Shrinkage in Call Centers: Understanding the Lost Time and Boosting Productivity

The Cost of Shrinkage in Call Centers

As technology evolves and businesses become more customer-oriented, call centers are becoming a pivotal part of efficient customer service. However, with this rise comes the challenge of managing the workforce’s productivity, including the issue of shrinkage. Shrinkage, as defined by contact center professionals, refers to the time and resources lost when call center agents are not actively engaged in handling calls or processing customer inquiries.

📉 Shrinkage is a menace to productivity in call centers, a hindrance to goal attainment and revenue generation.

This article discusses the definition, factors, examples, and methods of reducing shrinkage in call centers. Understanding shrinkage helps managers define efficiency standards and allocate resources appropriately.

The Definition of Shrinkage in Call Centers

Shrinkage, generally defined as the difference between available and productive hours, represents the amount of time that contact center agents are unable to perform their primary responsibilities, such as answering calls or handling customer interactions.

Shrinkage is expressed in terms of a percentage of the contact center’s total hours in a day, week, or month. Factors that contribute to shrinkage include:

Reason for Shrinkage Shrinkage Duration
Scheduled breaks (lunch, tea, bathroom breaks) 1-2 hours per day
Unscheduled breaks (personal calls or chat with colleagues) 1-2 hours per day
System downtime or technical issues 0.5-1 hour per day
Training or coaching 1-3 hours per week
Management or team meetings 0.5-1 hour per day
Administrative tasks and email correspondence 0.5-1 hour per day
Adherence to schedules (waiting for calls) 0.5-1 hour per day

Why Shrinkage is a Challenge in Call Centers?

Shrinkage is not a new concept, and it affects businesses in various industries. However, in call centers, shrinkage plays a critical role because it reduces productivity and impairs the customer experience. Since call centers are often measured by the number of calls handled in a day, the quality of the calls, and customer satisfaction, any form of time loss can be detrimental to their goals.

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🤔 How can call center managers maintain productivity amidst shrinkage?

Factors that Impact Shrinkage in Call Centers

Several factors contribute to shrinkage in call centers. They include:

1. Workload

When agents have a high workload, they may suffer burnout, which leads to reduced efficiency and more shrinkage.

2. Scheduling Problems

The call center may schedule agents without considering factors like peak or off-peak periods or the agents’ preference for shifts.

3. System and Equipment Issues

A technical glitch can cause a system to go down or affect the rate of call handling by agents, leading to more shrinkage.

4. Personal Issues

Agents may have personal problems that cause them to take more unscheduled breaks, causing more shrinkage.

5. Inadequate Training

When agents are not adequately trained, it leads to inefficiency, longer call times, frustration and eventually shrinkage.

Reducing Shrinkage in Call Centers

The following methods can be implemented to minimize shrinkage in contact centers:

1. Optimizing Schedules

Contact center managers can use workforce management (WFM) solutions to forecast call volumes, space for training, breaks, and off-phone activities, thereby reducing shrinkage.

2. Implementing Incentive Programs

Incentive programs like bonuses or extra days off can motivate agents to work hard and reduce the likelihood of taking unnecessary breaks.

3. Training Agents in Time Management

Stress management techniques and prioritization can help agents make better use of their time and improve efficiency.

4. Offering Flexible Work Arrangements

Some agents may prefer to work remotely. Such arrangements help reduce distractions and shrinkage in their work.

5. Investing in Quality Control

Quality assurance (QA) programs can be implemented to ensure adherence to standards, consistency in service delivery, and minimize errors.

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FAQs About Shrinkage in Call Centers

Q. Can shrinkage be eliminated entirely?

A. It’s impossible to eliminate shrinkage entirely. The goal is to reduce it to an acceptable level that doesn’t impede productivity or customer satisfaction.

Q. What is the ideal shrinkage percentage?

A. The ideal shrinkage percentage varies depending on the type of contact center and objectives. A well-run call center should have a shrinkage rate of around 25%.

Q. How can I monitor shrinkage?

A. You can monitor shrinkage using WFM solutions, real-time reporting, and analytics software.

Q. How do I motivate my agents to reduce shrinkage?

A. Incentive programs, ongoing training and coaching, flexible work arrangements, and constructive feedback can motivate agents to reduce shrinkage.

Q. What is the impact of shrinkage on the customer experience?

A. Shrinkage can lead to long hold times and cause customers to become frustrated or even abandon their calls. This can result in lost revenue and a negative brand reputation.

Q. What is occupancy?

A. Occupancy is a measure of how much time agents are spending on calls or other activities versus the available time. A high occupancy rate (over 85%) is a sign of burnout and can adversely affect the service quality.

Q. Can shrinkage affect a call center’s bottom line?

A. Yes, shrinkage can significantly affect a call center’s bottom line by reducing revenue, increasing operational costs, and lowering customer satisfaction.


Shrinkage is a reality that call center managers must face and mitigate to ensure productivity and customer satisfaction. Understanding the causes of shrinkage and implementing measures to reduce it can help businesses achieve their objectives and generate more revenue. By optimizing schedules, offering training and incentives, and monitoring performance analytics, call center managers can create an environment that reduces shrinkage and maximizes efficiency.

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📊 Don’t let shrinkage ruin your call center’s performance. Take control today!

Closing Statement with Disclaimer

While the information contained in this article is believed to be accurate and reliable, it is provided for general informational purposes only. None of the information should be construed as financial or legal advice or relied upon as a substitute for professional advice. Before implementing any strategies or programs to reduce shrinkage, call center managers must consult with their legal or financial advisors.