Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Absenteeism and Its Impact on the Call Center

November 16, 2006

Absenteeism in the call center is an issue with far reaching implications. Much time and effort is put into the proper scheduling of call center agents to anticipate call volumes and deliver the level of service that customers expect. When multiple agents are absent from work, for any reason, stress in the call center can increase due to longer hold times for customers, increased call abandonment and heavier work loads on everyone.
According to a call center study of over 2000 call centers the average number of sick days taken per year per person was roughly 8.2 days, compared to an estimated 7.4 days for other industries. Beyond that, 40 percent of surveyed call center agents acknowledged that 45 percent of their sick time was used for things other than illness.
The affect of increased absenteeism on the call center goes beyond the impact on the frontline employees and customers. According to the Australian Call Centre Industry Study Benchmarking Report, the Australian call center industry faces a loss of AUD 2.5 million per annum due to absenteeism.
So, if nearly half of call center employees call in sick for reasons other than illness, what motives are driving this increased absenteeism in the industry? One contributing factor is the job design itself. The requirements of the call center agent are such that they are often under considerable pressure to handle so many calls per hour or day, follow a certain script when communicating with customers, overcoming objections and possibly dealing with frustrated or even belligerent customers.
The human environment in the call center can also contribute greatly to the center’s level of absenteeism. When surveyed regarding their top job motivating factors, call center agents reported that good relations among co-workers as one of the top motivating characteristics of their jobs. If management is failing to foster an environment where good relationships are built among co-workers, the agents can experience a disconnect from their job, their supervisor and the organization.
When battling absenteeism in the call center, managers and supervisors should not ignore the benefits that can be gained from increased monitoring. This is not to say that micromanaging will create a better environment in the call center. Instead, proper monitoring provides coaching and training opportunities to help the agent become more proficient in their job, creating a higher level of job satisfaction.  

While absenteeism tends to be higher in the call center industry, it does not have to be considered the norm. Management can take the necessary steps to design a fulfilling environment to create better job satisfaction for their employees and thus reduce absenteeism and even employee turn over.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC and has also written for To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.