What drives great customer service in today's contact centers? As always, the answer is: strong communications skills. But defining communication isn't as easy as it once was. Where phone skills were once king, there's an entirely new digital skillset that's now required to engage with customers, whether it's through live chats, email, video calls, or other forms of social and digital media.
And for contact center operators, the search for digitally savvy employees is driving new strategies in site selection and workplace design.
Digital-native customers require digital-native customer service
Customer needs are profoundly different, requiring skillsets that didn't exist even a few years ago. A whopping 77 percent of customers between the ages of 18 to 24 now use smartphones to contact customer support, and 47 percent use live online chat. Contact center professionals also are increasingly being called upon to leverage video calls and interact through social media or other contact channels, as well as using cutting-edge data analytics to guide conversations with customers.
Forward-looking contact centers are expanding their customer service capacity to provide swift, stress-free brand experiences through multiple channels. Many are looking for digital native Millennials who have grown up on social media and can instinctively navigate multiple online channels. The challenge is to find locations with the right talent available for the right price, and to provide the kind of workplace that will inspire their loyalty.
From who to where
Finding a location near tech-minded contact center talent requires a skillful balance of priorities. For starters, contact centers haven't traditionally been perceived as being technology-driven and are not necessarily top of mind for eligible tech-minded workers. Furthermore, tech-savvy workers, particularly Millennials, tend to concentrate around urban markets that are too costly for the typical contact center.
Following are four considerations for creating a smart location and workplace strategy to attract the highly desirable tech-savvy workforce:
- Scrutinize overall labor trends. If access to the right talent at the right cost is the goal, then digging into labor pool data is the right approach. Smart location analysis technology and dynamic screening tools can uncover nuanced differences between potential markets based on a range of filters, from education and age to current market concentration. Data-driven analysis can help reveal attractive markets that are popular with younger, tech-savvy populations, yet also offer a reasonable cost of living aligned with call center margins. In addition, an integrated location analysis can reveal areas with relevant tax incentives that can counterbalance labor costs and markets that favor long-term growth that will provide for a sustainable labor supply far into the future. Ultimately, the best market will be one with the right kind of talent at a price that allows employees to to work, play, and live comfortably.
- Combine work and wellness. Contact center work can be intense, and sometimes agents need a quick walk or quiet break to recharge. Furthermore, health and well-being are a priority for active Millennials. Smart operators are adding wellness policies and features into their facilities by allowing regular activity breaks, creating outdoor or indoor walking paths so workers can avoid simply sitting for hours on end, and providing relaxation spaces. Wellness might also include facility design that allows more productivity-boosting natural light into the workspace, and using environmentally sustainable building materials that minimize indoor air pollution. Also, in some operations it could be advantageous for workers to collaborate face-to-face with team members elsewhere in the facility. Mobile contact services could be a huge step forward, as JLL workplace research has shown that the option to move about from time to time is important for achieving a productive, engaging work environment.
- Offer workspace choice, gain workplace agility. Younger workers crave flexibility and choice. Contact center executives are focused on facilities that will accommodate the natural ebb and flow of work volume, from lengthy contracts to short-term product roll-out campaigns. Designing for flexibility meets both needs. Some contact center operators are creating facilities with communal work areas and fewer desks owned by specific employees. Offering a mix of lounge rooms, recreation space, and collaboration areas, as well as private rooms, gives employees the freedom they want in the workplace while helping the company retain the flexibility to pivot quickly as the business changes.
- Offer a clear line of sight to leadership and to customers. Millennials want to make an impact and appreciate a direct path forward in their careers. They expect to have direct access to leadership and access to opportunities to improve their skills. When the contact center provides feedback technology to instantly show customer satisfaction data and a workplace that enables interpersonal engagement, digitally savvy representatives can see exactly how well the team is performing. This can also provide an opportunity to learn the value they are adding as individuals.
As more centers rise to the challenge of increasingly mobile customer and digital channels, their capability to deliver outstanding sales, service, and support operations will become more closely tied to the digitally savvy talent pool. Is your location strategy ready for the new digital reality?
Kyle Harding is senior vice president of JLL, a Chicago-based firm specializing in contact center site location and design.
Scott Redabaugh, a managing director in the JLL Business Consulting Group, and Kim Vanderland, a senior vice president at JLL, contributed to this article.