Contact Center Trends

What is shrinkage in a call center and how can you reduce it?

By Taylor Johnson

0 min read

Call Center Shrinkage How Reduce

The call center industry relies heavily on agents being present to answer phone calls in a timely manner.

Each agent can only speak to one customer at a time, which means that when there are not enough staff members, customers are stuck on hold or their calls are missed entirely. This, of course, leads to very unhappy customers.

However, even when you schedule the correct amount of agents to meet call volume, they might not all be available to accept calls. This is why it’s so important to understand and manage shrinkage.

What is call center shrinkage?

Call center shrinkage is the number of agents actively taking calls divided by the number of agents who are not available for any reason. Those reasons can include:

External shrinkage factors:

  • Holidays & vacations
  • Sick time
  • Absenteeism
  • Lateness
  • Leaving early.

Internal shrinkage factors:

  • Scheduled breaks
  • Lunch breaks
  • Team meetings & training
  • One-on-one meetings
  • After call work.

Other factors might include participating in company events such as farewell parties, or other unplanned activities that affect schedule adherence such as going to the bathroom, taking personal calls, or emergencies that cause the employee to leave unexpectedly.

Why you should be tracking call center shrinkage in 2023.

How many of your scheduled call center agents are actually available to take calls at any given time versus how many are on break, attending team meetings, doing after call work, out sick, or late to their shift? This percentage is known as shrinkage. Understanding shrinkage percentage as a call center key performance indicator (KPI), and how to calculate and manage it can give you an edge in improving customer interactions, average handle time, service level, and your own bottom line.

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Shrinkage percentage and workforce management.

There are many factors that can cause shrinkage, including some hidden ones that are not so obvious as well as some that are beyond your control, and shrinkage percentage has to be taken into account when scheduling the number of agents needed to handle incoming call volume. Call centers that consider shrinkage as a major workforce management (WFM) indicator when hiring and scheduling tend to meet a higher service level at a lower cost. So how can you accurately determine your shrinkage percentage and what are some of the steps you can take to reduce it?

How to calculate shrinkage in a call center?

Calculating shrinkage helps you prepare your contact center with the necessary staffing so that you’re never put in a situation where you can’t meet demand. In order to do this, you can use the call center shrinkage calculation formula.

Let’s say you need 100 agents to handle call volume during a half-hour amount of time to meet your service level targets. If at any given point during that half-hour period 30 agents are not available to handle calls, that is a shrinkage percentage of 70/30, or 30%, as shown in the formula below:

how to calculate call center shrinkage

At first, you might think that a shrinkage percentage of 30% means you just need to hire 30% more staff, or 30 additional call center agents to hit the service level. Actually, those 30 additional agents will themselves have a shrinkage rate of 30%, or about 9 out of 30, meaning you will need 9 more agents for your contact center, and those 9 will have 30% shrinkage, and so on and so forth. Ultimately, if you need 100 agents and have a call center shrinkage rate of 30%, that means you will need 143 agents.

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How to manage shrinkage in call centers.

It’s important to develop a shrinkage monitoring process. Tracking shrinkage manually or using contact center software can help you identify where and when shrinkage is taking place. You may find that the highest shrinkage percentage occurs between 9-11 a.m. or 2-3 p.m., statistically the time when most team meetings are scheduled. Seasonally, most shrinkage occurs during summer months or at school dismissal times.

There might be certain teams or departments within the contact center with higher shrinkage, or certain employees who take longer breaks, go to the bathroom more often, or take more time for personal calls. By knowing how shrinkage occurs, call center managers can establish shrinkage management protocols and more effectively ensure agent schedule adherence.

Shrinkage and customer experience.

One point to keep in mind when considering shrinkage for WFM is that reducing shrinkage should not happen in a vacuum. Companies looking at reducing the amount of time agents spend in team meetings or training to control shrinkage, for instance, should consider the impact those decisions might have on customer experience and customer satisfaction. Often additional training is the first thing to go, which can have an effect on the overall quality of customer service that the caller receives.

Next steps for your contact center.

There are a number of Erlang calculators available online to help you calculate shrinkage by call volume, amount of time, average handle time and service level. However, using contact center software to monitor shrinkage for you can eliminate these manual steps and let you get back to the business of running your company.

Read more about how Talkdesk cloud call center software leverages powerful AI and real-time analytics to help with workforce management.


Taylor Johnson

Taylor is a Product Marketing Manager at Talkdesk. He lives in San Francisco and loves exploring the city looking for the best food in every neighborhood.


What is the average shrinkage rate in contact centers?

According to Level AI, the average shrinkage rate in contact centers typically falls within the range of 25% to 35%. Shrinkage rates higher than 35% indicate that there are few contact center agents available to help customers, which contributes to higher wait and hold times.

What is the difference between contact center shrinkage and utilization?

In contact center management, shrinkage represents the time agents are unavailable to handle interactions due to scheduled activities like breaks, training, meetings, and unplanned absences. It quantifies the portion of an agent’s work hours not dedicated to customer interactions. On the other hand, utilization measures the efficiency of agents by calculating the percentage of time they spend actively addressing customer queries compared to their total available work time. While shrinkage accounts for periods of agent unavailability, utilization reflects how effectively agents utilize their available time solely for handling customer interactions. Both metrics are pivotal in understanding agent productivity and optimizing contact center operations, with shrinkage identifying non-available time and utilization gauging efficiency during available work hours.

What is an ideal contact center shrinkage rate?

Ideally, contact center shrinkage rates should be at 20% or lower. A lower shrinkage rate is preferred as it indicates that a higher percentage of an agent’s time is dedicated to handling customer interactions, thus potentially increasing overall productivity. However, aiming for an excessively low shrinkage rate might impact agent well-being, leading to burnout or reduced performance. Balancing operational efficiency with reasonable allowances for breaks, training, meetings, and unforeseen absences is crucial in determining an optimal shrinkage rate that ensures both productivity and employee well-being.