What is adherence?

What is adherence?


“Adherence” is another term, like “Shrinkage” that is thrown around the contact centre industry a great deal. It is held up as a crucial measuring tool and one that indicates how well an agent and the contact centre as a whole is performing.

However, what exactly is adherence? Should it play such a critical role in measuring success in contact centres and how can organisations better manage it?

Put very simply contact centre adherence is used to determine whether contact centre agents are doing the tasks they’ve been scheduled to do, when they’ve been scheduled to do it. It is measured by taking the total time a contact centre agent is available for call work and dividing it by the time they are scheduled to work.

Adherence = (minutes in adherence ÷ scheduled minutes) x 100

The availability part of adherence takes into account other activity agents undertake during a shift that is not call related. This might be time spent on breaks, non-call related work, over running meetings etc.

So, the example below outlines possible events that may impact an agent’s ability to hit their adherence target during one shift –

  • an agent arrives for their shift five minutes late due to personal reasons
  • as a result, they then log onto the system five minutes late
  • later in the shift they are on a longer than expected call and as a result are 10 minutes late for training
  • which then means they are on their lunch break 10 minutes later than scheduled

This rather unfortunate, but not untypical day, would mean that this particular agent is 30 minutes out of adherence for that one shift. On the face of it a poor day and in all likelihood, would be pulled aside by their manager and talked to about their poor adherence. This level of agent monitoring has been seen as crucial in ensuring contact centres are delivering efficient customer service. It is also, however, a reason why there is such employee churn in the contact centre industry. The lack of flexibility and monitoring that takes little ‘other factors’ into account, makes some contact centres unappealing places to work.

Just taking the example above, there could be a whole number of reasons for the agent being late, having the ability to check in remotely and/or update supervisors as to their ETA could make a real difference. Ideally, the agent could see that the call volumes means that being a little late to deal with a personal issue won’t impact customer service, and that staying on five minutes later at the end of the shift might actually be beneficial.

Equally, spending 10 minutes extra on the overrunning call might mean that the issue is dealt with in one call, rather than a customer having to phone back, ticking another contact centre tick box, first call resolution. Rather than measuring schedule adherence a better way might be to measure the amount of time the agent was available during the busiest periods of the day.

Intraday automation allows contact centres to make a real difference to adherence targets, by allowing more flexibility and increasing better levels of customer service. Adherence targets are based on the schedule put together, often six weeks ahead of time. Any incidents that change a shift’s schedule (influx of calls, personal issues, over running meetings etc), cannot be taken into account in a forward plan. Therefore, the adherence targets may not reflect reality. Intraday automation continually monitors likely peaks and troughs of calls and can therefore allow agents more flexibility to take time to deal with issues, knowing that it won’t impact customer service levels.

It also means that training can be rescheduled to other parts of the shift where call levels are intelligently predicted to be low meaning that agents can focus on high call periods of the day without worrying about being late for training.

Scheduling and adherence will remain important part of the contact centre industry. However, in an age where the sector as a whole is under pressure to change working environments, making them more attractive for agents, intraday automation can play an important role in helping making adherence targets more reflective of actual need, rather than a predicated, typical shift.

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