Like most contact center leaders, I like data. Give me cold, hard facts and figures and I’m able to build strategies and implement processes to improve those numbers.
Everyone in the contact center industry is accustomed to looking at numbers associated with cost per acquisition, connection rate and lead conversion rate. We track these key performance indicators (KPIs) and consistently report them against a stretch goal for the year. Tables, graphs and charts lay out each area month after month. Despite rapid digital transformation in our industry, contact center KPIs have changed little over the last decade.
It’s time for change. Let’s add diversity to the mix.
That’s right. According to Deloitte, diverse companies enjoy 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee. Gartner found that inclusive teams improve team performance by up to 30% in high-diversity environments. The data is there. Why aren’t we treating this as a KPI and the business imperative we know it needs to be? It’s time we craft a strategy around how to build an exceptional, truly diverse team of contact center agents so they can deliver a positive, helpful customer experience every time they interact with a client or potential customer.
Start with Your Leadership Team
Since contact center leadership teams tend to be small in comparison to the total number of agents in a center, they may be overlooked as an essential piece in building a diversity strategy. That would be a mistake. In a BCG study, companies with diverse management teams had a 19% increase in revenue compared to their less diverse counterparts.
This statistic speaks volumes. Having leaders within your centers that are not only culturally diverse but also have diversity of thought will benefit your organization immensely. Think about entering a meeting with 10 other people who are just like you: From the same area, same skin tone, same gender, very similar lived experiences. Now imagine at that meeting you’re asked to solve a complex problem your customer has. Do you think the ideas shared from each person will be all that different from the other people seated at that table?
Chances are the answer is no. When you gather a diverse group of leaders, you also get a diverse level of thought leadership. You get fresh, new ideas and viewpoints from lived experiences that others may not have thought of. You also get different leadership skills and abilities to connect with a diverse workforce. These traits are invaluable.
As you grow the diversity of your full team, diverse leaders must be in place to connect, understand and empathize with the needs of your workforce. Attrition is a major concern for all contact centers, and employees will be quick to leave for a more forward-thinking business if they feel they aren’t seen or heard in their work, or they aren’t properly represented within the leadership team. In a Deloitte Millennial Survey, research showed that millennial and Gen Z respondents working for employers perceived to have a diverse workforce are more likely to want to stay five or more years than those who say their companies are not diverse (69% to 27%). There is also a considerable gap when the senior management team is seen as diverse versus when it’s not (56% versus 40%).
Use Technology to Drive Diversity
Researchers also have found that companies which place a greater emphasis on digital technology show an even stronger correlation between diversity and innovation. In short, technology can be the catalyst a company needs to make meaningful, diverse change.
This doesn’t have to be complex. Leveraging technology to maximize your organizations’ human capital is key. Something as simple as building an employee profile database to showcase the internal and external experience of each person can help an organization identify gaps and areas of strength. Intentionally pairing teams of people who have different skill sets and backgrounds will allow team members to learn from one another and be more open to diverse ways of thought. Using these insights to upskill and drive business initiatives will allow for more productive and innovative outcomes.
Technology solutions can also be used to streamline hiring processes to eliminate unconscious biases from the hiring cycle and make hiring practices more inclusive. Even the most aware hiring manager or recruiter has biases that impact their hiring decisions, and this can only be overcome by eliminating the human aspect of top-of-funnel recruiting and replacing it with AI technology. It works. By implementing AI-driven recruiting assessments, Unilever experienced a 16% increase in their D&I hiring goals.
Move Beyond Diversity
Is diversity key? Absolutely. But if you don’t back up a diverse team with a meaningful inclusion strategy, you’ll have checked a lot of boxes but be left with a contact center full of people who feel as though they don’t belong. As IBM executive Claudia Brind-Woody said, “Inclusivity means not just ‘we’re allowed to be there,’ but we are valued.”
If a team doesn’t feel supported and valued from the top down, even the best diversity strategies will be nothing more than lip service. Another BCG gender diversity report found that 91% of companies have a diversity program in place, yet only 27% of women—just one in four—say they have benefited from it. That’s like running a full marathon but giving up at mile marker 25. You’re so close and you’ve put in a lot of work, but you won’t bring home a medal or enjoy the rewards of finishing the race.
This brings us back to those KPIs. By weaving measurable diversity and inclusion goals into your contact center strategy, you’ll have leaders with a vested interest in supporting and furthering those initiatives and employees who feel valued and seen. Over time, intentional D&I practices will become ingrained in the culture of the contact center. In turn, your team—and bottom line—will reap the benefits.