Managing Holiday Attendance in Your Contact Center

With any luck, your phones are ringing off the hook with holiday orders. Are your telephone service reps there to answer? Here are a few quick tips to manage attendance during the holiday rush.

1) Communicate the importance of being available during scheduled hours. Participants in a survey conducted by contact center community knowledge exchange Mach4um agreed that this is key.

If supervisors do not communicate the importance of being on time and available during assigned hours, agents often do not understand the effect on customers. Once employees understand the importance of being available when scheduled, their absenteeism numbers decrease.

2) Measure absenteeism.
All of the Mach4um respondents said they measure absenteeism regularly. Several respondents measured how long an employee was absent or tardy by the minute. One participant (an outsource provider) said that the rate of absenteeism varied from program to program, with 5% being an expected level.

Two participants said they use their scheduling technology to compensate for an expected level of absenteeism when scheduling shifts.

Each participant agreed that if you measure absenteeism rates, employee absenteeism tends to decrease.

3) Include absenteeism as a component of the employees’ performance review.

All respondents to the Mach4um survey said they include absenteeism as a performance metric in personnel reviews. Agents are briefed weekly on their progress toward the goal and clearly understand the incentives for good attendance and disincentives for poor attendance.

4) Measure the cost of absenteeism
Develop a return on investment for managing attendance. Because the cost of managing absenteeism can be high, knowing the cost of the problem is essential to making a wise decision and supporting your decision to invest resources to manage it.

5) Reward reps with good attendance records
Give scheduling preference to agents who meet quality and attendance criteria. Offering the better schedules to those who are not absent is effective. A convenient schedule may be more important to agents than money is.

At the end of each month, have the agents with 100 percent attendance and on-time arrival choose from a list of prizes. Establish a grace period for agents before they are counted “late” to accommodate “unavoidables.”

6) Be ready with backups
Use workforce management software to quickly identify other individuals who are trained to take the position of the absent individual. Through the technology, you can have the schedule of the other individual at your fingertips and can call to see if he or she would be willing to come in.

And each week have your employees list the days on which they are not scheduled but are willing to work.

Kathryn E. Jackson, Ph.D, is president of Ocean City, NJ-based contact center consultancy Response Design Corp.

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