Call centers need all their parts in order to run smoothly. But what happens when you’re missing members of the team? It won’t be long before you encounter some serious problems.
Absenteeism, otherwise known as absence rate, is arguably one of the most overlooked call center metrics. This percentage figure reveals the amount of unapproved or unplanned time agents spend away from their work. This may include sick days, unapproved personal days, and extended breaks at the office.
What’s more, absenteeism is known to impact call center KPIs — in other words, this could be the root cause of performance issues for your team. If frequent agent absences are getting the best of your call center, it’s time to remedy the issue. Let’s explore the most common causes of call center absenteeism and how to fix them.
Why Attendance Matters in the Call Center
Good attendance and punctuality are essential to running a successful call center. It’s not just about instilling discipline in your agents; it’s about ensuring your team is fully staffed and equipped to handle the day’s call volumes.
If your team struggles with attendance, logging absences won’t be enough to turn things around. You’ll want to track absence rates over an extended period and use those figures to find patterns and trends in your agents’ activity.
The impact of high absence rates is similar to short-staffing. If you don’t have enough agents working, your call center won’t have the resources to deal with high call volumes and caller demand. This can cause the following call center metrics to suffer:
- Cost of operation
- Customer satisfaction (CSat)
- First call resolution (FCR)
- Abandonment rate
- Agent satisfaction and attrition
The Main Factors Impacting Call Center Absenteeism
Now that we’ve established the importance of managing call center absenteeism, it’s time for the next topic: how to manage its root causes.
Keep in mind that some of these factors will be outside of management’s control — here are a few examples:
- Sick days and personal days
- Home or family emergencies
- Illness or injury
- Running late for a shift
- Medical appointments
You can’t control everything. But the list below still holds plenty of opportunities to bring about a positive change in your team’s attendance rates.
1. Workplace atmosphere
Have you assessed your agents’ workspace lately? If your work environment isn’t appealing to your employees, they may be reluctant to return to their workstations.
Consider things like lighting and noise. Would a fresh coat of paint or increased natural light improve your work setting? Do the noise levels allow agents to properly support your callers? While these may be small adjustments in the grand scheme of things, they can go a long way towards encouraging productivity.
2. Work stress and disengagement
When managing agents, it’s important to ensure they enjoy their daily work. But if they’re constantly overwhelmed by call volumes and struggling with their tasks, they’ll be less motivated to attend work on time.
Part of addressing this challenge is making sure you hire the right agents to fit your call center culture. There’s a lot you can do around training and managing operations to ensure they have the skills and the know-how to succeed in their work.
Word to the wise: don’t wait until you have cases of agent burnout on your hands. By this point, it’ll be much more difficult to keep them engaged, and you may find yourself facing high agent attrition and turnover.
3. Lack of tools and technology
It doesn’t matter how talented your agents are — if they don’t have the right tools and equipment to do their work, they will begin to flounder.
Take the time to ask your agents where they have experienced problems and gaps in their daily work. By automating the challenging or monotonous parts, you allow them to focus on the most important part of their role: supporting your callers.
When it comes to modern call center software, there are incredible solutions in the marketplace. For instance, call-back technology offers your callers a call-back as an alternative to waiting on hold. This keeps call volumes under control and removes the need for hold time, creating a positive experience for both your callers and your agents.
4. Poor leadership and training
If your agents aren’t confident in their daily work, they may choose to avoid their workstations whenever possible. Often, this is due to lack of leadership and training in the call center.
Consider hosting one-on-one meetings with your agents to explore any challenges they may be facing in their daily work and come up with individual plans to help support each of them. This may involve more training sessions to sharpen their skills, or pairing them with a more seasoned agent for extra support.
Your 5-Step Action Plan for Improving Call Center Attendance
If you are committed to improving your call center attendance and absence rate, there is plenty you can do. Here are five things you can do today to get started:
1. Track your absence rate.
When it comes to call center strategy, it’s always best to make decisions informed by historical performance data. If you haven’t started tracking absence rate, you should begin doing so on a monthly basis. Here’s a complete guide on how to calculate absence rates and interpret your data.
Of course, this figure alone won’t tell you the full story of your call center’s absenteeism. You’ll need to collect additional information to fill in the gaps, which brings us to our next step…
DID YOU KNOW?
Quantitative data—such as absence rate—offer hard facts and figures, while qualitative data—such as agent feedback—give context to those metrics. You’ll need both types of information to get a full picture of where your contact center stands.
2. Gather feedback from your agents.
Once you have a strong set of historical data to work from, it’s time to get the story behind the figures. The best way to do this is to ask your call center agents about their experiences and gain insights from them.
There are many ways to do this, including employee surveys, one-on-one meetings, and return-to-work interviews for agents returning from extended leave. Take care to log the official reasons behind each absence and take the opportunity to offer more support to agents who need it.
3. Address gaps in your call center operation.
Once you’ve spoken to your call center employees, you may notice patterns emerging from your data. Consider everything from the work environment to the tools they use in their daily work and think of ways to make their work lives easier and more enjoyable.
For instance, call center agents might avoid work if they know they’ll have to deal with frustrated customers who have been forced to wait on hold. Adopting a call-back solution is one of the best ways to support a positive work experience while keeping call volumes manageable.
Aside from automating the less pleasant parts of agent work, consider upgrading the work environment itself. A pleasant workspace can encourage your agents to spend more time at their desks. This can involve anything from improved lighting, noise-cancelling equipment, to a fresh coat of wall paint.
4. Review and update your attendance policy.
When was the last time you reviewed your call center’s attendance policy? Your contact center is constantly evolving, and these policies should evolve along with it.
If your call center is one that has recently shifted to a remote or hybrid model, this is especially important. It’s also good practice to review your attendance policy with your agents, so there’s no confusion around expectations.
If you notice an employee who is not observing your call center’s absenteeism policy, it’s best to address it at once. A gentle but firm reminder can prevent them, and other agents, from building bad attendance habits.
5. Create incentives for good attendance.
There’s no reason why you can’t give your agents some extra motivation. Reward employees who have glowing attendance records with a meaningful prize. For instance, you could offer a cash bonus or an extra paid vacation day. Letting your staff select from a small assortment of incentives — a spa day or tickets to a professional sporting event — can help them choose a prize they find personally rewarding.