As we approach 2020, be clear about one reality: this is not yesterday’s contact center job market. Automation technology, at-home opportunities, new generations of workers and the overall economic landscape are combining to change the way we think about the contact center workforce.
These factors will not, however, change a key reality: people are the heart of a great customer experience. The efficacy of your contact center will live and die by the strength of your people — and your success in leveraging that strength.
At CCW Nashville this January 28-31, our faculty of experts will help you navigate this reality. They will reveal how to adapt to employee experience trends. They will help you achieve the ideal synergy between humans and technology.
Ahead of the event, here is our assessment of the state of contact center employees.
Their role is changing, and it’s time to prepare
If you’re talking about the customer contact industry, you can expect to hear some variation of “we hope to automate our simple tasks so that agents can focus on complex work.” As automation technology matures and investments grow, this ideal dichotomy could soon become a reality.
Are you ready for this reality? Before answering in the affirmative, consider these pivotal issues:
Retraining agents for complex work: In the status quo, agents generally do not focus on complex work. They spend much of their days answering simple questions, processing basic transactions or performing rote contact center tasks. Many surely want to focus on higher-value conversations, but they are not yet ready.
It is up to contact leadership to prepare them for a role that involves more complex and emotional interactions. You will want to retrain agents on human factors (like empathy and de-escalation), while also providing them with more thorough training about your various products and processes.
As part of your retraining effort, make sure to familiarize agents with the new AI tools that can augment their performance.
Shifting agents into new roles: When preparing for the long-term impact of automation, it is important to be realistic: contact center volume likely will decrease. There simply are not as many complex issues as there are simple transactions.
As a result, most organizations eventually will need to confront a difficult reality about workforce needs. Ideas like reducing frontline staff or trimming outsourcing spend are not as unfathomable as thought leaders would have you believe.
This does not, however, mean you should fear massive layoffs. Even if the door closes on traditional contact center hiring, doors will open in fields like data science, experience design, business analytics and technology administration. After all, you will want customer-minded employees to help implement, monitor and train your bots!
The key is to flesh out what these jobs will entail — and then take steps to prepare your existing or future employees. If nothing else, use this transformation as an opportunity to firmly define contact center career paths!
You’re competing on the agent experience - don’t forget it, but don’t fear it
Today’s prosperous, low-unemployment climate favors the job seeker. While the economy may soften in the coming years, there is no reason to believe employee sentiment will instantly transform from confident to desperate. There is every reason to believe you will still be competing to attract retain the best possible workforce.
After all, younger generations are being coached on the importance of the employee experience. They are also being raised on the idea that rapid turnover is normal, which means they constantly have their eyes open for a better opportunity.
Ensure this reality drives your workforce management strategy. Ensure it prompts you to create the most enjoyable, most productive place to work possible.
Do not, however, let it drive fear or desperation. Just because the highest-caliber employees will have other options does not mean you should settle for lesser employees. People, after all, are going to remain the driving force behind your customer experience for the foreseeable future.
The goal, therefore, is to pair a passionate commitment to the agent experience with a precise recruiting strategy.
They like parties, but effort drives them crazy
For contact center employees, the “employee experience” once referred to pizza parties, ice cream socials and company retreats.
Today’s contact center employees still value these elements — who can say no to pizza and bowling? — but they are more prominently considering other aspects of the contact center environment. Agents say that factors related to their day-to-day workflow, such as the tools and dashboards they use, matter far more than parties, office decor, or even salary.
As you prepare for 2020, take this transformation to heart. Instead of simply throwing ice cream at your employee engagement problems, dive deep into the reality of the work experience. Are you providing agents with proper training? Are you asking them to exert significant effort in order to properly support customers? Are you listening to their feedback about broken systems and processes?
The best contact centers will actually score agent effort. Not simply a driver of agent satisfaction, internal effort directly impacts agents’ ability to efficiently and accurately support customers.
They may not sit in a “call center,” but they’re still your agents
With each passing year, the notion of a softer-walled contact center becomes a more undeniable reality. The customer experience continues to span more departments and locations within the organization. It is also becoming increasingly reliant on remote and third-party workers.
While this may decentralize your team members, you cannot let it fragment your mission. You cannot allow for any doubt about the role stakeholders play in achieving your customer experience objectives.
It will, of course, take considerable effort to unite this dispersed organization. Beyond physically integrating all key intelligence and enterprise systems, you will need to align every employee around a single culture — with a single set of contact center goals.
Since your employees may sit in different departments, in different regions, with different day-to-day tasks, it is up to you to build an aura of commonality. How can you ensure your brand values are as clear to someone in the Philippines as they are to someone in your Austin headquarters? How can you ensure your contract social media manager values the same core customer experience metrics as your vice president of customer service?
When you use actionable intelligence and compelling storytelling to create these commonalities, you will ignite a powerful, relentlessly customer-centric workforce.
Learn more about CCW Nashville, January 28-31, 2020 at the JW Marriott by viewing the full agenda.
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