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Ask the Workforce Wizard

Question:

An agent is stuck on a call that causes them to work past their scheduled break or lunch. Are there centers out there adjusting the break or lunch so as to not negatively impact the agent’s schedule adherence? Or are they coaching the agent to go to lunch on time by placing themselves in Aux maybe a minute or so prior to their scheduled event?

I’d imagine this could be all over the board but I’d think the majority might be on one end of the spectrum. My fear is we’d drive the wrong behavior if we allowed for these adjustments but I’m willing to change my position if someone is having success with this.

Answer:

We posed this question to some of our experts, and got some varied responses, and some great ideas:

  • This is a point of controversy for many sites. If you have a very long handle time that will force extension into Break or Lunch time, you may allow that type of adjustment. If you have shorter AHT and it is just a failure of the agent to get OFF the phones on time, I would make no adjustments. It helps to educate your agents on how to get off the phones on time (without hanging up on the customer). The key here would be to get off on time or maybe a minute or two early, but just be back on time as expected. The other thing is to figure out what the goal should be that is reasonable as to not have manipulation of reports and exceptions to cover adherence.
  • My take on adjusting segments is that if you adjust them, then there is not a reason for your schedule adherence not to be 100%. This then creates problems for your scheduling teams. Since adherence is 100% they have to assume the agents are doing exactly what they are supposed to, which isn’t the case. Setting a schedule adherence goal of 90-95% still leaves plenty of time to account for break/lunch slippage (unless AHT is really high), and yet still have an attainable target for the agents. Schedulers can add in an assumption that their schedules are only going to be good for 90-95% of the time, and can build in contingencies.
  • My take: First, set your adherence goal based on the processes you have in place. If you change the processes, re-evaluate the adherence/compliance goal accordingly. If you have a liberal adherence goal, I might not adjust the breaks/lunch — too much administrative cost for the time it would take. Also, I agree that it would drive the wrong behavior.
  • AHT lengths are absolutely a big deal. If someone gets caught on a call and AHT is three minutes, a typical schedule adherence goal can more than accommodate that. In a Travel environment (General Reservations, for example), we would rarely make a schedule exception for someone who got caught on a call. (This is my general preference but…) Maybe we would do it if they were in a specialty group like Cruise or Group Sales, where the AHT was considerably longer (easily 10 minutes or longer, maybe even double that). In my outsourcing days, we supported a lot of tech support clients whose AHTs ran 20-30 minutes or more. In those situations, we were indeed making schedule exceptions or, in one case, we reduced the adherence target well below 90% to allow the agents to selfmanage without exception entry. I also think that coaching the agents on what to do leading up to break time is important and often neglected. Some of our best performing groups (in terms of true adherence as well as service level) coached their agents on exactly what Aux to enter if they find themselves in Available within “X” minutes prior to break, and to just go to break that many minutes early rather than risk getting caught on a call. This is obviously more of an issue when AHTs are long but I think it’s a good idea regardless. Any potential abuse can always be monitored by reviewing the adherence reports.
  • I am the outlier here. We auto-approve exceptions that cause this issue. We have a 95% Adherence goal. The exception process takes maybe 30-45 minutes a day for 300 agents. BUT we use a technology solution which has exception approval as a mouse click not a schedule change. I then report on the shrinkage that is auto-approved” and use this in planning as well. If I had a different system that did not have this functionality, I would go with everyone else on this.

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