First things first, what is shrinkage? Shrinkage is the amount of time an employee isn’t available to work during paid time. As far as contact centres are concerned, this means not being able to take calls.

In a previous article, we discussed how to calculate the amout of staff you needed. But if you take into account shrinkage, you could actually end up being understaffed. The average industry shrinkage rate is around 30-35%, so if you have calculated that you need 40 ‘active’ agents, it means that you will actually need around 60 staff members. It is immediately clear how it would affect profitability and service levels.

Shrinkage is therefore a key factor to get under control and reduce as much as possible.

Identify what you can’t change

Holiday, training and meeting times are areas that can’t be improved on so it is important to clearly separate them from unexplained downtime.

Don’t use an average rate

Historical data can be interesting to analyse general trends but shrinkage shouldn’t be reduced to a single rate as it will vary greatly throughout the day and throughout the year. For example, it will be greater in winter when staff is more likely to be off sick, so lumping everything together will only mask what the real issues really are and make it difficult to develop a strategy to reduce down time.

Generally, it is accepted that it is good practice to calculate shrinkage on periods of 15 or 30 minutes and take into consideration corresponding Average Handling Time.

Be precise

Surely, a few decimal points won’t matter, will they?

Actually, they will, so when you calculate shrinkage, use two decimal points and don’t round numbers down. Even 0.1% can lead to critical understaffing, especially in large contact centres.

Don’t create a ‘miscellaneous’ category

A miscellaneous category may allow you to sweep under the carpet shrinkage you don’t know what to do with but it will just result in an unexplainable big black hole of absences! You don’t want to create so many categories that the numbers become meaningless, but you shouldn’t hesitate to break down large categories if relevant.

Calculate shrinkage for each department

Inbound and outbound contact centres, phone orders and post-sales customer services wil have their own characteristics so make sure you don’t group them together, and calculate rates by department.