Why you can’t afford the contact center of tomorrow.


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destop analytics, reduce employee effort,better wages for contact center workersThe reasons why you can’t afford the contact center of tomorrow may not be for the reasons you think. It used to be that anyone who could type and was nice, was perfect to sit in a call center seat. Well, it’s not 1980 anymore and we have contact centers now. The archaic mindset of thinking that these are very simple jobs and therefore do not warrant higher education or provide a greater wage than the minimum is just not the case anymore. If you say it aloud it doesn’t even make sense, “I want to hire a multi-tasking problem solver, who is also empathetic, talented, and committed but I only want to pay them $10/hour.” See? Crazy. The contact centers jobs have become more and more complex with each passing year but the mindset hasn’t changed.

Complex jobs require training and a contact center job is no exception, becoming more challenging, not less. So I was shocked when a colleague recently told me they were only hiring candidates with a lengthy list of prerequisites because they had to put them through a strenuous 12-week training and onboarding program. They had to be selective because the onboarding investment was so high and they cannot afford to lose people that have not paid-back the investment. Sadly I was quickly transported back to the days of Flock of Seagulls haircuts and acid-wash jeans when she said the position pays $10 an hour. How could they expect people to possess the aptitude and skills to endure a complex 12-week training program (because the actual job is complex) and only expect to pay them $10/hour? If they could find them, how many of them would stick around for any length of time making barely more than they would bussing tables?

Much has changed since the 1980s: the Internet, technology, multichannel customer service, new computer systems, desktop functions, more informed customers, self-help, and so much more. Customers now demand service in a variety of ways and contact you with multiple platforms, so you must develop and integrate those channels effectively in an easy-to-use format for your contact center agents so you won’t be out of style quicker than acid wash (please don’t tell me it’s making a comeback).

So all of this complexity means you now have 12-week training programs for a difficult job that requires people who can do much more than type and be nice. So you need to be paying these people more like $20/hour to start. That’s correct; the job has more than quadrupled in complexity from the 1980s so a doubling of the $10/hour starting is a very realistic expectation. What did you say? There is no way you can afford that? You don’t have a choice if you want a higher talent level of candidates, if you want to beat your competition, if you want to survive. Look, this complexity is going to continue to grow. Shall we just make it $25/hour? So you admit you can’t afford the contact center of tomorrow?

Here’s what you can do to afford the contact center of tomorrow

One of the main reasons the training program for my colleague was 12-weeks long was because the agents had to learn how to use more than 10 different system applications in order to support the various products and services of the company. For many of you, you might be laughing and saying…”they only have to use 10?. The point is that human beings have limited capacity for learning large quantities of information. You are employing humans, right? Only a few exceptional people are capable of handling this type of work effort. How many of these types of people are completing applications of employment with you to be a contact center agent?

To be able to afford tomorrow and to increase the chances of you hiring more people with the skills and abilities you need, you have to reduce the employee effort. If you make the employee effort easier and more humans are able to perform the work, then you have more humans that are potential contact center agent candidates. When you have more potential candidates, you can have a lower hourly wage. So you need to invest in consolidating your desktop applications so agents don’t have to train for 12 weeks to understand them and then spend 6-months becoming proficient.

The second and equally important need is to leverage customer insights to reduce the employee effort (or burden). You might think your Voice of the Customer (VoC) program is geared to extract customer insights to reduce customer effort but it also a great tool for gaining insight into the employee effort as well. With the VoC analytics and predictive models, a symbiotic relationship evolves where the customer effort is low (customer experience is high) and so is employee effort. Can you say win-win? Imagine how the happier customers impact the happier agents and vice versa. With high performance and lower turnover, the waste in the hiring/training budget can be reallocated toward investing in systems automation. You now have a check and balance system that is sustainable for the long-run. Your contact center of the past just found its way into the future.

Sure, you can think that this is easier said than done. Here is the hard part, old habits and mindsets are as hard to change as bad fashion and hair styles. But, are you willing to accept a future where your center is outsourced off-shore because of lower wages and the customer experience plummets and…wait, we’ve already been there and done that. Okay, then do you want this silliness to start all over again like acid-washed jeans coming back into style. You have the option of changing the future path of your contact center into one you can afford by investing in the employee effort, or get ready for your potential candidates to describing your job openings as, I Ran So Far Away.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jodie Monger
Jodie Monger, Ph.D. is the president of Customer Relationship Metrics (CRM) and a pioneer in business intelligence for the contact center industry. Dr. Jodie's work at CRM focuses on converting unstructured data into structured data for business action. Her research areas include customer experience, speech and operational analytics. Before founding CRM, she was the founding associate director of Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality.


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