Managing Lateness Within a Contact Centre


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We were recently asked…

“Hoping to get some of your thoughts on managing lateness within a contact centre.

“I have been tasked with reviewing the lateness and absence processes for our contact centre and would like to get views from other contact centres and ideas on what works and/or what doesn’t work. We want to be fair to our staff whilst also having a managed and consistent approach throughout all departments.

“Is anyone happy to share their thoughts or their current processes and how effective they are? Do you consider anything over 1 minute late? Over 5 minutes? How many instances of lateness before a warning etc. That is what we are really looking to get some insights into if possible.”

So we asked the question of our readers and here are all the answers that you need to know:

  • A 5-Minute Window

    General rule is a 5-minute window; however, technically, late is late. If you are on interval-level-based staffing, then that five minutes can throw your capacity off…..

    Thanks to Kathleen

  • Log Any Lateness From a Minute for Reporting Purposes

    Places I’ve been in the past whilst doing real time usually followed the same thing. They would still log any lateness from a minute for reporting purposes; however, 1-4 mins was logged as under 5 and no action was taken, anything above 5 mins was logged as such and subject to the company’s absence and lateness policies. Anything over 15 mins had to be worked back

    Thanks to Leon

  • Introduce Schedule Adherence

    My advice would be to introduce schedule adherence, but consider monitoring lateness occurrences in 1-2-1s and you could have it contribute to delivery of behaviours on an individual basis.

    Thanks to Richard

  • Engage HR in the Process

    Employment law does vary worldwide, and you’d really need to engage HR in any process. l’m sure any reputable company will have rules regarding attendance and sickness. But be careful with what you are advised and what you implement, otherwise your problem might get bigger. Consult HR.

    Thanks to Jim

  • Look Into the Organization Culture

    For any contact centre, schedule adherence is the utmost thing which needs to be followed.

    Many times we expect the staff to cover the login hours for the late-coming or the time loss. That is not the issue. Once not followed, schedule adherence may bring down the whole SLA for that day depending how many staff are late. It is the organizational culture that needs to inculcate into every staff member the meaning of being on time. Staff need to be present 10 mins before the shift rather than allowing for them arriving late. Rewards for the most consistent schedule adherence can be awarded on a quarter-to-quarter basis, while instances of late-coming should be penalized on the staff’s stack ranking performance, which could affect their annual rating during appraisals. Repeated offenders should be dealt with by documented warnings from different levels, and if they still don’t improve, they may face termination.

    While we can check the feasibility of granting staff members their preferred shift timings, this needs to be reviewed and changed from time to time, or else it will be a biased decision. Hope these inputs can be incorporated and it should do good. Educating employee/staff is fruitful rather than penalizing.

    Thanks to Nilesh

  • Ask for the Reason for the Lateness

    Right at the beginning I have to admit that for people of Germany even 1 sec. too late is too late 🙂
    I know that some customer service centres came up with the “brilliant” idea of rewarding the employee for things like attendance and lateness, which is a really bad idea and part of this global problem.

    The first thing we have to do is to ask for the reason flateness without judging to see the root cause. Then we can fix it.

    If it is really based on a true reason, then there are solutions which we basically have to communicate.

    But if the employee, regardless of their title, does not think that it is really that important to be on time, then maybe we missed finding a good way to communicate about what the main purpose of our professions is. And this is the place where managers should be able to reflect on themselves. Did we really understand the “why” of why we get up early every day and leave our warm beds, families and pets and go to the office? And did we manage to tell the “why” to our direct reports after understanding it ourselves?

    Thanks to Cem-Ismail

  • Have the WFM Team Highlight the Challenges

    I’ve found that having the WFM team highlight the challenges that this brings and educating your agents about the consequence of their lateness can help with bringing awareness to their actions. I’ve then often followed this up with “file notes”. These are informal records of lateness. Up to 3 file notes are allowed before treating as an issue for the individual. Once 3 have been exceeded, then follow the attendance process to make this more formal.

    This can feel a bit heavy, but educating the agent after each file note and informing them that it can lead to further action will ensure most agents will want to avoid a formal process.

    The key to  following this is to stick to it and not falter. Letting people off every now and then only deviates from what you’re trying to achieve.

    Thanks to Daniel

  • Empower Workers to Be a Part of the Solution

    Outside of work being a couple of minutes late equals being on time. Workers may not understand the effect a few minutes of tardiness has on contact centre operations and customer service. Likewise, they can’t see what difference it makes if they take their break somewhat earlier or later than scheduled. Corrective action can feel petty and punitive and leads to disengagement and turnover.

    Instead, try to empower workers to be a part of the solution. For example, include high-level training to introduce contact centre scheduling and capacity management concepts as part of onboarding. In addition, consider implementing a WFM system that allows workers to exchange shifts and schedules for times that work best for them. Finally, show workers how their positive actions in helping enforce scheduling could lead to a management career path.

    Thanks to Chris

  • Step Back and Ask Individuals

    I’d start by understanding how the people in the teams feel, what’s happening in their day, what causes issues, how motivated they are by what they are doing. I accept that contact centre roles can be tough. That said, by stepping back and asking individuals a few considered questions, you might discover it’s not the processes which need attention.

    Thanks to Richard

  • Restrict Latecomers From Having “Favourable” Shifts

    You can restrict persistent latecomers from having “favourable” shifts. For instance, if their general preference is morning shifts, you can block them from those until tardiness is no longer a problem (since they can’t show up to work early/during those sensitive intervals).

    It’s of course a must to compensate those lost minutes/hours according to the contact centre needs and in accordance with local regulations

    Thanks to Mohamed

  • Set Allowable Tardiness in a Month

    If working time starts at 9am and the employee times in at 9:01am then she’s late already. You can deduct 15 minutes late for 1-15 minutes late, then 16-30 minutes late as 30 minutes late deduction from the cut-off. Usually allowable tardiness in a month is 3, then if they exceed that, you can serve a warning. If repeated the next month, you can serve them a last warning, then if repeated you can suspend them from 1-7 days. If repeated again you can suspend them for 1–3 days, then if they have repeated suspensions maybe serve for 1-7 days, then lastly you can terminate if the company really wants to show the employees that tardiness is not being tolerated.

    Thanks to Sheila

  • Is 1 Minute Late Really Being Late?

    I don’t like the idea of 1 minute late being late. I had instance in a previous company of an agent winning tribunal over lateness due to system differences. He was logging on to his machine time of 8am but then being clicked as login at 8:01. He wasn’t taken down disciplinary for just 1 minute but for repeated periods, and he won because of the time discrepancy.
    But equally I dislike lateness.

    Thanks to Jonathan

  • Bring Total Incentive Into Adherence

    Bring a big chunk of the total incentive into adherence as this is one target which could be achieved without any extra effort. Especially sales people get targets, and they have to put in effort to come close to it. And if 30% of their incentive can be achieved by just coming on time daily and not missing out any days, they will take it. It practically worked out in a 1000-seat call centre where I used to work too.

    Thanks to Salman

Bonus Tips

Some Actions That Have Always Worked in My Past:

  • You can start with awareness sessions in Team Huddles. Explain to people how Adherence/Absenteeism is calculated, what its impact is on the CX, & how much it costs the company. You will be surprised how many agents are not aware of these.
  • Following this, log all absences (1+ min) and address them all (1-5 min with coaching; 5+ min according to your internal absenteeism policy). Be flexible where needed; the point here is to discuss it when it occurs and not to punish employees.
  • Introduce recognition (can be monetary; corporate branded items; etc ..) for perfect 100% attendance and praise them publicly for their efforts and impact on customers’ lives.
  • Throughout the whole process, introduce and share reporting on Absenteeism/Adherence on daily basis and ask team managers to introduce these in their weekly 1-2-1 performance management meetings.
  • The whole concept turns around the already classic “the more you talk about it, the better it gets”.
  • Alternatively, you can also take a look at the “Broken Window” concept that approaches small improvements from an interesting angle.

Thanks to Emil

More Ideas for Either Lateness or Absence

  • Get a feel for engagement levels, identify root causes
  • If you have an employee forum, ask them to bring ideas to the table based on current policies
  • To help advisors’ accountability levels, educate them on why lateness has a bigger impact than their individual lateness
  • A great interactive exercise for team meetings is role reversal, e.g. they become the business owner and need to draft up a new lateness/attendance policy. Creates interesting discussion and opens up their minds
  • Leaders displaying authentic empathy and the reverse with holding people accountable for poor attitude and mindset
  • Environment can play a big part: is it fit for purpose?
  • Right tools/systems for their job

Thanks to Jo

Other articles on Managing Lateness

Published On: 18th Nov 2022
Read more about - Call Centre Questions, , ,


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