The Triple Threat
Contact centres have faced numerous well documented pressures over the years, but have been on the leading edge in changing how organisations engage with customers. However, as we face ongoing global uncertainty there are three challenges our sector must face head on.
Staff attraction and attrition: What was already a challenge, seems to have got a lot harder for many. The ability to recruit from a wider pool with homeworking is now a threat as it opens local resource to others. The role of the agent has become tougher, along with their line managers whose capacity to manage and connect with their team in person has been impacted by remote working.
In summary, the role is harder – the profile and skills have changed, the people are fewer and when you do recruit them it is harder to spend time with them to support and develop and therefore retain.
Channel Shift: Customers expect to be able to make contact through a wider range of channels, so that is a wider profile of SLAs to manage. The challenge is to make sure the conversations are joined up if the customer decides to switch mid-flight and the user experience for both the customer and agent are right, otherwise it could contribute to agent attrition and customer defection.
Organisations may need to implement alternate channels to reduce the cost to serve, with increasing cost pressures and/or contact volumes (sector dependent) businesses need to take every opportunity to move customers to alternate channels where they may be able to be served more quickly and therefore at a lower cost.
Automation: Silver bullet or the opportunity to infuriate your customers and drive complaints? It is all in the delivery and there are clearly opportunities to make an impact. Providing self-serve solutions has become expected by many customers and perhaps for some organisations the easiest/highest volume activities have already been through this process. Are the gains more marginal? Where should your digital assistant sit? Do they have enough of the answers to provide a service to the customer? and how is your “bot containment” looking?
There are so many questions arising from automation, but I think we could all point to at least one example, as customer, where we feel it has been done badly. A definite conclusion is that there is plenty of work to be done upfront before you plug in and switch on the bot.
Bringing it all together
In contact centres we are consistently in a data rich environment and many of the insights we need can be hiding in the data we already hold. That information could help you to both resolve issues and optimise performance. Indicators which illustrate agent or bot skill, knowledge and performance can be accessed, assessed and actioned. Technology can probably support 60-80% of the challenges if done right, but can cause just as many, including for your internal team, if done incorrectly.
Using technology to augment or support agents and first line managers must be a key priority, along with assessing how well the tools your teams use are working and if they can be better utilised. Ask yourselves the questions, should your bot be enabling your people and is your bot running out of talent and acting as a triage that simply infuriates your customers before they get to your people and indirectly impact attrition?
For others, the answer may just be that you simply need more people now to get the job done. Then there’s the challenge to secure a budget to recruit, along with the recruitment. The questions then must be around whether there is damage being done to your brand as a result of not providing the level of service that you want or need, against what your competitors are providing. Are you impacting your future customer base because of decisions that are being made now?
If you’d like to discuss innovative ways in which to overcome these challenges and improve your customer contact operations, just drop us a line.
Are you responsible for a contract centre operation? Got enough on your plate just now coping with economic chaos, ongoing supply chain difficulties, recruitment and retention challenges, customer rage and challenged budgets?
Thought so. In which case how do you fancy tackling the low pay and high inflation conundrum (as no one else seems to know what to do about it) of contact centre salaries?
It is not an attractive prospect, is it? However, you or your team are probably already doing just that, in small ways. I recently spoke to an operational leader who has agreed that a handful of their most vulnerable employees can get ‘first dibs’ at the weekly food donations gathered across the centre for a local food bank. People’s financial circumstances are highly variable and not always linked to the macroeconomic situation. However, right now a lot of people working in contact centres will be feeling more financially exposed than they have in years, or possibly ever.
The backdrop to all this is two-fold:
The bosses are getting richer
In the US the pay gap between CEOs’ and median workers’ earnings in 300 major firms has now stretched to 670:1. In the UK things are a bit fairer, but Reuters has reported that, based on company results published in 2022 up to early summer, CEOs were paid 63 times as much as their median employee’s salary. Bear in mind that’s the median (“mid-way”) salary point, not the lowest. In most companies traditionally low-paid jobs like cleaning, catering and security will have been outsourced long ago. So, in many organisations, the largest group of relatively low-paid employees are likely to be found in your contact centre – whether that’s in your corporate offices, at home or a bit of both. Of course, some or all of the customer management and contact centre operations may have been outsourced, too, but low-paid and financially struggling outsourced representatives of your brand are still your problem!
Contact centre salaries remain low
Despite the nature of the roles getting progressively more complex and challenging, contact centre salaries, in-house or outsourced, have remained stubbornly relatively low for over two decades (as ContactBabel’s long-term research results demonstrate), certainly before the ‘Great Resignation’.
So, what on earth can you do about it? Unless you have an especially well-funded and guilt-ridden executive team and shareholders it will be a variation on the old theme. That is, how to maximise the value generated by your operation and the customer interactions it is responsible for.
More than ever, the insight you hold into what are the broken processes and failed communications that drive unnecessary contacts is truly valuable. Make a nuisance of yourself and use a time of change and uncertainty to champion what your organisation needs to do for its customers. Only then can you either allow your people to focus more on value generation and be in a better position to argue for pay and rewards that can help them avoid the worse effects of the cost of living crunch.
If you’d like to discuss your current employment challenges or how to help drive and demonstrate more value from your contact centre operation, just drop us a line.
Ensuring your business remains a reality, and doesn’t become a fairytale…
No, I’m not talking about My Little Pony, I’ve never really fancied myself as a Brony. However, I am referring to businesses that are given the unicorn title due to them achieving a valuation of $1 billion or more.
The term, first coined in 2013, initially was used to emphasize the rarity of such startups. The definition of a unicorn startup has remained unchanged since then. However, the number of unicorns has gone up.
To be a unicorn is no easy feat and each unicorn today has its own story with a list of features that worked in its favour. We have listed down a few factors that are commonly seen across all unicorns:
However, there’s a darker truth about becoming a unicorn. Even with a lofty valuation of $1 billion-plus, this does not guarantee success. According to Ali Tamaseb’s research at venture capital firm DCVC, up to 17% of businesses labelled as unicorns within the last 15 years have failed. And we have seen some big unicorns become extinct during that time, including the likes of Evernote, Zynga and one of the most famous being Theranos – with the latter being a little more complicated, I know. This has resulted in the loss of billions of dollars of investors’ money, and unfortunately the livelihoods of many hard-working employees.
There are real lessons here for businesses of every shape and size to learn from, and hopefully, avoid. We’ve listed a few here:
So if you are a unicorn, or any business of any shape or size, and are looking for the right support to enable sustainable growth – then look no further than Contact Centre Panel. We are here and ready to support you with your next contact centre related project.
Not everything we see
turns into gold
By John Greenwood, Head of Technology & PCI Compliance
Understanding the role of sales in any organisation is not a complex thing. Keeping the sales role in some context, may not be so easily understood and may take the shine away from that first impression.
The summer break gives us time to reflect on the year to date. It's always great to start with the successes and then the failures, or ‘opportunities’ as we are meant to label them. One such ‘opportunity’ that’s worth avoiding is that of ‘buyer’s remorse', that sick feeling that starts in your stomach and rises through your chest, plants itself in your head and from that point on, haunts the conversation as soon as the subject matter is discussed.
Nothing presents itself better in this scenario than buying contact centre tech’. Why? Well, the answer is very simple and it’s all about context. That context is that buying anything, especially high value, and specifically, those that are complex and have multiple stakeholders, need a salesperson to sell them and contact centre tech’ is one of those things.
The scenarios witnessed all have one thing in common. The salesperson won. It’s like watching a gladiator against an unarmed soldier and in some cases, I’ve been reminded of that series of films that involved Predator and Alien, which perhaps reveals how long I’ve been around making these types of observations.
In all these procurement journeys, it was simply a case of one party going into play with more weapons, more skills and more technique than their combatant.
In that famous Monty Python sketch, ‘surprise’ is always an advantage. Although, as we know the element of surprise comes through knowledge and planning. Then comes the relationship development, even some personal social media interaction to cement the ‘advantage position’.
Tools? Well again, we all know what they are, but often fail to remember that salespeople these days are highly trained professionals who are targeted to win against people they have targeted to sell to.
Once the ‘trust position’ is established, out comes the ‘glitter and gold’ and of course, that’s all presented well to solve all the problems that the combatant has been sharing as the ‘relationship’ has been developing. Not that anything needs to have been mentioned. Typically, the professional sales team's ‘intelligence unit’ have weaponry that gathers everything on the internet that your organisation has been putting out there, or even just checking something obvious like your company's Trust Pilot scores and social media sites. These all are designed to reduce the risk of the sale not completing and the glitter and gold are deposited in the buyer's jewellery box.
So, maybe take some armour and weapons of your own, make the tech’ purchasing journey an even contest and make sure what you end up buying is the gold you wanted.
crisis at work
We do not like talking about money. That’s one of the key findings of Wagestream’s State of Financial Wellbeing 2022 research. Over two-thirds (68%) of UK employees with money worries do not tell their employer about their concerns. We must tackle this issue if we’re to make progress on financial wellbeing – as employers, and as a society.
Although there’s still some way to go, we’ve made good progress on tackling the mental health stigma as a society – and it’s no surprise that, as a result, people are much more likely to talk about their mental health in the workplace. If we want to open the conversation so people can improve their financial wellbeing, we need to do the same with money.
1. Train money champions to signpost and be visible
There’s been progress on the mental health stigma and one of the reasons is the success of the Mental Health First Aiders and similar schemes. Without training, it can be hard for managers and colleagues to know what should and shouldn’t be said, but this type of training gives confidence that makes people approachable but also more likely to open a conversation.
At certain times, macro-economic trends put money in everyone’s minds – in 2022 there’s been a convergence of several, including Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis. This is happening at the societal level and, since people have money on the mind, they’re more open to conversation openers from their employer.
It’s not only societal trends that offer opportunities to talk about money. Internal changes, such as promotions, are good opportunities to encourage employees to review their short-term and long-term financial goals. The same is true of external changes in an employee’s life: for example when people apply for mortgages they often talk to their HR department.
Don’t waste these opportunities to start a dialogue – it’s a great way to build trust with employees. In fact, nothing says you’re more open to having a conversation than by clearly showing you’re interested in starting one. If you have money champions, using them to start conversations within their departments or cohorts can be an easy way to take action at scale.
3. Celebrate Talk Money Week throughout your organisation
Talk Money Week is a yearly campaign aimed at encouraging conversations about money – it’s not limited to the workplace, but it’s an ideal existing initiative that organisations can use as a catalyst for their own plans. In 2022, Talk Money Week begins on November 7th. Spearheaded by the Money and Pensions Service, Talk Money Week offers a participation pack for employers looking to take part, that includes various useful materials and insight so you can get off to a good start. It’s a great way to start a conversation internally and provides a yearly date for your diary.
If you'd like to find out how Wagestream can help your business, contact us and we'll put you in touch.