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Are contact centres heading for a crisis?

Our attention was grabbed by proclamations from Allday PA reported in Comms Business, in which CEO Reuben Singh declares that the industry is heading for a fall because of the minimum wage, which will increase in a couple of months.

He stresses, we should be clear, that he’s in favour of a decent living wage for everyone and supports the move. His warning is much more of a shout-out to companies that have not made provision for the extra cost.

(Editor’s note: it’s also an opportunity to publicise his own company’s growth plans which, in truth, have nothing to do with the living wage or any other piece of legislation – it’s skilfully done, have a look at the Comms Business piece).

We’d argue that the contact centre industry is not in any immediate danger but some of the participants may be – and it’s not only the minimum wage that’s going to hit the unprepared but also the rise of robotic process automation (RPA). As the giants in the industry find cost per call falling as the robots take over the very simple stuff, we could foresee a time when paying people to sit there reading scripts (which still happens) find their service unwieldy, expensive and prone to human error.

The wiser companies will be training those agents to take a more proactive and empathetic approach when dealing with the more complex cases that automation simply can’t handle. That is when the benefits to productivity as well as to costs will be felt, and by the end customer as well who should find efficiency when their needs are purely transactional and the right skills when they need something more.

And yes, the living wage will have an impact as well. Compared to the wholesale reshaping of an industry over time, though, we reckon it’ll be marginal.

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