Why the contact centre industry could be heading for its own HGV driver crisis – Ben Booth, CEO of MaxContact, discusses
Were you one of the people struggling to get petrol this autumn? The shortage of HGV drivers across the UK caused widespread supply chain problems, put livelihoods at risk and spurred a frenzy of panic buying not seen since March 2020.
This very public disruption shone a spotlight on the poor working conditions that HGV drivers have been facing for years but which have been flying under the radar.
The same could be said for the contact centre industry. It’s been a challenging 18 months with workers on the frontline faced with new, complex ways of working. While remote working is generally seen as positive, the reality is that many are working in isolation at their kitchen tables, jumping from call to call without much interaction with their colleagues.
Staff are also receiving less training during their inductions; training which used to be spread over a two-week in-person induction programme is now being wrapped up in a two-hour training video.
The stress and emotional burnout call centre agents have experienced during the past 18 months has led to many wanting to leave their jobs for good. While the industry has long suffered with an attrition problem, we’re now facing a crisis that, if left unchecked, could result in severe staff shortages like those we saw during the HGV crisis.
This won’t be an easy fix, but I believe it starts with putting agents back at the heart of the contact centre.
Happy workers = happy customers
It’s a fact that excellent service can’t happen without happy staff. Balancing creating positive employee experiences with customer needs will help staff to feel happier at work and motivated to perform at the best of their ability.
Actively promoting agent wellbeing and ensuring this forms part of your organisation’s culture is key. Whether you’re working from home or back in the office, one thing you could consider is encouraging your agents to take regular breaks between calls and setting up frequent check-ins to allow your staff room to breathe and break up busy workloads. Training managers to identify early signs of burnout and providing mental health support can also really help to improve staff wellbeing before it’s too late.
Another way of improving agent morale is by championing the value they bring to a business and the softer skills they possess. Contact centre agents are extremely skilled and celebrating their accomplishments as well as showing them a clear path to progression will help agents see their job as a long-term career rather than a temporary stopgap.
Organising regular social events is also something which has to be prioritised, even if staffing issues and demands on agents make this tough, so teams can decompress together.
Using technology intelligently
You could argue that technology is one of the causes of agent attrition. Technology itself isn’t inherently harmful, but we need to be mindful of how we use it.
Automating responses to simple queries and repetitive tasks can also be instrumental in protecting agents from frustration and burnout. Using automation at early points in your customer journeys, through features such as chatbots, can help remove mundane tasks and make agents’ lives infinitely easier.
This will ensure that agents mainly deal with high-level and complex interactions which demonstrate real business value, which is more likely to deliver job satisfaction. At the same time, chatbots can dramatically improve a customer’s experience by providing quick and easy answers to simple questions.
Automating quality assurance is another example of technology being used to improve the agent experience. Rather than managers trawling through hours of call recordings to check how agents are performing, speech analytics can automate the process by flagging calls with certain trigger words or negative sentiment. Managers are then able to hone in on these specific calls to provide further training.
Contact centre agents are the hidden backbone of society. From helping us when credit card bills are due to making sure we can get tickets to our favourite shows, staff up and down the country are meeting our every need. Looking towards 2022, agent wellbeing has to become a top priority for contact centres. With the right technology and policies in place, we can make sure this industry is an attractive place to work.
Ben Booth is CEO of MaxContact
MaxContact is a Contact Centre Software Company with a difference. Formed by a group of contact centre professionals who became frustrated with providers that over promised and under delivered on features, support and resilience.
We have a strong ethos of building relationships with our customers, therefore both parties see our relationship as a partnership. We promise to deliver features and functionality that ‘works as expected’ and our customers trust the advice we give them because it is in everyone’s interest that our customers get the most out of their investment.
We listen to our customers and build new features and improvements around them. After all, they use the system more than anyone else.