Last month, I ordered my entire McDonald’s order from a screen and never once interacted with an employee. Most of my banking is electronic, I do most of my shopping online. Automation and technology are replacing the traditional means of customer service. And, the once-standard call center is becoming something of the past.
Call centers are outdated. Cubicles, landline phones, desktop computers, and software running on Windows 95 aren’t cutting it anymore. And, your current generations of workers are avoiding them like the plague.
The Millennial generation is now the largest generation in the workforce. Forget what you’ve heard about changes coming down the pipeline. The reality is, across the board, the modern workforce is made up of tech-savvy workers who have dozens of ways to communicate and who are invigorated by challenging work. And to your modern workforce, engagement and job satisfaction is more important than ever.
Most kids don’t dream of growing up to work in customer service. Contact center work can be tedious, draining, and repetitive. That’s not a recipe for the most engaging job. It doesn’t help that contact center work is often underpaid and undervalued. Add out-of-date technology and processes on top of that, and contact centers will never be able to keep modern workers.
Contact centers have been slow to modernize to the demands of the new normal. Consumer expectations are changing. Technology makes it easier, faster, and more convenient to purchase products and fix issues. And, your employees expect greater engagement, flexibility, and benefits to stick around long-term. It’s time for contact centers to change.
Technology and Software
The phone is still a preferred channel for many customer service questions, but self-service is on the rise. In the 2017 Customer Service Barometer survey, American Express found that 60 percent of customers look to self-service options well before reaching out to a person for help. Modern customers are accustomed to going out and searching for answers on their own. Think about it. Google is now a verb. And since you can stand in your kitchen and ask a speaker to “Google it” for you, there’s even more effort removed from the modern consumer’s quest for information.
Born into a digital landscape, today’s modern consumers and workers engage their worlds through all kinds of technology. We’re living in an omnichannel world. Chat and texting are the communication channels of choice. According to a recent report from Business Insider, messaging apps now have more users than social media. Modern customers are far less likely to rely on traditional phone calls to connect with companies. Service providers must adapt accordingly and diversify how they communicate.
So, how can you make tech work for the modern customer and agent? Implement omnichannel solutions.
Omnichannel tools help agents communicate with your customers across a variety of channels. Contact centers may find that agents with poor phone performance are superstars on live chat. Or, that one agent can switch from chat, to SMS, to video without a hitch.
New tools and technologies require agents to integrate more applications and processes into their daily workflow. And automated tech takes on the simple and repetitive tasks that used to bog down contact center agents. ICMI reports that automation intends to free up agents to perform more complex and uniquely ‘human’ work.
ICMI predicts that the new normal will call for agents to tap into a broader skill set. They’ll need a deeper knowledge of product and service portfolios and problem-solving. Automated software requires you to reimagine workflow, onboarding, and training.
Look ahead to new tech trends in contact centers and pull yourself away from antiquated technology of the past. Update your software to give your customers and employees the tools they need to succeed.
Want to find your omnichannel nirvana and better communicate with customers across all channels? Watch our webinar on the topic.
Engagement and Development
A Gallup study found that 60 percent of modern workers say they are open to a different job opportunity. This is 15 percentage points higher than the percentage of workers in the past. Why so many? Further analysis reveals that 47 percent of actively disengaged modern workers agree that they’re willing to switch jobs compared with 17 percent of engaged modern workers. Employee engagement matters more than anything to today’s workforce.
Today’s employees want benefits and perks that directly impact their lives and the lives of their family members. And they show a greater willingness to switch jobs to find these options on the job. These perks aren’t free pizza parties and a ping pong table in the break room. Modern workers want better training, feedback, and opportunities for growth and personal development.
In an article in the Ivey Business Journal, author Jay Gilbert reflects on interviews he conducted with baby boomers and millennials. He found that managing performance is the most frequent engagement driver. Modern workers desired frequent, punctual, clear, and specific feedback. They want to grow and know how their performance meets standards immediately. They want to receive recognition for their hard work and for their effort.
Use agent scorecards and reporting tools to track performance and maintain quality. Consider in-line training and coaching tools so you can give feedback to your agents immediately.
Development is the apple of a modern worker’s eye. In a Gallup report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, they state that many individuals in today’s workforce continue their education beyond earning a bachelor’s degree. They’re hungry for greater personal and professional development. In fact, half (50 percent) of modern workers look for advancement opportunities when applying for new work.
Provide your new hires information about how they can advance in your company. Describe what your company’s standards are, so you can set expectations for growth early on. And, find ways to delegate or create roles within the contact center team. Then you can grant agents greater responsibilities over time.
With the help of Jason Fried’s book Remote: Office Not Required, remote and flexible work is more popular than ever. Fast Company believes that remote work is the future, and will only become more and more prominent. In fact, a Werk.co survey of today’s workforce found that 96% of employees working in the U.S. need some kind of flexibility at work, but only 42 percent have access to the flexibility they need.
Gallup research reveals that today’s workforce cares about the ability to integrate work and life, and to have a life — not just a job. This need could be related to having young children at home or in school. Or, because the majority of today’s workforce won’t be able to retire at the ripe age of 55 and sustain a comfortable lifestyle as previous workers have. Whatever the case, employees expect a healthy work-life balance from employers today.
And technological advances make working at different times and from different locations practical for many companies. Consider loosening your hold on the idea of a 9-to-5 job that requires your employees to sit at the same desk all day. Involve employees in creating their own schedule. Perhaps offer an unlimited PTO policy or flex hours for agents with strong attendance and performance.
Be willing to adapt for agents who have children or need to get an hour back in the day for a doctor’s appointment. Flexibility makes it possible for all kinds of agents to step into the role without needing to fret about adapting their home life.
And if agents are on the brink of burnout, give them grace.
Give them a guiltless day off, so they can return refreshed and ready to work again. Build flexibility into your contact center. It’ll help you keep your employees engaged and invested in your company. And, it leads your team to a healthier culture and work environment.
If your contact center is out of date, take a step into the present by upgrading your processes and technology. Your workforce will be more satisfied and engaged when you adapt and meet them where they are.
We discussed other recent contact center trends, like better coaching and training, further in one of our blogs! Check it out!
We originally published this post on February 11, 2018. We updated it for new insight on June 20, 2019.