New expectations for CX In 2022: Gigs and virtual contact centers

It’s still early in 2022, so there is just enough time to make a few predictions for the year ahead in CX. I have been thinking a lot recently about the advanced technology required to make modern customer service processes function smoothly. In popular culture, and outside the CX industry, a contact center is still just a big warehouse full of people on the phone.

It really is time for this to change. I heard it once again on a BBC radio show this week where they were discussing the growth of the technology industry in Argentina. The presenter made a clear distinction between the ‘tech industry’ not being anything to do with the ‘contact center’ industry – because once again, the popular view on many “overseas” jobs is people in a contact center on the phone. The truth is, many services now exist in a global market.

This article in HR Director by the TTEC EMEA HR boss, Emma Crowe, goes some way to addressing the reality of the situation today. Emma talks about how customer service has morphed into customer relationship management – a process that can play out over 50 years. The technology involved in serving and predicting what customers need has evolved dramatically from the times when customer interactions were just measured in the minutes that a phone call took to be concluded.

An earlier article by Emma lists some of the essential skills for modern contact centers, including cloud, security, compliance, IoT, automation, chatbots, self-service, biometrics, languages, Artificial Intelligence, data analytics, sales, marketing, and work-from-home… that’s not even a complete list of the typical skills that modern contact centers require so why is the industry still perceived like the boiler room in Wall Street?

Paul O’Hara of Teleperformance listed some of his 2022 predictions here. One of the important areas he notes is how contact centers will be about much more than just post-purchase customer interactions. He talks about inside sales, account management, and content moderation – all important processes for managing customer relationships, but not traditionally considered to be within the ‘customer service’ realm.

But, one of the most important recent changes in this industry has been that fact that every major Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company now has two years experience of most of their team working from home (WFH). Kevin Lasky of SKWeston talks here about the future for WFH.

Kevin talks about the development of contact center as a service (CCaaS), which is where all the agents work from home and the contact center itself is really just software – customer calls and messages are routed from a virtual contact center to the appropriate agents. Kevin’s blog talks about WFH remaining an integral component of contact center design in future and CCaaS playing a major role in making customer service more flexible for both agents and the companies they are serving.

This flexibility is an important point. Who wants to get up early and commute to the same office everyday to work a long shift in a contact center and then commute home again in the evening? Companies are looking to create a more flexible and dynamic labor pool and the agents want to chop and change their working hours to fit around their life outside work. The CX analyst Stephen Loynd talks at some length about this subject in this podcast interview, where he suggests that more flexibility will be a requirement to attract the best talent.

You can’t create this flexibility without a welcoming and inclusive corporate culture. People need to feel valued in terms of their compensation, but also their day to day work environment and career opportunities. Alorica has recently earned several accolades in the US that recognize their focus on diversity and opportunities for women – it’s this approach to flexibility and diversity that needs to become normal throughout the industry.

Ultimately, the growth of CCaaS will lead to many companies embracing GigCX. This is where agents can flexibly access the virtual contact center – more can be online when needed and the numbers can be reduced for quiet periods. The gig agents are paid each time they help a customer, rather than hourly, and in most cases these workers are earning a lot more than most hourly-paid contact center agents.

Terry Rybolt of LiveXchange believes that GigCX offers a solution to the disaffection many workers are feeling after the Covid pandemic. They want more flexibility and to be rewarded for what they are doing, not just getting a fixed wage for turning up. GigCX agents can set their own hours, choose the brands they want to work with, and earn more than they would get in a regular agent role.

I recently wrote a book with Terry that explores this connection between a desire for greater work flexibility and how the gig economy might be deployed inside customer service. The aim is really to explore how technology and CCaaS might create a more flexible work environment for both the brands that need to deliver great CX and the people who work in this environment.

Traditional BPO companies need to explore trends like GigCX. They don’t need to change their existing operations – they can simply layer a flexible pool of labor onto their current team. Increasing or reducing the flexible pool as demand requires.

The virtualization of the contact center did not begin with the pandemic, but technologies like CCaaS and GigCX are becoming popular because brands now want resilience and greater flexibility. Let’s design a future for CX that benefits everyone in the industry – including raising the status of agents to brand ambassadors and experts.

For more details on the new book ‘Don’t Fear The Gig Worker: GigCX And The Employment Reboot’ just click here.

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