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How to set realistic adherence goals for your contact center

contact center reps


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  • Schedule compliance is more than just how many hours an employee works; when they are available is also important.
  • The goal should not be to reach 100% scheduling compliance but instead to create an environment where the employee is both engaged during the workday as well as supported when they struggle from time to time
  • Training enables agents to understand schedule adherence’s importance from both their own and the company’s position.

Metrics have long been an important part of contact center operations. Managers use numbers to determine how well employees adhere to work schedules and implement best practices for servicing customers. However, the process requires a Goldilocks-like balancing act of not relying on the data too much or too little but instead just right.

Contact center executives have lots of performance information to examine. Scheduling adherence information is usually a popular place to start when evaluating staff performance.

What is schedule adherence?

Schedule adherence tracks the time when a contact center agent is supposed to be logged in and answering calls versus what actually occurs during the workday. It answers a series of questions. How often are agents on their phones? Are they available during peak load periods? Does their average calling handling time fit within the group’s norm?

Why is schedule adherence vital to contact centers?

Managing a contact center is an important and complex task. A lot of time and effort is put into forecasting and scheduling because executives must balance the desire to have enough agents to process inquiries in a timely manner versus having too many and frivolously raising expenses. So, each time an agent is out of schedule, the average waiting times for customers increase. Longer waiting periods build discontent, deepening any frustration the customer has, and lowers satisfaction.

WFM solutions automate agent scheduling

Workforce management solutions automate the collection of scheduling information, place it into databases, and create easy-to-follow reports for managers. Most companies (61%) rely on such products to help with their scheduling process, according to the International Customer Management Institute. They are much simpler and more effective than alternatives, such as working with Excel spreadsheets or paper and a pencil.

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Dig into the numbers

Adherence to a schedule does not mean an agent complied with it. The workday has enough flexibility so that employees can make changes that benefit themselves rather than the company.  For example, an agent is scheduled to work an 8-hour shift, starting at 9 AM, which is the peak period of call volume. He is 15 minutes late and decides to make up for the lost time by working during his lunch break. Instead of a one hour break, he only takes 45 minutes. He conformed to the number of hours he was supposed to work but did not adhere to the schedule. He was unavailable during a time when his presence was needed most.

100% adherence is not the end game

There is a difference between how an agent handles a call and how an assembly line builds a car. The former is much more dynamic and free flowing than the latter. The goal with workforce management systems is to identify individuals who are well below the typical response range rather than trying to force every employee to be at their desks all of their shifts, all of the time.

Most contact centers just have one goal for all agents, regardless of the call type. In the course of the day, some inquiries will take longer than expected because the customer is chatty, or their inquiry is complex. A rigid approach often penalizes the agents that have longer handle times.

Human factors intervene as well. An agent may need to take a quick break to rejuvenate after a really tough call. It is better for them to take that time than have them force themselves onto the next call. Also, coercing agents into 100% adherence can have unintended results. Agents feel pressured, cut off customer calls without resolving problems, and customer satisfaction drops.

Invest in training programs

One reason agents do not adhere to schedules is that they do not understand their importance. Agents focus on their own needs and often do not understand how their lack of adherence influences other colleagues or customers. To improve contact center adherence rates, help your agents comprehend the importance of sticking to their schedule.

The on-boarding process should include teaching the correct methods of handling customers but still try to adhere to the center’s schedule. Such education is not a one-time event. It needs to be regularly reinforced during staff meetings and professional development training.

How can RingCentral’s workforce management solution help you?

Scheduling involves predicting your future workload, so you determine your labor requirements. To make accurate forecasts, you have to consider signals, like historical data, weather, special events, and equipment failures. With a sales promotion in effect, for example, a company should experience a surge in inbound calls. A WFM solution enables the manager to assign the right number of agents, with the right skill sets, at the right time, so the customer is effectively and efficiently serviced.

See first-hand how RingCentral workforce management solutions transform your contact center.

Originally published Jan 12, 2022, updated Dec 30, 2022

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