• Sharon Oatway

Call Center Schedule Adherence

Updated: Jan 20

Common reasons agents don’t show up … and what to do about it.

Whether you are working from an office or from your spare bedroom, there are times when it is challenging to arrive at work on time. In fact, research tells us that almost a third of employees show up late to work at least once a month (CareerBuilder) with 16% showing up late at least once a week.

While there are a multitude of valid reasons for tardiness and absenteeism, the most common culprits include traffic and bad weather (two of the best reasons to embrace work-at-home arrangements). These are valid reasons for being late if you are working from an office. We’ve all been stuck in traffic because of an accident or flat tire. And, of course, family illness or other extreme emergencies are understandable. Stuff happens.

There may be other legitimate reasons like oversleeping or forgetting to set the alarm that are reasonable once … but not twice. And then there are some employees who tend to be a little more inventive like “I need to take the day off because it’s my dog’s birthday and I need to get ready for the party.” You can read more hilarious excuses here.

In a call center, lateness and absenteeism can wreak havoc on schedules and customer wait times. Most agents don’t understand the impact their behavior can have on their team and customers. Educating them about this impact, can have a dramatic impact on schedule adherence … and eventually on customers. As agents struggle to make up the gap of an absent agent, customers will inevitably experience longer wait times and a lower quality of service.

Check out this e-learning module related to Schedule Adherence in a Call Center that you can obtain for FREE to host on your own learning management system. For your copy, contact info@verequest.com.

If you have agents who regularly miss work, regardless of the reason, can be exhausting and have a major impact on an entire team’s productivity and morale. Other team members can begin to resent the situation, which can lead to a lack of respect for the organization and those in charge. In addition, other employees may become so frustrated by seeing peers not held to appropriate attendance standards that they take more leeway with their own tardiness and absenteeism. “Why should I show up on time, when it doesn’t seem to matter if he/she does?”

Leadership absolutely has to shoulder some of the responsibility for absenteeism among employees. A failure to address these issues in a productive, clear and timely manner can lead to increased absenteeism among all employees.

How to Address Attendance Issues

You’ve spent a fair bit of time and money recruiting and training an agent. The last thing you want to do is terminate an agent due to persistent absenteeism or tardiness. However, eventually you will have to decide whether it is worth trying to work with the employee to get them on the right track or cut your losses by letting the employee go.

Research shows that about 40% of companies have very strict "no-fault" attendance policies where after a certain number of absences (regardless of the reason) calls for a certain course of disciplinary action. On other hand, 60% of companies give managers more leeway as to when to discipline an employee for attendance.

The key is to start communicating with the agent early -- do not wait for the situation to repeat itself over and over again. Take a proactive approach. Have a candid conversation with the absent employee before it develops into a larger issue. It may be uncomfortable but when addressed in a curious and caring manner, most situations can be nipped in the bud:

Be clear about the impact their absenteeism has on others. Explain how their actions are affecting both the other members of the team and the customer. (See Schedule Adherence e-Learning).

Before jumping to conclusions about whether the agent cares about their job, be sure you understand clearly the root cause for their tardiness. For example, dependence on a babysitter arriving or a bus schedule vs. sleeping in or apathy.

Gain the agent’s commitment to changing their behavior. For example, if they are dependent on a babysitter, arrange to have the babysitter arrive 15 minutes earlier. Or if they are sleeping in, ask that they set two alarms. If it makes sense, adjust their work schedule to a time that is more realistic. The key is to jointly come up with a plan and them hold them to it.

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