Call Center Shrinkage <30% Is Good (+To Do’s If It’s More)

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Call center shrinkage refers to the percentage of time your customer support agents are on the clock but unavailable to take calls. This is the opposite of your occupancy rate, which is the percentage of time your agents are on active calls with customers. 

There are a few ways to determine your current shrinkage rate. One approach is to compare the number of agents who are actively taking calls against those who are working but doing something else. 

A more exact approach, which calculates your shrinkage rate as a percentage, is to take your entire team’s cumulative working hours that are not spent on calls and divide it by the team’s total scheduled working hours. You can use this formula to determine your shrinkage rate over any period of time you want, such as a week, a month, or even a single day. You can also apply this to individual agents, though that metric is usually called call center adherence

The first thing to remember about your call center’s shrinkage rate is that it does not have a perfectly correlated relationship with agent or team productivity. This is because your agents will almost always have other essential activities to perform on top of taking calls, including administrative follow-up tasks, post-call note-taking, and CRM (customer relationship management) database updates. Of course, team members also need a break every so often to take care of personal matters, bathroom breaks, and lunch. 

Most online resources will tell you that the industry average shrinkage rate is somewhere between 30 and 35 percent. If your call center sits anywhere below 30 percent, you’re probably in good shape—but 20 percent is ideal. In fact, you don’t even want your numbers to fall below 10 percent, because that indicates your agents are handling so many calls they can’t take breaks at all. Maintaining a shrinkage rate that low for a sustained period of time can often lead to burnout and a host of additional problems related to poor performance and higher turnover rates. 

On the flip side, you also don’t want your shrinkage rate to creep toward 40 percent or greater.  The higher it gets, the less attention your customers are receiving, resulting in longer wait times and lower caller satisfaction. Alternatively, a very high shrinkage rate can mean your call center isn’t receiving enough calls to keep your agents busy in the first place. 

In any case, shooting for that 30% benchmark will promote a reasonable amount of agent availability and a steady stream of customers being helped. 

Keeping Your Call Center Shrinkage Below 30% 

Understand why call center shrinkage occurs

Knowing your shrinkage rate won’t be very useful unless you understand the factors that are contributing to it in the first place. That way, you can make reasonable adjustments whenever necessary to raise or lower your current figures. To find out what’s going on behind the numbers, ask yourself a few important questions:

When does the highest shrinkage percentage occur? 

Large pockets of agent unavailability can greatly affect your final numbers. Mid-day meal times and afternoon snack breaks can create these bigger time blocks, resulting in slower answer rates and increasing overall shrinkage. Your customers may also have calling patterns around certain times of day. Consider adding extra agents to cover larger gaps in call time or staggering employee breaks to ensure consistent coverage all day long.

Which teams have a higher shrinkage rate? 

If certain groups are taking more or longer breaks than others, consider whether their incoming calls carry a higher degree of complexity. This can be mentally draining and require more time to regroup before jumping on the next call. You may be able to solve this by adding more agents to the pool or by spreading some of the tougher duties to other teams. It’s also possible that some agents are more social than others and need a reminder to stay on task. 

Which employees are away from calls the most? 

The actions of one team member can affect the entire group. Certain individuals may be taking longer lunches or more breaks throughout the day, or spending more time on ACW (after-call work). Depending on the reason behind the dips in occupancy, you may need to address the problem directly. 

Include all activities agents will do in their schedule

As you’re forecasting your shrinkage, make sure to include as many potential agent activities as you can that might impact on-call availability. This will result in a far more accurate estimate of your future performance. You don’t want to be caught off guard by a higher-than-expected percentage simply because you failed to account for activities other than the usual breaks and lunches. 

When working on your forecast, think about aspects like:

  • Bathroom and personal breaks
  • Training and team meetings
  • Sick days and mental health days
  • Social and personal breaks
  • Vacations and holidays
  • Average call handling time (AHT) 
  • ACW and other related tasks

Create a weekly or monthly schedule adherence report

When you work as a team, you can achieve much more much faster. If you’re aiming to drop your shrinkage numbers and get closer to that 30 percent mark, get your whole team involved. One of the best and most common ways of doing so is to create and share a schedule adherence report. This is a log that measures and compares agent occupancy with projected performance. Several of the best call center software solutions can track these numbers in real time. 

Going over the results with your team at regular intervals can be a good way to monitor and track progress so that everyone can be engaged with the improvement process. Many managers do this monthly, although gathering on a weekly basis can support ongoing awareness toward positive change. Use this time to highlight exemplary agents, cover current shrinkage status and future goals, and touch on any persistent behavioral or performance issues that need attention. 

Track metrics for agents that affect call center shrinkage 

Look at individual agent performance metrics frequently to get a sense of where the biggest shrinkage-related issues are occurring. Changing the habits or processes of one or two agents can have a noticeable impact on the numbers. Shrinkage isn’t just about the time that agents spend away from their desk, it’s also affected by agent efficiency during their daily tasks.  

Start by observing how each agent approaches two key metrics: 

Average Handle Time (AHT) measures the time it takes an agent to finish a call from the moment they pick it up to the end of the conversation. The industry average is around six minutes, so if an agent routinely takes longer than that, they’re probably driving up your shrinkage rate. This obviously depends on your specific business and the individual needs of your customers. 

Software like Nextiva and RingCentral offer customizable training and real-time agent support features to help fill any gaps in call management comprehension. You can also use solutions like Document360 and ProProfs, which are aimed at organizing and utilizing your internal knowledge base and other help resources.

After-Call Work Time (ACW) refers to the average time an agent spends completing administrative tasks and other wrap-up activities for a customer interaction after the call has ended. The industry average sits around 45 seconds, but the ideal range for your specific business can be variable. 

At the end of the day, you want your agents to do a good job and finish quickly—so keep in mind that taking several minutes to complete after-call tasks results in an agent not being available for the next call, thus increasing your shrinkage rate. Some of the AI-powered note-taking features offered by companies like Dialpad, along with additional agent training, can help resolve these issues.

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