There have been considerable conversations about the Gig Economy and gig working i.e., freelance, on-demand, over the past few years.
But what is gig about for contact centers? And what is its benefits and challenges?
One of the models that is emerging is GigCX (gig customer experience). To find out more about it we recently had a conversation with Roger Beadle, CEO and co-founder of GigCX platform supplier Limitless.
Q. What is GigCX?
A: Just as gig has transformed transportation, food delivery, and goods delivery, GigCX, a term my company coined in 2016, is changing the way businesses provide service for the better.
Specifically, GigCX is the term used for deploying a gig-based crowd of people to provide support across the entire customer lifecycle.
Recognized as one of the next big developments in customer experience by McKinsey & Company in its report titled “an on-demand revolution in customer-experience operations,” GigCX offers companies a more flexible, scalable, and affordable model for CX. And it has been recognized by multiple industry awards.
Organizations can route their customer service inquiries securely from their own systems through GigCX platforms, which distributes them to a crowd of knowledgeable product experts (GigCX experts or gig experts) who can answer questions on behalf of the brands they know and love.
The result is a more authentic, genuine experience for customers, and improved customer satisfaction for brands that use GigCX.
Q. How is GigCX different from independent contractor work-from-home (WFH) agents that have been around for two decades or so?
A: Working from home certainly has some advantages for full-time or part-time employees who want to skip the commute.
However, GigCX is a different model altogether. Where the WFH model uses scheduled workers, GigCX benefits from an autonomous crowd of experts who can flex instantaneously in line with demand. By taking away the need to sign up for schedules, GigCX gives people the freedom to work when they want, where they want, and how much they want.
And unlike independent contractor models using people with generic service skills and experience, GigCX leverages existing customers and advocates with built-in knowledge.
In combining this knowledge and experience with a gig model, GigCX bypasses many of the COVID-19 pandemic-related problems facing contact centers at this moment, including hiring, training, shift scheduling, and quality issues specific to a WFH model.
Q. Is GigCX being adopted, what is its growth trajectory, for what functions, by which types of organizations, and why?
A: According to a recent study we ran with 400 respondents in the U.K. and the U.S., 72% of customer service managers have added or plan to add gig talent to customer service or sales operations within the next two years.
GigCX-using companies include those in the electronics, marketplaces, travel, media, software, and gaming sectors, amongst others.
I expect more of that in the future. Companies have been making investments in and continue to enhance gig platforms for customer service.
Q. Various countries’ taxation laws treat gig workers as self-employed independent contractors differently from employees. There also have been legal and regulatory actions aimed at gig working. Please discuss.
A: Paying someone for a service on a one-off basis isn’t a new idea. It’s been around as long as or longer than traditional full-time employment as we know it.
But since the introduction of gig platforms, gig work around the globe has become easier for those looking for gig workers and for gig workers looking for task-based work.
All legislation is local by nature. To stay in compliance, for themselves and their clients, smart customer service gig providers hire outside experts who research and inform them on the current and changing legislation to gig around the globe.
Q. Can you integrate gig experts with employee teams e.g., contact centers? Also, are there any special stipulations that managers must keep in mind when assigning and supervising them?
A: GigCX experts are integrated into the customer journey as part of the client onboarding process.
To start, GigCX experts typically sit between artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chat and similar applications and the contact center agents to provide product or service expertise.
It is typical to enable systems integration for specific customer data to be routed to and from GigCX Experts via a GigCX platform. This integration also enables GigCX Experts to escalate to specific skilled resources within the contact center.
Management of GigCX experts represents a completely different paradigm than traditional employment.
GigCX experts are not employees. They are paid from the GigCX platform based on each specific task they complete. They are free to complete as many tasks as they want, or no tasks, at whatever time and frequency work for their schedule. Crowd size ensures that customer requests are completed in a timely fashion.
Q. What lies next for GigCX?
A: Embedding more flexible labor sourcing models into a traditional contact center is becoming a major driver for adopting GigCX. GigCX gives companies the flexibility they need amid today’s increasingly volatile markets. GigCX Experts can work autonomously, with the freedom to choose and not as scheduled workers or in zero hours contracts.
GigCX will always drive cost savings, but if companies focus on and only this, chances are that it will have a cascading set of negative consequences for gig talent and the resulting CX.
Now that it is firmly in the mainstream, GigCX need not just be seen as an alternative to resolving low-value, high-volume customer service queries.
The real value emerges when you align it with the service propositions you have for different customer segments and leverage it to improve the experience across the overall customer lifecycle.
For example, GigCX experts can work in a pre-sales capacity, helping to answer questions from prospects who may be interested in a product or service. It can also be used to improve onboarding. For example, in an online seller marketplace, sellers can become GigCX experts ready to answer questions and onboard new sellers to the marketplace.
GigCX will always drive cost savings, but if companies focus on and only this, chances are that it will have a cascading set of negative consequences...
GigCX experts are increasingly taking on more complex tasks as well. I predict that within three years they will be able to do everything “traditional” agents can do. Platform suppliers are making this happen by enabling gig agents to safely and securely access client tools and customer data to resolve any customer inquiry.
Q. What are your recommendations and best practices for organizations seeking to utilize gig experts?
A: As noted earlier, GigCX is seeing increased usage as an industry term. But with that comes one of the classic issues that come with disrupting an industry: namely adopting the terminology to capture the market buzz but not using the enabling technology and practices.
GigCX is being used prolifically, but in many instances, these operating models aren’t GigCX at all. You may have an existing vendor or be talking to a new outsourcing vendor that is claiming to now offer GigCX. However, often what is on offer is a work-from-home model using scheduled freelancers with no platform.
To utilize GigCX experts successfully, organizations should implement a dedicated GigCX platform for sourcing, onboarding, legal compliance, quality control, work distribution, expert payment, and service delivery assurance.
Firstly, choose an experienced partner that is a specialist and is solely focused on providing GigCX and not traditional delivery models.
I find that contact center outsourcers do not typically excel at building platforms, they are also conflicted by trying to run two employment models in parallel which will increase their risk of worker misclassification claims.
Secondly, start small, with a crawl/walk/run approach. Start with Level 1 inquiry types and qualified agents who do not handle PII data or access your other systems.
Then, once your business and wider stakeholders have become comfortable with the stability and service delivery, you can look to introduce certified agents who are vetted to the same level as traditional agents. Ones who can be given access to see some PII data and secure access to some data from internal systems.
Thirdly, include everyone with a stake from the outset – from senior-level sponsorship – to operations – workforce planning – quality – technology teams – security - compliance, and legal.
Ultimately, organizations are striving for an ecosystem of people working in different ways including traditional contact centers, WFH agents, and GigCX experts.