Growing Millennial Workforce? Time to Implement an Omnichannel Contact Center Platform

A lingering perception is that Millennials are teenagers who are just entering the workforce for the first time. However, according to most researchers, this generation ranges in age from the early 20s to late 30s and comprises more than 30 percent of the U.S. workforce. Millennials make up an even larger percentage of today's contact center workforce, at roughly 70 percent, and Gen Z isn't far behind.

Such a high percentage of Millennials in the contact center industry is bound to influence the workplace, especially when more than half of them are dissatisfied with their jobs. Data also shows that as the number of Millennials entering the workforce has increased, agent satisfaction has decreased. If left unchecked, the already-high turnover in contact centers could increase, creating major operational problems.

While Millennials and technology go hand-in-hand, many contact centers have yet to move to the cloud or implement a true omnichannel solution (voice, chat, email, SMS, video, IoT, social media, etc.) that allows this talented generation to streamline, customize, and thrive in the workplace. Contact centers can improve their operations by adopting new methodologies that address the most common Millennial workforce pains.

Problem: Lack of flexibility

According to a survey by Qualtrics and Accel Partners, roughly 76 percent of Millennials would take a pay cut of at least 3 percent to work for companies that offer flexible office hours. Unsurprisingly, this generation is quick to leave the call center environment for a better opportunity, contributing to the industry's 30 percent to 45 percent turnover rate.

Solution: Allow agents to work from home.

With modern cloud contact center solutions, managing and monitoring virtual agents is easier than ever. In fact, large companies like Amazon and Apple have transitioned almost exclusively to virtual contact centers. It's been shown that when agents can work remotely, they are happier and more productive and decrease operational expenses.

Problem: Boredom

More than half of Millennials report being bored at work. This is likely higher for contact center agents whose average work day can be very predictable: answer customer calls, take a lunch break, answer more customer calls, clock out, repeat that routine the following day. Aside from the occasional out-of-the-ordinary phone call, agents' days are spent solving the same problems over and over.

Solution: Provide more capable tools for creative problem-solving.

Modern omnichannel solutions allow agents to leverage communications technology to solve problems more nimbly and effectively while thinking outside of the box to find solutions. With more options, they can be more creative when assisting customers. For example, a customer might become frustrated while trying to describe an issue verbally. With an actual omnichannel platform, agents no longer have to balance an angry customer while clarifying and confirming a description or requesting an email with an attached photo from the customer. While on the phone, the agent can send a text to the customer, to which the customer can respond with an MMS of the issue. The agent never has to switch systems or windows, and the customer never has to wait on hold or be diverted to another agent.

Problem: Aversion to confrontation

Research shows that talking on the phone is Millennials' least-favorite way to communicate and often considered a last resort. Millennials also place a high value on harmony in the workplace. As a generation that grew up with helicopter parents and perceived praise for their efforts in the form of participation trophies, it's no surprise they look for praise and harmony in the workplace. Millennials are a generation eager for career advancement and growth. When they join a call center, however, they're often faced with angry or upset customers who take their frustrations out on the agent. For some, having to absorb that negativity can be overwhelming and demoralizing.

Solution: Allow agents to help customers on other channels.

Millennial customers want to communicate with companies via the channel on which they are most comfortable, whether that's text, social media, email, or voice. An omnichannel solution gives agents the opportunity to use that same variety of channels. What's more, it is what the customer prefers as well. With a better omnichannel platform, every agent has a variety of channels and can switch seamlessly between them.

Problem: Hands-off training

Contact center managers only spend 7 percent of their time during the week on employee development, but agents and supervisors agree there needs to be more time for coaching and training. When supervisors spend roughly 53 percent of their time on administrative tasks, training falls to the wayside.

Solution: Implement in-line training.

Fortunately, omnichannel solutions not only streamline agent-to-customer interactions, but also supervisor-to-agent interactions. By monitoring contact center systems, particularly with the aid of artificial intelligence, supervisors can receive at-a-glance coaching objectives based on agent performance and tools for review and feedback directly. Supervisors can then push appropriate training modules directly to their agents or have the system push training automatically.

Problem: Lack of incentives

In an environment where agents and their supervisors can be overworked, incentivizing exceptional performance can take a backseat. Tracking key performance indicators such as first contact resolution and average hold time are good for the customer, but it can cause undue stress on agents as they struggle to meet goals and feel uninspired to exceed them.

Solution: Reward high-performing agents internally.

While in-line training will help elevate underperforming agents, rewarding agents who are already flourishing will be an investment in their careers and your organization. Omnichannel solutions help identify where agents are excelling and open up new opportunities, such as adding channels. Offline, if an agent is interested in working in another department, start an inter-company mentor program. If she's interested in moving up to a management role, create a management trainee class. Incentivized training opportunities recognize top agents and show them that the company will continue to invest in their success, both personally and with technology.

Modern cloud contact center solutions are built to evolve as new communication technology is introduced. They allow contact centers to quickly adapt and keep up with the changing world around them. With more Millennials entering the workforce every day, contact center modernization is going to be crucial to maintaining a satisfied workforce.

Pam Hynes is vice president of client experience at Sharpen Technologies, a provider of cloud-based contact center platforms for customer support and outbound sales teams.