• Sharon Oatway

Call Center Schedule Adherence

The impact of being late on your team and the customer

Manager anxious about schedule adherence

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.

Within the call center, schedule adherence has the most significant impact on customers and has a direct impact on average speed of answer and wait times. Whether it is being absent, arriving late to work, or late logging back in after a break, as agents struggle to make up the gap left by a tardy or absent agent, customers will inevitably experience longer wait times and a lower quality of service.


Why Employees Are Late

While there is 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 is 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.


9 Things You Can Do as a Leader

You’ve spent a fair bit of time and money recruiting and training an agent. The last thing you want to do is terminate them 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. Before you get to that point, here are some things to consider:


1 - Demonstrate the Behavior You Want to See in Others

Show up on time. If you are consistently a few minutes late coming into work (even if you worked late the night before), constantly late for meetings, or suspiciously absent when golf season comes around, then it will be challenging to expect your team members to behave any differently. Demonstrate the behavior you want to see in others!


2- Create Awareness

Most agents don’t understand the impact their behavior can have on their team and customers. Educating them about this impact can dramatically impact schedule adherence and customer wait time.


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3 - Reward + Recognize

Given that being on time is essential to call center performance, make it official by adding schedule adherence to agent performance reviews.

By formalizing it as part of the review process, there should be no question that it’s an important part of their performance evaluation.


Offer rewards—whether an extra day off or a $50 gift certificate to a popular restaurant—for employees who have exemplary schedule adherence. This reinforces that being punctual is a crucial center goal.


4 - Address It Early

Leadership has to shoulder some of the responsibility for absenteeism among employees. Do not wait for the situation to get to a crisis point before taking action. Have a candid conversation with the absent employee before it develops into a more significant issue. It may be uncomfortable, but when addressed in a curious and caring manner, most situations can be nipped in the bud.


It is essential to recognize that how you address (or do not address) absenteeism or tardiness with one team member can significantly impact an entire team’s productivity and morale. Other team members may become so frustrated by having to pick up the slack left by their peers’ absenteeism and tardiness that they may take more leeway with their own attendance. “Why should I show up on time when it doesn’t seem to matter if they do?”


5 - Be Consistent With Consequences

Consistency in how you address the situation is important to managing the perception of favoritism among your team. A robust, written policy is a good first step. Research shows that about 40% of companies have stringent “no-fault” attendance policies where a certain number of absences (regardless of the reason) calls for disciplinary action. On the other hand, 60% of companies give managers more leeway about when to discipline an employee for attendance.


6 - Don’t Jump to Conclusions

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.

You may be able to tweak an agent’s schedule to align with the bus schedule or temporarily give them a later shift while they help care for an elderly relative. Understanding the reason for tardiness is critical to addressing it.


7 - Check-in

For those agents who are chronically late for work, institute a “check-in.” Even if it’s a quick two-minute chat at the beginning of the shift via phone or text, if agents know they are required to communicate with their direct manager, they will have the necessary level of motivation to show up on time—or face questions about why they weren’t available.


8 - Require Phone Call

Make it a requirement that agents who are running more than 15 minutes late or are going to be absent must call their direct supervisor. Agents are less likely to show up late if they know they have to discuss it with someone.


9 - Get Agent Buy-in and Commitment

Above all else, you must gain the agent’s commitment to changing their behavior. Get them involved in coming up with solutions to the root cause. For example, catching an earlier bus, having the babysitter arrive 15 minutes earlier, or setting two alarms. The key is to jointly come up with a plan and hold them to it.


10 - Follow-Through

Ultimately, if you don’t get their commitment or they fail to follow through on their commitment you will have to consider taking more severe measures. After all, if you can’t count on a team member to follow through on their commitments, then perhaps you have a bigger issue at hand. By allowing the situation to drag on or providing excuses for the agent's poor behavior, you are opening the door for other team members to do the same.


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