In the past year, Peter Ryan and I have turned down at least three serious offers to sponsor our podcast, the CX Files. This isn’t because we are so wealthy that we can afford to turn away business, it’s just that CX Files has gradually grown into one of the most popular CX podcasts in the world and it is 100% independent – there is no corporate sponsor or backer telling us who to feature.
We have always tried to feature genuinely diverse voices from the analyst community, the CX specialists and BPO companies, as well as tech voices and the companies that buy all these services – see recent episodes where we have a telco and health insurance company speaking. We like being able to spotlight any interesting voices without demanding that they pay to feature on the show.
We usually focus on a single voice in each episode, but I recently tried an experiment where the episode focused on Gig CX. I wanted to try getting voices from all sides of the discussion onto a single podcast that could stay under 30 minutes.
The Gig CX episode featured three speakers:
- Vinay Gupta, Senior Expert, McKinsey & Company
- Mahesh Raghuram, Director of Customer Service, NewAge Products
- Terry Rybolt, Chief Revenue Officer, LiveXchange
To give some context, Terry’s company offers a Gig CX platform that allows companies to quickly build and staff a virtual contact center. Mahesh’s company sells garden/garage furniture and equipment (in Canada) and they have often struggled to manage their customer service processes in peak periods – in 2020 they started using Gig CX. Vinay is a US-based management consultant who advises on many emerging trends, including Gig CX.
On one podcast we had a Gig CX platform provider, a user of Gig CX, and a management adviser who knows all about how Gig CX should work. So what did they say?
Mahesh explained what drew his company to a Gig CX model in the first place. He said: “We are an e-commerce company with a high average order value, which means we have massive seasonal peaks. If you if you look at a Black Friday timeframe, or the start of summer, many companies like ours are struggling to maintain their service. You could be waiting 30-60 minutes on a call.”
Terry mentioned that the marketplace is learning about Gig CX quickly. He said: “There’s around 57 million gig workers in the US alone today – that’s data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So the gig economy is here, we’re now just introducing it into the customer experience environment at scale. This is an educational process – just like it was with work-from-home, we’re now educating the marketplace.”
Listening to both Terry and Mahesh it was clear that the fear some companies have when they hear ‘gig economy’ is a lack of control, an inability to manage the quality of interactions, and the sense that the Gig CX workers will take over any existing customer service processes – in-house or those outsourced to a Business Process Outsourcing company (BPO).
In fact, any existing operation can remain as the ‘core’ with Gig CX layered on top to build more flexibility into the service. I asked Mahesh how complex it was to integrate Gig CX into his existing processes. He said: “It was fairly simple. It just layered in perfectly on top of our existing contact center model. And we were able to get it up and running in about two to three weeks.”
He added: “We were definitely looking to launch for Black Friday 2020, because we were so focused on our customer experience during that timeframe. This is the biggest time of our year and we wanted to get it done. We actually reported well over satisfactory service levels throughout our peak season – we were answering calls in under 45 seconds from November all the way to the end of January.”
Mahesh has augmented his existing customer service team with a Gig CX team to build more flexibility into the process, but I asked Vinay if this is something the BPO community also needs to consider. How can the contact center experts sell flexibility if they are not also exploring a gig model?
He said: “If we take a step back, Gig CX is all about meeting the needs of the customers. It’s not just for in-house teams or BPOs to build this flexibility. There could be multiple ways of achieving the right solution. It could be like Mahesh, with an in-house team also using Gig CX to add flexibility, but I could also ask my BPO partners to add the same flexibility. From a BPO point of view, given this market is going to be very mature very soon. They need to ramp up their capability. If I’m a BPO, and I don’t have a flexible workforce, then clients may just find another BPO.”
Vinay was clearly suggesting that Gig CX can offer customer service flexibility whether you are using an in-house solution or a BPO. The BPOs that ignore this option may struggle to actually be flexible enough.
Vinay suggested that the key for any manager thinking about Gig CX is to understand how variable the demand for their CX team really is. He said: “I advise my clients that they really understand what kind of variability they are dealing with. Variability comes in different forms. Monday looks different to Friday. You can have different days of the month that are busy. You need to understand this variability and the type of calls that are driving the variability.”
As Vinay described this need to plan for variable customer service volumes he mentioned that this variable environment offers opportunities to both companies planning their customer service levels and the agents answering calls. Accepting and managing this variability means that agents can split shifts and work much more flexible hours. This allows companies to reduce hours when volumes are lower and ramp up their team when they know it will be busy. This flexibility is great for people who want more control over their working hours and the companies that don’t want a lot of people working during quiet periods. A real win-win for both.
This debate featured three knowledgable voices exploring why and how Gig CX matters for everyone in modern CX. Whether you are managing an in-house customer service operation or a BPO, Gig CX is not about to replace you, but it could help your team to be much more flexible.
This article is just a summary of the debate. To hear the complete version click here or search for ‘CX Files’ on your podcast app and check the recent episodes…