An Efficiency Approach Leads the Contact Center Evolution

When we think of contact centers, we typically envision cubicles in confined and crowded workspaces with earphoned workers clacking on their keyboards. When you're on the phone with someone in one, it's usually a bit chaotic and challenging to hear the customer service representative over the buzzing background.

Over the past two years, though, nearly every industry and organization has had to change work environments, and contact centers were no exception. Now, interactions with contact center representatives are a completely different experience; you might very well be chatting with an employee working from her kitchen in rural Minnesota; and now you might actually be able to hear what your customer rep is saying without the distracting background noise.

Contact centers play a crucial role in the success of businesses that rely on customer service. With evolved contact centers, organizations can get ahead of their competitors by hiring top talent throughout the United States, creating work opportunities for those who would not typically be available for contact center jobs.

In the customer service world at large, but especially in contact centers, there was a significant focus on creating a world-class, hand-holding experience for each and every customer. Representatives were measured on how many times they said "thank you" throughout the conversation, assessed on how eloquently they recapped the discussion, and rated on if and how they solved customers' issues.

Modern technologies like chatbots and other artificial intelligence solutions have provided customers with the ability to self-serve. Customers search for answers online themselves, send emails, or use the online chat function, only calling on the phone as a last resort. And by the time they do call, customers are looking for fast, painless interactions with people who know exactly how to solve their problems.

Due to this consumer demand, focus has shifted toward an efficiency approach. Contact centers are reducing the number of prompts customers need to endure, and reps try to answer questions quickly as customers expect instant gratification, and if they have to spend a lot of time getting an answer, they'll head over to the competition without thinking twice.

Benefits of a Modern Contact Center

The evolution of customer behavior and expectations of call rep interactions, paired with the recent shift to a distributed workforce, has shaped a new contact center approach that benefits the entire ecosystem today. Here's how:

  • Benefits for the workforce: Contact center employees have proven they can be just as productive from home, making the case for returning to a row of confined cubicles a difficult case to win. A remote workforce provides flexibility for caregivers who need to be home for their children or elderly relatives, without having to sacrifice their paychecks. Women, in particular, have been impacted during the pandemic; according to U.S. Census Bureau data, nearly 10 million U.S. mothers with school-age children did not actively work last year.
  • Expanding your Talent Pool: Before the pandemic, a consulting company specializing in remote work reported that about 80 percent of contact centers let some employees work from home at least some of the time, but only about 20 percent to 40 percent of workers actually did so. Now, not being geographically constrained significantly expands the talent pool, allowing companies to uplevel the talent level and experience of their teams. The focus can be on hiring the right and more diverse talent, not just the available talent. It also opens up the doors to hire workers with disabilities who might otherwise not have been able to work.

Contact centers that embrace change and a distributed workforce can create job opportunities for those in need, and it doesn't require sacrifice of quality service, but rather amplifies and elevates both the workforce and customer experience. A remote workforce that spans time zones and regions drastically improves customer experiences by enabling business around the clock and supports more American workers, no matter their real-life situation.

Companies can truly differentiate themselves by delivering fast, efficient service that consumers expect today. No more long hold times, no unnecessary bells and whistles, just reps who can answer questions quickly, ultimately giving precious time back to customers while simultaneously providing employees with flexible work schedules. In the end, this can help assure that customers and employees aren't heading over to competitors.

Scott Rose is chief operating officer of Elevate.