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Reducing absenteeism in the call center by determining the root causes

We have seen an increase in our call center absenteeism rate from our 5% acceptable rate to 9.5%. Some of the reasons are typical: fever, migraine, family emergencies – and most call center gents have medical certificates for it. What do you suggest for reducing absenteeism in the call center and maintain our absenteeism at 5% or lower? We have been allotting money for attendance incentive programs to no avail – we just don't get the agents' buy in.

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Some companies use pay incentives, some allow only a certain number of absences before a call center agent is put on probation or fired. It may be that you need to look at the root cause and address some other issues for reducing absenteeism in the call center. For example, look at your utilization rates and see if perhaps you're "burning out" your agents. Or considor a focus group (preferably run by outsiders) to get some input from call center agents on the call center work environment, what works well, what they would like to see change. This may reveal some key things about what is causing absenteeism in the call center. You may need an environmental review to make sure there is not a problem with the ventilation or some other aspect of the building. Finally, I'm not sure what you include in your rate calculation, but you may need to revisit your target to see if it's reasonable; setting a target that is not reachable is counter-productive.

This was first published in November 2006

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