Blog Post

Call Center Survey on Shrinkage – All Centers Have Activities that Take Agents Off the Phone. What can you do about it?

Agents have many responsibilities, but their most important job is interacting with your customers and representing your company. Unfortunately, this isn’t their only job.

Like everyone in your organization, contact center agents must wear many hats. When they aren’t on the phone with your customers, they are busy with various other activities. While off-phone activities like training and coaching make agents more effective, many others simply take up valuable time – time spent away from your customers.

And it’s expensive. Very expensive.

So, what exactly are your agents doing with their time when they aren’t on the phone with customers?

We recently conducted a survey of more than 100 industry leaders across all types and sizes of call centers to find out what activities make up shrinkage in their centers. According to the survey, agents spend an average of 24% – roughly one fourth of the work day – completing off-phone activities every day.

How is this time spent? By types of calls handled, collections agents spend the highest percentage of their time in shrinkage (26%), while technical support agents spend the lowest (21%.) By industry, outsourcers reported the lowest percentage of agent time spent in shrinkage at just under 20%.

When asked which activities contributed most to contact center shrinkage (not counting primary causes, which are largely outside of the center’s control such as absenteeism, vacation, paid holidays, tardiness, breaks and lunch), the biggest contributors were:

  • Training
  • After call work
  • Team meetings
  • One-on-one coaching
  • Projects

Other contributors included paperwork, research, knowledge base reviews, internal e-mail reviews and call backs.

Contribution to call center shrinkage also varied by industry. According to the survey, outsourcers deal with more absenteeism (37%) than other industries, while retail and telecom have more call follow-up, for example. Financial services and healthcare have more projects that contribute to shrinkage, where call backs are most frequent in telecom.

Knowledge base reviews are higher than average for financial services, but lower than average for healthcare.

There were a few differences in the breakdown of activities among centers handling different types of contacts. Training comprises a larger portion of off-phone work for collections centers at 12%. For centers with sales, 16% of shrinkage is spent in call follow-up and research.

Paperwork is more time-consuming for sales and tech support, at 13% and 12%, respectively. While collections handles the least amount of paperwork at 7%, these centers also have a higher percentage of call backs (10%), as might be expected given the nature of the work.

But despite these variations, the top “offenders” when it comes to shrinkage are largely the same. When agents are off the phones, they are primarily involved in activities related to training, coaching, team meetings, after call work and projects.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that because these areas are more easily controlled, small improvements could mean big bucks. Based on industry average calculations, reducing secondary loss by just 2% could equate to a $600,000 savings for a 1,000 agent organization.

There will always be activities agents must complete that take time away from handling customer interactions. Many of these activities are out of your control because they must occur at specific times such as lunch, breaks and vacation. But many other activities – including those most cited in our study – can take place during natural idle times between customer interactions if centers are able to dynamically respond to call volume.

Finding and using natural occurrences of idle time for agents to complete some of these activities simply makes them more productive. The result is increased productivity of your entire agent workforce and, ultimately, fewer agents needed on the floor.

 

About the author

Matt McConnell

Matt is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in its market with more than 300,000 call center agents around the world using Intradiem every day. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds 11 software patents. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering.

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