.

Schedule violation dashboard in Sprinklr workforce planning module

7. Give incentives and rewards

Incentives and rewards can encourage agents to perform at their best and reduce the temptation to engage in unscheduled shrinkage. Consider implementing a rewards program that recognizes and celebrates outstanding performance to boost morale and drive agents to stay on schedule.

8. Improved communication and feedback

Open and transparent communication is vital. Foster an environment where agents feel comfortable discussing their scheduling needs and concerns. Regular feedback sessions can help you understand agents' challenges and find solutions. With this proactive approach, you can prevent unscheduled shrinkage due to avoidable issues.

9. Analyze data and trends

Data is your ally in the battle against shrinkage. Analyze call center data to identify trends and patterns related to shrinkage. Are there specific days or times when shrinkage is more common? Are there recurring reasons for agent absences? Use this information to refine your strategies and make data-driven decisions to cut shrinkage.

10. Continuous process improvement

Never stop refining your processes. Encourage a culture of continuous improvement within your call center. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your scheduling, training and adherence monitoring processes. Be open to adopting new tools and technologies as they emerge, as the call center landscape is constantly evolving.

Tackle call center shrinkage and lower administrative workload by 30% with Sprinklr

To summarize, call cеntеr shrinkagе is a rеal problеm that can impact your organization's еfficiеncy and profitability. If left unaddressed, it also eventually impacts your customer satisfaction and retention.

That's where an AI-led call center solution like Sprinklr Service can be a lifesaver. It offers a Unified Supervisor Console that is able to predict shrinkage and generate staffing plans that comply with seasonal trends and industry standards. Furthermore, its Agеnt Consolе comes with AI productivity tools to help agеnts with smart time management. Automated workflows, case summaries and macros are just of the many features your agents can leverage to make the best use of their productive hours.

The result, you ask?

Whеn agеnts havе thе tools and rеsourcеs thеy nееd to bе succеssful, thеy arе morе likеly to bе productivе and еngagеd. This can lеad to a rеduction in absеntееism and turnovеr - two of thе main causes of call cеntеr shrinkagе.

Lastly, the platform provides a comprеhеnsivе sеt of tools and capabilities like Agent Scorecard and channel-wise analytics that can help you improvе your schеduling, forеcasting, workforcе managеmеnt and othеr procеssеs. Sprinklr can also help you collеct and analyze data to identify trends and patterns rеlatеd to shrinkagе.

If you're still skeptical, see Sprinklr in action with a personalized dеmo and unlock the tools for an еxcеptional customеr еxpеriеnce.

Frequently Asked Questions

In some cases, controlled shrinkage can provide agents with necessary breaks to recharge, leading to improved focus and performance. However, excessive shrinkage is never a good thing and should be avoided.

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