Attendance Issues Are Not Inevitable and They Can Be Dealt With
Agent attendance problems are something too many call centers struggle with. Unlike many businesses that can work around a late or absent employee, this isn’t the case for a call center. Call centers strategically schedule staff, so they have the right number of employees working at any given time. When one person is late or absent, it hurts the level of customer service that the remaining agents can give to callers. Everyone suffers.
Yet agent attendance problems don’t have to plague your call center. Here are some steps you can take to significantly lower the number of agents who show up late or miss their shifts.
Review Attendance Policies
To start, look at your attendance policies. Do they accurately state your expectations? Do they provide an appropriate incentive for agents? Also consider if you want to give a reward for compliance, a punishment for noncompliance, or both. Make sure you start with the right policy if you have any hope of achieving a better outcome.
Enforce Rules Fairly
Next, make sure your call center management team properly enforces the agent attendance policy rules. That is, do they track attendance and take appropriate action for infractions? Assuming they do, the next related question is do they apply their enforcement evenly across all agents? Managers tend to have agents they like and favor, as well as agents who they don’t care for so much. Though this is human nature, it shouldn’t interfere with managers fairly enforcing your attendance policies for all agents, regardless of the circumstances.
Overhaul Hiring Practices
Third, look at your hiring practices. Revise them to emphasize the outcomes you want to achieve. One of these is agents who know the importance of coming to work when they’re scheduled and being on time. Look for ways to screen out applicants who may not comply. Eliminate any consideration of a person who is late for an interview. If they can’t be on time to get a job, they won’t be on time to keep it.
Next, you may want to consider a zero-tolerance policy during agent training and their probation period. Yes, you invested money in this employee, and it hurts to let them go if they miss a training session or show up late. But allowing this behavior to go unchecked, allows a precedence that will extend into the rest of their employment.
Weed out these employees quickly before they have a chance to make a negative influence on the rest of your staff and damage your schedule.
Make Attendance Expectations Part of Training
Once you’ve hired an applicant, it’s time to train them. Integrate your attendance expectations into your training process. There are two ways to do this. First, reiterate your expectations for their attendance, starting with their first day at work. Reinforce this throughout training to make sure they know you’re serious. Second, immediately terminate any trainee who violates your attendance policy. Of course, this needs to be in your employee handbook and covered during the hiring process. Therefore, take the steps you need ahead of time, so you can respond appropriately if attendance violations occur.
Review Compensation Plan
Next, look at your total compensation package. If you’re starting pay is too low or you don’t offer enough basic benefits, the caliber of people you will attract won’t be that loyal to your company, their job, or your callers. After all, if you fire them, they can easily find another comparable paying job.
A related issue, which may surprise you, is your sick days and personal time policy. These policies can serve to encourage people to miss work. Make sure your sick and personal time policies don’t encourage employees to miss work. Yes, you need to be fair, but fairness works both ways, from your company to your employee, as well as your employee to your company.
Enhance Your Termination Policy
Make sure your employee handbook clearly outlines what constitutes just cause for termination. When it comes to agent attendance, detail your expectations and the outcome for noncompliance. Have an attorney familiar with labor laws in your state review and approve this.
Having a call center staff that shows up when they’re supposed to work and on time starts with you. Don’t accept poor agent attendance as a normal part of call center work.
For help in doing this, check with other call-center managers to see what works and doesn’t work for them. Even better, elicit the outside help of someone who has guided other call centers into optimizing their policies to reduce agent attendance problems.
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