It’s been a challenging 12 months in the contact centre, and while more customer support than ever has now moved online, the personnel at the frontier of this interaction are working in completely new ways. New research by Enghouse sheds worrying new light on the state of mind of frontline CX professionals, during this pivotal time for global business.
The initial headlines read positively, with the switch to remote work yielding increasing reported happiness (38%), productivity (33%), and valuing of jobs (39%). However behind these upsides other responses are alarming, with employees struggling with technical challenges, stress, and emotional burnout — with the most worrying statistic being that 91% of these contact centre staff and supervisors [surveyed during February 2021] are likely to leave their present job at some point during this year.
Jeremy Payne, Group VP Marketing & Alliances at Enghouse, was very concerned by this, and how easy it was for the headlines about happiness and productivity to mask deeper insecurities and issues. While contact centres typically have a high staff turnover at the best of times, “over 90% is pretty much inconceivable — if you’re trying to run a business, while nine out of 10 of the people who were there this time last year have left. That’s a lot of very busy HR departments, a lot of training and onboarding… and a LOT of dislocation in the quality and consistency of the service you offer.”
While the research highlighted many gains from home-based working including saving money and enjoying time with family, the reality is that the lack of direct contact — and perhaps support and training to help with managing distributed teams — is causing real problems for frontline workers exposed to the public at a time of heightened emotion and tension. The research (which included supervisors as well as call handlers) identified that 37% found a lack of capability in detecting changes in employees’ mood/emotions was one of the most significant challenges relating to staff wellbeing.
Payne sees this insight, coming as it does at this inflection point for the way we organise customer support going forward, as an opportunity for businesses to rethink their approach — making things better for customers, and better for the people serving them. “You can’t just cut and paste your existing physical business into the virtual world or into the cloud and hope that it’s going to work. But you can use this as an opportunity to re-engineer your business processes and policies, to make things work better in the environment they’re in.”
Fix the tech, and fix the approach
While some problems related specifically to lockdown, like homeschooling, others will persist in the hybrid future if not addressed: unstable internet, lack of social interaction, and lack of training were all highlighted by respondents as among the greatest challenges to working from home.
So, there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit for good employers to fix, in a world where your top CX people will be free to apply for home-based work anywhere in the world in future.
To avert the crisis and keep your teams working in a happy and engaged way wherever they are, Payne sees a growing need for soft skills in management, combined with the right tools to support with sensitivity, like “real-time speech analytics, the ability to listen to both sides of a conversation, and sense when the customer or agent are getting stressed.
Above all, we need to recognise that we’re emerging from a lengthy crisis and acknowledge the impact of that on the employee experience. “When it’s a struggle for an agent to be able to do their job, then people start to leave. And if you’re not properly geared out to onboard and train and mentor and coach and look after the people who come on board, you’re going to end up in quite a negative spiral rapidly as a business.”
A combination of the latest contact centre technology to support supervisors trained in the management of distributed teams is a good start. Find out more from Enghouse.