Map Out Your Shrinkage

The benefit of using a map is the ability to form plans based on the turns and terrain ahead. You are unlikely to ignore your fuel light if the next gas station is 80 miles away. You are also unlikely to stop at every gas station you approach if you know there are several more along the way. Finally, you are unlikely to ignore the road sign that says “Severe Tire Damage.” The information a map provides helps you make educated decisions; your trip will be quick and efficient with minimal risk of being stranded on the side of the road.

Shrinkage is no different. You know these twists and turns in the road will occur; agents need to take time off, attend training, and perform other off phone duties throughout the year. If we can estimate how much will occur and map out when it needs to occur, we can form plans than ensure efficiency. We will be anticipating the road ahead and making decisions based on what we know is coming.

Start by forecasting your staffing requirements throughout the year. You may notice that some weeks or months have widely varying requirements; identifying these peaks and valleys is the first step towards drawing a road map. Then simulate the impact of various shrinkage scenarios based on what other areas of the contact center may want to do. By working closely with these areas you can determine what shrinkage to allow during the different months and weeks of the year based on when they need to occur by. This allows multiple stakeholders to have a voice in the plan while still following the road map you have created. Workforce Management’s primary shrinkage concern is forecasting the “when” and “how much”. Other areas of the contact center can help determine “what” shrinkage should occur.

Now that you have established your road map, make sure you share it with the contact center. A map is no good if left in your glove compartment! Show your agents how much time off is available during different weeks and months of the year, thus reducing blind requests for time off that have a high denial rate. Guiding agents to the times of the year that can be approved at a higher rate helps them make educated judgments when they have flexibility in their request. It also provides logic behind why their request might be denied during busier times of the year. Finally, it is in workforce management’s best interest to give as much time off as possible when the impact is low; this allows us to go lean during busy times of the year yet not burn agents out.

Sharing the road map will also help areas like training or quality assurance choose the right weeks or months for ad hoc initiatives. If a certain training course needs to be completed by a certain month, the road map can help everyone identify the best times to get it scheduled rather than choosing random dates or waiting until the last minute when it might not be ideal. As stated earlier, it is beneficial to push these initiatives to times of the year when the impact is low or can be more easily managed.

While forecasting shrinkage is primarily a workforce management responsibility, developing strategies on how to manage it is a partnership. The more you collaborate with other areas in the contact center, the better results you will achieve on your drive together.

Note:  This tip provided by SWPP Board Member Jeff Bretana of Navy Federal Credit Union.  He may be reached at