What is schedule adherence in a call centre? | How to calculate it?

How to calculate and measure adherence
Written by:
Picture of Natasha Ratanshi-Stein

Natasha Ratanshi-Stein , Founder & CEO

Call centres can get crazy with customer demands being all over the place. 

Especially during peak times like weekends, seasonal holidays, and promotional events, large volumes of customer support queries can wreak havoc in call centres. At these times, sticking to the schedule becomes difficult.

This is where schedule adherence comes in.

Call centre schedule adherence can help you maintain service levels, minimise wait times, and handle customer inquiries like a pro.

Let’s explore schedule adherence, its calculation, and best practices.

What is adherence in call centre?

Schedule adherence is an efficiency metric that measures a surfer’s ability to start and end their shifts on time. It also involves adhering to break times and other scheduled activities. Call centre adherence is crucial for assessing surfer performance and compliance with the schedule.

It’s important to note that not all instances of non-adherence are negative.

In some situations, a lack of adherence can be attributed to the surfer’s service delivery to customers. 

For instance, if surfers miss the start of their breaks because of lengthy calls, it can be considered as positive. Rushing customers off the phone solely to adhere to schedules is not desirable. 

However, frequent lengthy calls may also indicate an increased workload. In such scenarios, conducting one-on-one sessions or surveys can be helpful.

How to calculate schedule adherence?

Call centre adherence is calculated as a percentage by dividing a surfer’s total scheduled working time by the actual time they are available to handle calls. 

For schedule adherence calculation, divide the adherence time by the scheduled time and multiply by 100 to obtain the adherence percentage. 

Adherence Percentage = (Adherence Time / Scheduled Time) * 100

For example, if a surfer logs in and out of the system and properly uses ox codes throughout the workday exactly as scheduled, the surfer will have a 100% scheduled appearance.


However, if a surfer arrives late and logs into the shift 9 minutes after the scheduled time, consider that the surfer is out of adherence by nine minutes. For someone working a shift that is 450 minutes long, this 9-minute reduction would reduce their adherence by 2%.


The good thing about schedule adherence is that, in most cases, employees are not required to hit 100%, which is often unrealistic. 

Companies set target adherence percentages, such as 95%, 97%, or 98%, considering various factors like login/logout times, break and lunch schedules, coaching or meeting times, and more.

Adherence calculation relies on the use of adherence standards. These standards encompass the guidelines and expectations for surfers, focusing on their presence, punctuality, and adherence to work schedules.

Adherence standards are crucial as they provide a benchmark or target for evaluating schedule adherence. Without these standards in place, it would be difficult to assess whether surfers are meeting the expected level of compliance or falling short of the set expectations.

These call centre adherence standards are:

  • Scheduled time: The total time an agent is scheduled to be working, including time for handling calls, breaks, meetings, training, and other assigned activities.
  • Available time: The actual time a surfer is available to handle calls or perform scheduled activities. This excludes time spent on breaks, in meetings, or in non-call-related tasks.
  • Idle time: The periods when an agent is not actively engaged in call handling or other scheduled activities, typically due to low call volume or system issues.
  • Absence or unavailability: Time when an agent is absent from work, on vacation, on leave, or unavailable to perform their scheduled tasks.
  • Deviations or off-schedule activities: Instances where a  surfer deviates from their assigned schedule for legitimate reasons such as extended calls, assisting customers, or unexpected situations requiring immediate attention.
  • Grace periods or tolerances: Some call centres allow for a certain amount of flexibility or grace periods when calculating adherence. This accounts for minor deviations or delays without penalising agents for slight variations from the schedule.

Benefits of tracking call centre schedule adherence

Real-time adherence call centre offers numerous benefits to organisations striving for operational excellence. 

Here are the top three advantages👇

Promotes workplace fairness

Tracking call centre schedule adherence promotes workplace fairness by ensuring consistent expectations and equal treatment among employees. Here’s how it achieves that:

  • By tracking adherence, organisations establish clear and consistent standards for all employees. Everyone is accountable for meeting their assigned schedules, regardless of their position or tenure.
  • Adherence tracking creates transparency as employees are aware that their schedule adherence is monitored.
  • It helps identify imbalances or instances where certain employees may be consistently overloaded with work while others have lighter schedules.

Monitoring ensures that policies are applied uniformly, whether it’s regarding break times, time-off requests, or adherence to shift schedules. This avoids any perception of bias or unfairness in policy enforcement.

Implement shift management software to automate the scheduling process, eliminating potential human errors and biases that may result in unfair scheduling practices.

Improves planning

Adherence tracking helps analyse historical data to identify call volume patterns, peak hours, and busy periods. By understanding these trends, call centre managers can accurately forecast future call volumes and anticipate staffing needs.

Adherence tracking provides real-time visibility into surfer’s availability. Managers can monitor adherence rates throughout the day and immediately adjust when deviations occur. This may involve reassigning breaks, staggering lunch periods, or aligning agent shifts with peak call volumes. 

Boost productivity & efficiency

Adherence tracking helps surfers and supervisors prioritise their tasks based on scheduled activities. Surfers can allocate their time effectively by prioritising call handling during peak periods, attending meetings, or engaging in training sessions. This ensures that essential tasks are completed on time, contributing to overall efficiency.

Adherence data serves as a key performance metric for evaluating agent performance. By providing visibility into adherence rates, supervisors can assess individual surfer’s performance, identify areas for improvement, and provide targeted coaching and training to enhance productivity and adherence.

Best practices to optimise call centre schedule adherence

Here are three best call centre adherence best practices to optimise schedule adherence.

  1. Track surfers

Tracking “surfers” is crucial, which refers to agents who frequently switch between available and unavailable states during their scheduled shifts. By monitoring and addressing this behaviour, managers can minimise disruptions and ensure surfers remain consistently available to handle customer calls.

Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Identify the KPIs that align with your call centre’s objectives. These KPIs will serve as benchmarks for tracking surfers and measuring schedule adherence.
  • Develop accurate forecasting models to schedule the right number of agents during peak and non-peak periods, reducing surfer occurrences.
  • Regular training and coaching sessions help agents improve their skills and knowledge, enabling them to handle calls more efficiently.
  1. Build a reward system 

Establishing a reward system based on adherence performance can incentivise agents to adhere to their schedules. Recognise and reward those who consistently meet or exceed adherence targets. This recognition can include bonuses, extra time off, or other incentives that motivate agents to prioritise schedule adherence.

Here are some best practices to consider when developing a reward system:

  • Ensure that the rewards offered through the system are directly tied to schedule adherence. 
  • Define specific targets or metrics related to schedule adherence that surfers need to meet to earn rewards. These targets should be realistic and attainable to keep surfers motivated. 
  • Consider implementing a tiered structure where agents can earn different levels of rewards based on their adherence performance.
  • Include team-based rewards to foster collaboration and encourage peer support. Team rewards promote a sense of camaraderie and healthy competition among agents, further motivating them to adhere to schedules.
  • Conduct surveys or hold focus groups to gather feedback on rewards, challenges in adhering to schedules, and suggestions for improving the reward system.
  1. Implement workforce management tools

Utilise workforce management (WFM) tools to optimise scheduling and adherence tracking. These tools help forecast call volumes, plan shifts, and manage breaks more efficiently. They provide real-time visibility into adherence data, enabling managers to make informed decisions and adjustments to ensure optimal staffing levels and schedule adherence.

Surfboard’s user-friendly interface qualifies you to rest your search for optimal customer service scheduling software.

Here’s what Surfboard can do for you👇

  • Accurately forecast call inflows and plan staffing requirements based on historical data—no more guesswork or overstaffing.
  • Simplifies activity scheduling and delegation, allowing you to assign tasks and responsibilities to your agents easily.
  • Seamlessly integrates with your existing systems, eliminating compatibility issues and ensuring a smooth transition.
  • Offers a comprehensive time zone management feature, making it a breeze to coordinate schedules and optimise global operations.

Wrapping up

Schedule adherence plays a crucial role in the smooth functioning of a call centre. By ensuring that surfers adhere to their scheduled shifts and breaks, call centres can maintain service level agreements and deliver high-quality customer service. Additionally, implementing call centre scheduling best practices can help you get things right.

By tracking adherence metrics and analysing the data, call centres can identify areas of improvement and make necessary adjustments to optimise their workforce management. 

Surfboard’s user-friendly interface and advanced analytics capabilities can empower your call centres to achieve their scheduling goals and enhance overall operational efficiency.  

Book a demo today and experience the benefits of accurate schedule adherence in your call centre.


How can I improve my schedule adherence in a call centre?

To enhance schedule adherence in a call centre, you can implement strategies such as accurate forecasting, proper agent training, real-time monitoring, and implementing incentives for adherence.

Why is schedule adherence so important in call centres?

Schedule adherence is crucial in call centres because it ensures that surfers can handle customer inquiries promptly, minimising wait times and improving overall customer satisfaction.

How do you drive schedule adherence?

Driving schedule adherence involves setting clear expectations, providing regular feedback and coaching, optimising scheduling processes, leveraging technology for automated reminders, and fostering a culture of accountability and teamwork among agents.