I’m seeing contact center trends change, and how could they not?
Coming out of the COVID-19 health emergency, consumer life is largely returning to more familiar patterns and expectations when it comes to customer experience (CX), while some behaviors are changing (more on that below).
Employee life is dramatically different from three years ago. Consequently, leaders are needing to update the playbook to effectively respond to both for how they manage their customer sales, service, and support and most critically the employees that deliver them, planning for the long haul. Doing so will help them win the business and loyalty of customers through hiring and retaining quality people.
Here are the trends I’m seeing that are changing the game.
- 1. Customer expectations are beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels for service and product delivery experience. While it seems that many consumers are still willing to allow some leeway on speed of answer for voice calls, digital channel expectations are much more demanding (chat and SMS are real time and email response time acceptableness is shrinking). And for many organizations, digital channel growth is accelerating faster than voice.
- How are organizations responding? I’m seeing long term adjustments being made to service level for voice (e.g., 80/20 moving to 70/30) and a greater shift and focus on speed to respond in chat, SMS and email).
...for many organizations, digital channel growth is accelerating faster than voice.
- Bots have replaced IVRs for directional support. And by the time a human CX rep gets involved, customer history is often now at the rep’s fingertips, resulting in a much swifter resolution process.
- 2. Staffing, while better, is still a challenge. Contact centers have always been susceptible to ++ turnover within the first 45-60 days of employment. Even with material across-the-board pay adjustments, this problem seems to be getting worse.
- I’m seeing some good reasons for the uptick in departures during training.
- First, the entire job application process has been upended by the big job board companies (i.e., Indeed, Career Builder and others).
- Applicants are now invited to “speed apply” or “fast click” their way through to apply for multiple jobs at the same time, often without ever seeing anything more than the job title itself.
- Yes, people can click through to look at individual full job postings/job descriptions, but many aren’t taking the time to do it. They are taking the shortest route that’s been offered to them, and that’s this new bundled “apply” process.
- Employers then end up with hundreds of applications from people who never really seriously considered the posting, or the job, fully.
- Now, switching to the employer’s end of things, many organizations have accelerated their sourcing and assessment processes due to the highly competitive environment for talent. So, offers are made more quickly, and people are accepting roles that they are not fully invested in, or committed to. It’s making turnover worse.
- On top of that, many job boards are now charging pay-per-click fees, which means employers are paying thousands of dollars each month for applicants that have never fully reviewed the postings!
- I recommend that companies steer away from using job board aggregators and invest more in digital job fairs where interactions are live. A number of job board companies actually produce these live job fairs, and it’s a much more legitimate means of getting the attention of qualified candidates.
- I also recommend that companies revisit and materially beef up their own employee referral programs. Employees have huge social networks and broad digital reach.
- When a referral bonus is appealing, and paid out at 90 days, employees will see to it that qualified referrals join - and succeed. As an employer, I would much rather pay my own employees for bringing in new hires, versus paying Indeed.
- Referral bonuses should be minimum $1,000 per hire. If you think that’s a big number, I suggest you check your company’s spend on the job boards and calculate your cost-per-hire. If you’re doubting whether your current employees are good sources for referrals, I think you need to work through this issue first, before you tackle this next one.
It's going to take some time for companies to get really good at virtual learning...
- The second trend for increased turnover during training that I’m seeing is that the overall quality of the virtual training experience is falling short of what organizations truly want it to be. It’s understandable, as fully virtual new hire training is very new to many contact centers.
- Clear expectations need to be set (with a high bar) around participation, focus, contributions, and success measurements in training. The digital classroom requires a great deal of interaction and activity (minimum two training leaders), meaning learners are actioning something and participating every 3-5 minutes, and switching learning mediums every 45-60 minutes.
- It’s going to take some time for companies to get really good at virtual learning and running engaging, successful new hire classes. Employers can accelerate their pace of success by staffing classrooms with abundant support resources and using fun and competitive learning tools – like gamification. Recognizing people for learning throughout their employment lifecycle is a good thing!
- 3. Remote and hybrid employees need consistent connection paths and social avenues. Everyone I know is aware of the fact that work from home and hybrid are more isolating. And everyone knows that people crave varying levels of social interaction during their workday. The trick is to get really good at providing connection options that run the gamut. A broad base of intentional, thoughtful connection points (educational, personal and lifestyle, skills-building, celebratory, and purely social) all need to be included.
- 4. Hybrid work is harder. Most contact center organizations have taken the decision to keep large populations of people at home full time, because it’s what most employees prefer, and it saves companies money.
- That said, some organizations feel compelled to co-locate employees. These companies often use a hybrid approach, asking contact center employees to work two-three days per week in office, and the rest of the week at home.
- This sort of hybrid work arrangement can be successful in the contact center environment. But it also can cause more confusion and chaos and be more taxing for supervisors who are managing and supporting people in-person and at home.
Most contact center organizations have taken the decision to keep large populations of people at home full time...
- If your organization is embracing hybrid work on scale in the contact center environment (meaning employees work some days of the week at home and some days in the physical contact center) I strongly suggest you reduce team sizes for these groups that are moving in and out of office. The demand and stress of managing both ways is bound to take a toll on your front line leaders. When you right-size hybrid teams you will align leader effort.
Overall, these shifts and investments that organizations are focusing on are outcomes of the pandemic. They would have happened anyway – we are just getting there years sooner. In the end we will be able to measure the results of our efforts in CX response and employee satisfaction. 2023 should be a very good year!