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Question:

It has been our practice here to measure agent conformance to schedule. We recently got a new manager for customer service and she is urging us to move to  measuring agent adherence to schedule. Our feeling is that one measure is as good as the other, so why go through the change management exercise? It would be a lot of work to do what she wants. Is it worth it?

I thought we had resolved this issue some time ago but I still encounter contact centers that do, indeed, measure  conformance to schedule instead of adherence to schedule. While the two terms sound very much alike, they have very different consequences for the contact center.

Answer:

First, let’s understand what each measure means. If the published schedule has me working from 8:00am to 5:00pm with two breaks and a 30- minute lunch, I  should work 8 hours. So, to be in conformance I need to work 8 hours, but I don’t necessarily have to report at 8:00am or leave at 5:00pm. In fact, I could conceivably work from 5:00pm to 2:00am and be 100% in compliance with the schedule.

That’s not the case with schedule adherence. Adherence to schedule means that you started on time, took breaks and lunch when scheduled, and ended your work-shift when indicated. Oh, by the way, you are also in  complete compliance with your schedule. In a sense, by measuring adherence to schedule you get compliance to schedule for free. But it doesn’t work the other way around.

Schedule compliance is an operations metric that originated in manufacturing. It is a useful measure there because the work to be done need not be done within rigid time boundaries. If I started a manufacturing task several hours later than booked into the weekly schedule, I could always spend a few extra hours on that task “to catch up.”

I’ve noticed some tendency for outsourcers to use schedule conformance. I think it’s tied to the need to be very flexible among multiple different clients and campaigns they are servicing. So, the management team deals with everything constantly in real time; reskilling agents on the fly attempting to leverage paid agent labor hours against shifting demand.

As we are all too aware, you can’t play  “catch up” in the contact center. Immediacy changes everything.

Note: This Ask the Workforce Wizard answer is provided by Bill Durr of Verint Systems. Bill may be reached at william.durr@verint.com.

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