customer contact industry
“.... Investing in your Frontline Advisors is the most important investment you will make this year!
In the race for digital supremacy don’t lose sight of what your customers actually want and how your frontline advisors continue to remain a ‘critical element’ in delivering outstanding customer experiences...”
More so than ever before, contact centres are operating in an ultra-competitive hiring landscape. In the labour market five years ago, there were nearly 6 unemployed individuals for every job vacancy…….. now, there are only 1.6! At the same time, employment is at levels not seen since the early 1970’s, while UK unemployment is at a near-record low. Skilled candidates are in higher demand than ever, and contact centres need to compete if they want to secure the best.
According to the ONS, the UK labour market continued to defy gravity in the beginning of 2019 against a backdrop of tepid economic growth and heightened uncertainty. The employment rate rose again to a new record high, with the unemployment rate at another record low. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%. Meanwhile the number of vacancies was little changed, the number of job seekers per vacancy (1.6) remains the lowest since records began.
So effective contact centre recruitment in a near zero-unemployment world is a real challenge. But it’s a challenge that can be overcome through an understanding of the contact centre market, its current and future trends and its continued focus on the customer.
Because the future is becoming ever more focussed on the customer journey this reflects on the importance on customer interactions.
VOC, Bots; Automation
We can expect to see an increased emphasis on organisations leveraging their Voice of the Customer (VoC) data to actually shape customer journeys and design experiences rather than just react to issues as they surface. By capturing what customers want to achieve, smart VoC initiatives can inform customer experience re-engineering to address 100% of customer needs, whether they’re engaging digitally or through the contact centre. And yes, contact centres will continue to migrate towards robotic technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), but many believe that the reality won’t match the hype.
Too many organisations are being caught up in the excitement and hysteria that surrounds the whole AI and robot story. Businesses will continue making strides down the road to automation and AI, of course, and there are a broad range of benefits to be had from doing so, as they look to streamline the customer journey. However, the reality on the ground is somewhat disconnected from the hype.
A recent ContactBabel report indicates that even in 2021, telephone and email together are expected to account for 81.5% of all contact centre inbound interactions. So, the impact on your frontline staff becomes as relevant as ever and recruitment continues to be a key focus looking forward – but do we need to re-address what type of frontline specialist we are looking for? So many organisations are investing in self-serve and AI, but perhaps not investing in the ‘Future Frontline Advisor’ – what type of an advisor should the industry be employing and why?
The expectation of the advisor
Forward-thinking firms who value people over technology will see higher customer and staff satisfaction and enjoy the proven financial benefits that happier customers and staff bring. The customer experience will remain a key part of an organisation’s thinking. This will result in a greater focus on using new technologies to reach the customer in more innovative ways, which could influence the role of the advisor.
The contact centre team are the main contact touchpoint for customers, so communication skills remain the number-one skill in this role. But with most contact centres supporting new communication channels, advisors must develop new skills that allow them to handle communication via a variety of new channels such as live chat and social media.
So, the role and expectations of an advisor is changing and in turn the skills they require to fulfil the role effectively is also changing – but are organisations understanding what that change means and what skills are required to effectively deliver this change?
Looking at the contact centre industry today it seems that many organisations are falling behind in their understanding of what the job now entails and in turn its expectations of its frontline staff. It’s those organisations who recognise with the change in asking advisors to manage a number of customer interactions over a number of channels that they need a range of skills and advisors who can multi-task and efficiently manage both written and spoken communications are increasingly becoming the ‘profile of an advisor’
It’s imperative that contact centres continue to focus on training advisors and providing them with great tools, so they can, in return, look after customers. The training will, in turn, support attrition and multi-channel interactions will also help to keep advisors remain engaged and interested in their job!
Salary, recruitment process and on-boarding
Salary continues to be an issue, not only because the labour market is so tight, and every potential candidate will be applying for up to 10 jobs at a time, but also because the salary will, in many cases, dictate skill. If you want more out of your advisors, then you need to ensure you are competitive in what you are paying them.
Get the offering right and you will attract the right calibre of individual, however, move too slow through the process and you’ll lose them. Put too many hurdles in the way of a potential recruit and, too late, you’ve lost what could be your star employee as they will most likely choose the path of least resistance (and as they are applying for multiple jobs at a time they have plenty of choice!).
Think about your process – do you really need them to complete an hour long SHL test at home? Have you considered your application and testing processes are mobile and tablet compatible? If not, you are already falling behind with a generation who no longer use PC’s or laptops at home. Have you considered some of the cutting-edge testing tools out there, such as psychometric testing using ‘gaming’ technology?
Whatever your process, it needs to be ‘fit for purpose’ and you need to be ready for a huge amount of hard work, backed up by unprecedented numbers of ‘no-shows’ and a lot of time wasters to find your gems! But they are out there, and we have proven it time after time by supporting lots of organisations who have struggled to recruit talent in this ‘extraordinary’ market.
Improving the ‘Customer Experience’ by improving the ‘Employee Experience’
Contact centres are also realising that a sole focus on improving the customer experience without improving the advisor experience is difficult to achieve.
The Forrester CX Index showed that “when asked about their biggest pain points to creating the ideal customer experience, customers pointed to lack of advisor knowledge as their number-one hurdle”.
One reason for this lack of knowledge is the desktop tools that are available to advisors. In fact, only 16% of advisors think that their desktop tools help them resolve customer queries, according to Gartner.
So many contact centres are STILL not adequately investing in arguably their most valuable asset, their customer facing advisors. They are not training them effectively, they are not providing the right tools and technology and they are paying them well under market rate – so the outcome is inevitable, failing customer experiences, challenging recruitment activity and high levels of attrition.
Contact centres cannot lose sight of what their customers really want. We’re seeing more and more the link between digital transformation and the customer experience – and 2019 will be the breaking point. As companies implement new AI-driven technologies such as chatbots and voice search, they neglect to think about the impact to the customer experience.
Customers will become increasingly frustrated with the lack of human interaction and a fractured customer journey as businesses struggle to tie channels together. Customers expect to seamlessly switch from self-service options on web and mobile to chat, email or phone.
Brands should take a step back, plan customer-centric technology implementations and consider how it ties into the whole customer journey.
To win, they must find the right mix of new technology and traditional service making up their customer experience. This includes maintaining the human touch by making it easy to access an agent for more complex issues.
So it would appear that despite the onward march of the robots, older, more traditional types of interaction technology still dominate in the contact centre today and it is expected to stay that way for some years to come.
- Investing in your frontline employees is more crucial than ever
- Providing them with the technology and tools to handle customer enquires effectively
- Training them properly, consistently and providing on-going coaching is essential
- Understanding that the job is changing and identifying what skills are required to be effective in a fast-paced, multi-channel environment is vital.
So better training, better tools, more productivity through multi-channel interactions will equal less advisors, but the requirements of the job will require a higher level of renumeration
real benefit to all these changes will result in lower attrition due to better pay, better training, better tools and a more diverse and interesting job!
Established in December 2003, Cactus Search has experienced rapid growth within the Contact Centre recruitment sector. We are now one of the UK’s leading suppliers of inspirational leaders and specialist skills for the contact centre industry, across all contact centre functions, throughout the UK and Internationally.
As a direct result of requests from existing Cactus Search clients, we established a new brand in 2011, Cactus Frontline, providing a specialist ‘volume recruitment model’ to the UK Call Centre industry. A progressive company, we work closely with our clients to gain an in-depth understanding of their business and resourcing needs which enables us to quickly and effectively deliver bespoke ‘Account Managed’ solutions.
Some recent projects include:
Cactus Frontline is now highly regarded by a number of major businesses as their preferred recruitment partner.
Like Cactus Search, we have developed a brand which is linked to the delivery of high quality recruitment projects across the UK contact centre industry.
"You met our very exacting requirements" - Project Director, BT
"Exactly what the contact centre industry needs!" - Global Financial Services organisation
"Our experience of Cactus Frontline has been unparalleled" - Leading BPO