What Is Schedule Adherence for Call Centers? Complete Guide

Updated February 3, 2023

A person with a headset is looking at a monitor while two people with headsets do the same in the background.

Call centers use a range of vital metrics, including schedule adherence, to measure and improve performance. Tracking schedule performance is a good way for call center managers to increase productivity and maintain efficiency in their operations. If you work in a call center, it might be helpful to learn more about schedule adherence and why it matters.

In this article, we discuss schedule adherence, explain why it's important and list steps to help you improve it in the workplace.

What is schedule adherence?

Schedule adherence is a metric used in call centers to understand if agents are doing their assigned daily tasks at the right times. It's defined as the percentage of the workday an agent is available to take phone calls. This is the equation for measuring schedule adherence:

Schedule adherence = (time for expected task completion / total scheduled time) x 100

You can define each variable as:

  • Time for expected task completion: This variable includes how often an agent completed expected tasks throughout the day at the times shown on their schedules.

  • Total scheduled time: This variable represents the full amount of time an agent works for a day or period.

High adherence rates usually indicate that agents are following their schedules and offering services as expected. Schedule adherence accounts for things like lunch, bathroom and coffee breaks. Though this metric measures productivity, managers don't expect their agents to be on phone calls for a full eight-hour shift. A 100% adherence rate is unrealistic due to unforeseen circumstances or interruptions and expecting it can negatively affect employee satisfaction and well-being.

Related: How To Develop a Work Schedule for Employees

Why is adherence to a schedule important?

Schedule adherence is important because effective time use often leads to better customer service. This can create a positive brand image and a pleasant experience for callers. Schedules that include adequate breaks can also improve the work experience for agents and create a healthier workforce. Like other metrics, schedule adherence can help managers understand the performance of their call centers. It can also help them use their resources effectively and save money.

Related: 31 Tips for Working in a Call Center

Schedule adherence versus schedule conformance

Adherence and conformance are metrics that calculate how much time an agent spends completing their tasks. Adherence is the amount of time an agent spends doing the items on their schedules as assigned. This may include breaks, meetings and other work and non-work-related tasks. In contrast, conformance is the amount of time an agent spends engaging in work tasks compared to the total amount of time they're scheduled to be at the call center. To put it simply, adherence includes all scheduled tasks and conformance focuses only on direct work time.

Related: How To Manage a Busy Schedule in 13 Steps

What factors affect schedule adherence?

Different factors affect whether an employee adheres to their schedule. Some occur by choice and others happen by accident. Some of these factors include:

  • Arriving to work late

  • Encountering a technology issue

  • Experiencing an unexpected fire drill or building evacuation order

  • Leaving work early

  • Losing your internet or system connectivity because of weather or a power outage

  • Missing shifts without requesting time off or alerting a supervisor

  • Setting your status to busy or away when you're available to take calls

  • Socializing with coworkers

  • Taking unscheduled or long breaks

  • Texting, checking personal emails or browsing social media accounts

  • Waiting to move on to your next tasks to finish a customer call that takes longer than expected

Related: Employee Schedule Templates and Examples (Free Download)

How to improve schedule adherence

Use these steps to improve schedule adherence in your workplace:

1. Set a benchmark

Calculate your current schedule adherence to find the rate. This is the percentage you can measure if you've increased your agent adherence over time. You can use this number as a reference point as you calculate the same figure in the future.

2. Design workflow for productivity

Consider including schedule adherence training on your employees' first days. You can make it part of the onboarding process and set your list of expectations from the beginning, which can help agents develop good habits. You may also implement ways to prevent potentially distracting behaviors outside of break periods. For example, consider blocking social media websites or gaming applications on company computers.

Related: How To Create an Employee Schedule That Works for Your Team

3. Monitor agents

Use both shift supervisors and technology to monitor how your agents spend their time. Programs and applications usually use time stamps and other tracking methods to prove if agents are completing tasks on time. This can help you determine when agents are busy or when calls take longer than expected to complete.

4. Provide supplemental training

You can offer additional training or coaching programs for agents that want extra help to stay on schedule. Consider options like meetings, feedback sessions and classes that can teach people to stay focused throughout their shift. You may also offer one-on-one progress reports or counseling services to account for factors outside of work that keep employees from adhering to their schedules.

Related: How To Organize a Schedule

5. Create a reward system

Offering incentives may help agents meet their goals. Monetary bonuses, prizes and other treats can encourage team members to follow their schedules, arrive on time and prevent distractions. Incentives can also reward those who already follow their schedules. 

6. Develop the company culture

Make schedule adherence part of your company culture. Emphasize how it's important for agents to follow their schedules to create a pleasant experience for customers and a positive environment for their teammates. This may encourage company values of both individual and group success.

Related: How To Become a Call Center Agent (With Skills and Salary)

Benefits of calculating and enforcing schedule adherence

Schedule adherence can lead to many benefits for call centers, including:

Improved efficiency

Higher schedule adherence rates can lead to an increase in overall efficiency. It allows managers to track the number of staff members necessary to handle the average call volume and set schedules accordingly. Stressing the importance of the adherence and efficiency connection may help agents focus during each of their assigned tasks.

Related: Learn About Being a Call Center Manager

Greater sense of fairness culture

Managers that enforce schedule adherence may create a cyclical fairness culture in their call centers. Creating unbiased schedules and following other fair practices can encourage a team-centered environment where all agents feel they have the same opportunities and rewards as everyone else. This can lead to better morale, which, in turn, can create a higher likelihood of schedule adherence. When creating schedules and operating the centers, managers can:

  • Make sure all agents get the same amount of break time

  • Ensure fair treatment when selecting agents for promotions or pay raises

  • Ensure fair choice or assignment of workstations

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Working in a Call Center

More effective planning

Managers who know the schedule adherence rate of their agents can make better planning decisions for their call centers. Knowing the number of people on staff, the center's busiest hours and the team members with the best adherence rates can help the center operate as smoothly as possible. It can also make it easier to give team members schedules that work with their personal lives.

Related: 13 Vital Call Center KPIs (Plus Tips and Benefits)

Example of schedule adherence

Use this fictional example of a call center agent to learn how a manager may calculate schedule adherence:

Elliot is a call center agent. He receives a schedule from his manager for an eight-hour, 480-minute workday. His schedule includes working time, breaks, meetings and setting up and cleaning up for the day. Elliot spends 120 minutes on the phone and 120 minutes on call-related tasks. He also took a 30-minute lunch break and two 15-minute rest breaks. His computer crashes at 2:30 p.m. and it's out of service for the rest of the day. Elliot can't do any more work until it's repaired.

His manager, Olivia, wants to use this situation to persuade the technology department to provide new computers for her team. She calculates Elliot's schedule adherence using the formula:

Adherence = (300 minutes / 480 minutes) x 100

Alivia finds Elliot could only adhere to his schedule for 62.5% of the workday because of the equipment issue.

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