If you were to ask a call center manager what the most important metric is, what do you think he would answer? Customer satisfaction? Handling time? Quality? Those are all good answers, but chances are the answer you’ll get is absenteeism.
Absenteeism is the single-most-important metric for any contact center. Why? Because it all begins with absenteeism. You can’t have other stats if you’re not present. It’s simple as that.
If an agent is absent from the floor, he won’t be able to produce any of the other metrics. More importantly, he won’t be able to field any customer concerns. The fight is over before you even begin.
So the million-dollar question is: how can you have good attendance in your center? To get an effective answer to that, you have to understand what drives absenteeism in the first place.
What Causes Absenteeism?
A study from the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) shows the top five drivers behind absenteeism. They are:
Rigid work schedules not aligned with personal issues/needs - This means a lack of work-life balance.
Lack of buy-in and/or understanding about the importance of being at work - This refers to a personal stake and understanding why they are working and how their work affects other people and the company.
Health issues stemming from poor ergonomics - sitting sedentary in a cubicle for eight hours causes health issues. Centers need to plan for that.
No consequences for not showing up - other industries typically are flexible with attendance because it’s generally not a huge issue. Call centers are a different beast and the high-stress environment means stiffer accountability is required.
High stress and burnout - and the final, obvious one is that call center work is just naturally very stressful and demanding compared to many other industries.
Putting it All Together
These are the five things you need to keep in mind when formulating a strategy to combat absenteeism. It’s why most contact centers today focus on providing a good work-life balance to their employees, and why most of them emphasize personal accountability as a company culture. And it’s also why most centers today have health programs. Those are the three things you need to keep in mind for your company culture:
Create a culture that promotes work-life balance
Create a culture that focuses on personal accountability
Have programs that consider the health of your employees
To achieve this kind of company culture, here are a few tips and policies you can use to help achieve a good work-life balance in the company.
Give Employees their Shift Schedules in Advance - This trains employees to have accountability of their schedules. They should know what they are responsible for and when.
Allow Shift-Swaps - Make this a matter of course. A shift swap is one employee taking over the shift of another. It can create irregular work weeks, but the benefit is that an employee can make himself free on the days that matter (like their child’s soccer game, or other personal business). It’s a great way to promote work-life balance.
Provide Learning Opportunities - Most employees are looking to advance themselves in some way, and that’s usually done by studying and earning credentials. Kill two birds with one stone for them by providing on-site learning opportunities, like certification programs that are helpful for your company. Popular ones are Six Sigma Training, which benefits your company as well if you have Six Sigma-trained people to create value. This adds value to your employees and means they don’t have to spend their time outside the company on these opportunities. That lets them focus on being at work.
Establish a Health Program - GE Capital had a program called HealthAhead which involved providing health services and events for all employees to help them cut back on smoking, lose weight, exercise, eat right, and other healthy activities. While the company shouldered the funding, the entire program was run by employees who had the personal accountability to get the ball rolling and make other people feel the same. Establishing a program like this turns your people into accountable and engaged employees and takes care of their health at the same time.
Offer Remote Working - In a call center, it’s generally preferable to have teams in the office so they can take advantage of the full company culture, but some people may opt for remote work to have better work-life balance. Make this an option for the center if the demand is there. There are people who will benefit from remote work and help them reduce their absenteeism dramatically.
In the end, it’s all about keeping employees engaged and willing to take part in these activities. That’s why company culture is extremely important in getting people to come to work, thus reducing absenteeism. Start with the foundation of your company- the culture. If you have a good base, you will be able to tackle the absenteeism puzzle easily.