Whether due to holidays or sickness, employee absences are a major headache for companies across the globe. Working out how to cope with a shortfall in numbers due to employees using their annual holiday entitlement is of course slightly easier as you normally have plenty of warning but even when you are aware of potential problems well in advance, identifying cost effective solutions is not always as simple as you might think.
To ensure that you are able to provide a responsive service to both new and existing customers during employee absences, you need to consider how best to redistribute the work that the employees in question would normally be doing. The best way to do this will depend to a certain extent on the nature of your business but there are factors common to all companies that need to be taken into account.
The Main Points to Consider When Creating a Strategy to Deal with Absences
Below is a list of factors to take into consideration when planning for future absences. It is not a comprehensive list but it should provide you with a good starting point and ensure that your company is able to function efficiently at all times.
- First Point of Contact – Some of the most effective corporate managers use the metaphor of a swan when devising strategies to deal with staff absences: working like mad behind the scenes (or underwater in the case of the swan) whilst appearing calm, serene and totally in control as far as customers are concerned. If customers’ calls are answered swiftly and effectively, any chaos behind the scenes can be kept under wraps: holiday and temporary call cover provided by a professional, UK based call bureau is a cost effective option that can help you to achieve this aim with ease.
- Meeting Existing Deadlines – The next point to address is that of your existing workload. If you start to fall behind with your orders or respond to outstanding requests for information more slowly than would normally be the case, your customers will start to notice that something is wrong. Given that staff absences will be a regular occurrence throughout the lifetime of your company, you need to ensure that they do not have an adverse impact on deadlines of any kind.
One way to make sure that existing work is dealt with quickly and efficiently is to pair each member of staff up with a partner: the resulting pairs can then spend 15 minutes at the end of each working day making sure they know what each other are doing and are familiar with their partner’s current workload. That way, in the event of unexpected absences, the remaining partner can quickly pick up the slack and deal with any urgent customer requests without delay.
- Finding New Customers – You may think that looking for new business is something that is best left until you have a full complement of staff but unless you wish to experience a series of sales peaks and troughs throughout the year, which will inevitably have a negative impact on your bottom line, you need to continue your marketing activities at all times. The same telephone answering professionals that provide holiday cover may also, as we do, provide media response services,answering enquiries generated by marketing campaigns when you cannot. By using such services, you can press ahead with your marketing and advertising activities even when staff absences may indicate that this is not a good idea.
- Maintaining your Corporate Image – However you decide to handle customer interactions during periods of staff shortages, you need to ensure that the corporate image you have worked so hard to establish over the years is not damaged in the process. This is why solutions such as sourcing temporary workers from a local agency are almost always a bad idea. No matter how willing the workers you are sent may be, they are highly unlikely to have the necessary knowledge and expertise to maintain your corporate image effectively. While it may well have taken years to establish, your positive image could be destroyed in a matter of days so it needs to be protected at all costs.
By working with a call bureau staffed by experienced telephone answering specialists, you can ensure that all of your callers are greeted in a friendly, professional manner and routed through to the correct member of staff without delay. You can also brief the operators who are answering your calls with any special information they may require. The customised call handling services provided by specialist firms can ensure a seamless experience for all your customers, no matter how busy your firm may be or how many employee absences it is currently dealing with.
- Remedial Action – Existing problems must always be prioritised and dealt with in a timely manner, and staff absences are no excuse for not following this golden rule. For this reason, it is vital to ensure that every member of staff makes his or her working partner aware of any urgent problems he or she is in the process of dealing with, at the end of each working day. If you have not instigated a partnership strategy as outlined in point 2 above, a noticeboard placed in a communal area can be used to make sure that departments as a whole are kept up to date with the status of any existing problems that their colleagues are dealing with at any given moment in time.
Communication is the key to stopping small problems from becoming large ones and from preventing new ones from surfacing in the first place. It is for this reason that we recommend you address this issue before all others when dealing with employee absences. Customers who are kept up to date with the status of their orders at all times are far more likely to overlook a small delay caused by staff absence than if they are kept in the dark as to what is happening. Talk more about our call handling services contact Netcall Solutions today on 0800 840 4111