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Improving “Avoidance” Behavior to Reduce Absenteeism


Scott Kendrick

April 24, 2015

businessman avoiding answering phone
businessman avoiding answering phone

We all remember that reliable excuse for cutting class because you didn’t do your homework: The dog ate it, of course! Or what about holding a thermometer up to a light so that your Mom would believe you really had a fever and had to stay home watching TV on the couch?

In the call center environment, workplace absenteeism isn’t a laughing matter: It’s a major concern. “There’s a sense of entitlement in the workplace,” says Suzanne Diefenbaker, director of Transat Tours Canada’s customer care center. “It’s a feeling that it’s okay to be absent because others can look after the customers.”

Statistics show the employee attrition rate for call centers can be as high as 20 – 30% annually. So what are some strategies call centers can take to curb agent “avoidance” behavior, reduce absenteeism, and ultimately build an engaged workforce? Let’s take a look at a few different approaches:

Look for the Signs of Call Avoidance

As noted in an inContact article on call avoidance, the most classic and prevalent behaviors are as follows: unscheduled personal break time used; excessive outbound calls made to local numbers before break, lunch, or end of shift; short calls where the agent has disconnected the line; dissatisfied customer survey ratings corresponding to the agent’s end of shift; and so on.

inContact recommends integrating a workforce management scheduling tool with a contact center’s call delivery system to proactively manage long duration call types (i.e., avoid routing those calls to agents approaching a break, etc.). “As an agent, there’s nothing worse than getting a 30 minute average trouble-shooting call 5 minutes before the end of a shift,” the article notes.

The end result of such an integration can impact both agent and customer experiences, as there is, more often than not, a clear correlation between agent job satisfaction and the experience of the caller.

Motivate Agents with Automated, Direct Feedback

While not every call center representative will be motivated by a competitive spirit, performance feedback is still a critical part of establishing agent job satisfaction. The logic is sound: If an agent isn’t engaged in and informed about his or her performance, what’s the motivation for success?

With myEureka, CallMiner’s automated call center agent performance management software, agents receive immediate feedback (while the call is still ongoing), allowing them to take action to improve their performance and the customer’s experience – it’s great for revealing ways on how to improve call center agent performance and improving FCR rate.

Ask Agents What Would Encourage Attendance

In today’s digitally connected world, we’re hard-wired for instant gratification. When we want results or information, we want them fast. But one of the most overlooked (and often underutilized) ways of discovering what motivates, inspires, and engages agents is simple: just ask!

A Call Centre Helper article on tips for managing agent absence suggests that companies survey agents to ask them what would contribute to a happier workplace and encourage attendance.

“[Managers] may see responses that indicate they need to make the employees’ break room more attractive, or they may want to personalize their cubicles,” notes CCH. “In extreme cases, they may see agents who want new parking arrangements, or even local daycare discounts [in the case of] working parents.”

The point is: Managers will never truly know what could make a difference to an individual employee until they take the time to ask.

Final Thoughts

The cards may be stacked against call centers when it comes to call avoidance behavior and absenteeism; after all, attrition rates for this industry in particular are notoriously high. But that doesn’t mean that those managing a call center can’t proactively identify ways to engage employees and inspire them to want to excel in their daily work.

The above are just a few of the many ways call centers can work to create a happier, more satisfying work environment for employees.

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