Call Center Shrinkage

How to Calculate Call Center Shrinkage (and 6 Ways to Manage it!)

What do your call center agents do while at work? 

Yes, they answer customer calls. But there’s more to the job than that. 

They also:

  • Take part in meetings
  • Complete training
  • Mentor and coach new employees
  • Go on breaks

All these activities are necessary. But they still take away from the time agents could spend taking calls. 

The time spent on these activities is called shrinkage.

In this post:

What is call center shrinkage?

Call center shrinkage is a metric that shows the scheduled hours that agents are unavailable to take calls. 

It is calculated on a call center or team level and can be expressed as a percentage or an hourly total. 

Knowing shrinkage helps in two main ways:

  1. Staffing: You’ll know exactly how many agents you need to cover calls. 
  2. Productivity: Excessive shrinkage can highlight issues within your call center. 

There are many reasons for shrinkage, and some level of it is unavoidable (and even beneficial). 

Here is a look at common types of shrinkage.

Shrinkage factors: Internal vs. external 

Both internal and external factors can lead to call center shrinkage. Having a good understanding of both elements is crucial to managing shrinkage.

Internal factors include:

External factors include:

  • Public holidays
  • Annual leave
  • Sickness
  • Lateness and leaving early
  • Absenteeism

Shrinkage factors: Scheduled vs. unscheduled 

You can also categorize shrinkage as scheduled or unscheduled.

Scheduled shrinkage is all the activities you know will occur – things like vacations, regular meetings, training, and breaks. 

Unscheduled shrinkage consists of factors that you can’t control. This includes lateness, system downtime, and impromptu meetings and coaching. 

How to calculate call center shrinkage?

You calculate the shrinkage of a particular period by dividing the total hours of shrinkage by the total hours scheduled and then multiply this number by 100. 

Here is the formula you need to calculate shrinkage:

call center shrinkage

Calculating total scheduled hours should be easy; just check your scheduling software. 

The challenge is defining and tracking all the activities that count as shrinkage. 

Scheduled activities like holidays and breaks are easy to follow. But you may have to make assumptions around unscheduled shrinkage unless you use tracking software. 

Why should you track shrinkage?

There are two main reasons to track shrinkage. 

  1. Tracking shrinkage is essential for effective scheduling 

If you don’t know your shrinkage, it’s challenging to schedule the correct number of agents.

Here’s an example:

Say you need 10 agents to handle call volume during a particular period effectively. 

It’s easy to assume that in this case, you should just schedule 10 agents. But shrinkage means you’ll actually need more than this.  

If you have a 30% shrinkage rate, the call center will only have seven agents available at any one time. This leaves you seriously understaffed. 

You’ll need to schedule 14 to 15 agents to ensure you have ten available throughout the period. 

  1. Tracking shrinkage can highlight wasted time

Discovering that your shrinkage is high can encourage you to look at reasons why this is the case. 

You may find agents are wasting time on unnecessary activities. This could be too many meetings, excessive breaks, or problems around lateness. 

Whatever the problem, fixing it can reap significant savings. 

Imagine a contact center with 100 full-time agents that improve shrinkage from 40% to 35%. Assuming a 40 hour work week, this call center gains an extra 200 hours every week!

How much shrinkage is ok?

You’ll never reduce shrinkage entirely. You’re required by law to provide employees with breaks and days off, resulting in unavoidable lost time! 

And even without these legal requirements, some amount of shrinkage is beneficial: activities like training and meetings help your team offer excellent service. 

A level of shrinkage around 30% to 35% is typically considered acceptable. 

What you find appropriate will depend on your business. 

If you provide employees with generous paid leave policies, your level may be higher. 

Shrinkage can also vary within teams. 

For example, technical support may require frequent training to stay on top of product updates. This will result in more lost hours. 

And remember, it’s possible to increase agent productivity without changing shrinkage. 

For example, shortening Average Handle Time and cutting after call work will allow you to handle more calls with the same number of hours.

6 ways to manage call center shrinkage

Next, we have six ways to manage call center shrinkage. 

The point of these tips is to help you better understand how shrinkage relates to your contact center. You can then take relevant steps to fix problems.

#1 Look for problem areas 

When calculating shrinkage, be sure to break the figure down into categories. Analyzing what is causing shrinkage lets you focus your reduction efforts on the areas you can control. 

There isn’t much you can do about breaks, holidays, and training. 

But agents taking too many unscheduled breaks, being late, or not showing up for shifts are all factors you can manage. 

#2 Consider seasonal variations

Different times of year have a higher level of shrinkage than others. Considering this when scheduling will help you manage shrinkage.

For example, employees often take time off during school vacations and public holidays. 

With this in mind, avoid organizing further activities that can lead to shrinkage – such as training – during this period. 

#3 Track shrinkage on a granular level

Levels of shrinkage vary depending on the day and time. For example, shrinkage may be highest between 12 and 2 if you offer paid lunch breaks. 

Be sure to consider these variations in your staffing calculations. This ensures you have enough coverage for the expected call volume throughout the day. 

#4 Calculate shrinkage for individual departments

Calculate shrinkage for each department where possible. 

That’s because teams can have different levels – and managers can only schedule effectively if they know the figure that is relevant to their team. 

If a manager schedules based on a call center-wide shrinkage rate of 33% but their team has a shrinkage rate of 38%, they will be understaffed.

#5 Use workforce tracking software

Defining what is causing shrinkage is arguably the most difficult part of managing it. 

Some businesses are happy to make assumptions around where time goes. But you can use workforce tracking software to get an accurate idea.

This software shows you what agents are spending time on down to an individual level. Use the data from these programs to put fixes in place. 

#6 Reconsider meetings and training

Meetings, training, and coaching are essential in any contact center. 

If you feel you are spending too long on these activities, take a fresh look at them to check whether they are necessary. 

You may find that scheduled meetings are frequently running over schedule. 

Or you may decide that a personalized coaching plan is a more efficient training method than a blanket program given to every agent. 

Don’t only rely on shrinkage 

As with any contact center metric, shrinkage is useful but doesn’t paint the whole picture. 

When using this metric in your business, be sure to consider how it relates directly to your business and the overall quality of your support. 

Focus on removing unnecessary shrinkage rather than reducing the figure at all costs. 

And always think about how any changes you make might affect other call center KPIs like average handle time, customer satisfaction, and agent retention. 

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