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Five New Truths: How the Great Resignation is Changing Contact Centers

A global re-evaluation of what constitutes meaningful work has brought us to a time many are calling “The Great Resignation.” The trend has further challenged contact centers already in the throes of pandemic-driven staffing and customer service issues.  

According to the U.S. Labor Department, more than 4.5 million people voluntarily left their jobs in November of last year. That was up from 4.2 million in October and was the most in the two decades that the government has been keeping track.

Workforce management (WFM) has never been more difficult for contact centers as the available pool of qualified agents shrinks and the risk of training new employees comes with the possibility they will quickly become dissatisfied with monotonous work and eventually resign.  

“Right now, our biggest concern within the call center space – specifically on reservations – is the lack of manpower. After the Great Resignation, we hired 2,500 people since May 1st of 2021. Of those, we have already lost 1,300.

So all of that work just to end up with 1,200 people. Now we are facing a need to hire an additional 2,500 people before the start of the summer. Our biggest concern right now is how to get people through the pipeline as fast as possible and make them as productive as possible as soon as they start.”

– CX Managing Director, Fortune 500 Airline

The WFM challenges of 2022 are accelerating the need for innovation in the contact center. It’s imperative that every stakeholder in your organization’s customer service operation takes a step back to reassess how they traditionally addressed WFM. 

Start with these five new truths:

Truth #1: Training is more expensive than ever 

According to Call Centre Helper, over half (55%) of contact centers take 6-12 weeks to fully train and onboard new agents. For these contact centers, nesting costs range from $115,200 – $345,600, without factoring in costs such as trainer’s salary, HR, costs, or IT costs. 

What’s worse is the risk of deploying under-trained agents to customer service calls can be just as costly when it comes to retention and branding. 

Contact centers must be judicious about where their hiring budget goes. It’s unfeasible to proceed with normal training budgets and processes in the face of skyrocketing attrition rates. Instead, leaders should look to allocate investments to automation softwares that leverages conversational AI to fully resolve tier-1 requests and make agents’ jobs more engaging and less monotonous. After all, automation that uses conversational AI only needs to be trained once. 

Truth #2: Brands are at risk 

Bad customer experiences are driving customers away faster than ever. According to PwC, one in three customers will leave a brand they are loyal to after one bad experience. What’s more frightening for contact centers is that what a customer defines as a poor experience can occur before your agents even get on the phone.

For understaffed contact centers, queue times have jumped up significantly. When a customer calls in, they can quickly become frustrated with dated IVRs that aim to deflect rather than resolve. Where automation can help brands is by acting as a “first line of service” for agents. Rather than simply pointing customers to websites or long queue times, automation can achieve the same resolution that humans can, without straying from your brand’s promise of excellent customer service. 

Truth #3: Customer patience has reached all-time lows

As WFM challenges worsen in contact centers, customers are losing their sympathy. Nearly 80% of American consumers point to speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service as the most important elements of a positive customer experience.

90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important when they have a customer service question. Customers expect a response from a company within five minutes or less. Without an easy-to-reach contact center, your CSAT scores are fighting an uphill battle. That’s why the benefit of automation that results in zero queue times is impossible to ignore. 

Truth #4: Traditional solutions are failing

Record-setting resignation rates have increased the need for labor. But where seasonal or temporary hires would step in to fill the gaps in years past, today’s unprecedented resignation rates are exposing the risks of quick hires. The drawbacks of seasonal or temporary hiring include:

  • Relying on past KPIs that no longer hold to forecast future and immediate hiring needs
  • Sunk training costs from hires that have joined in the last year and attrited
  • No guarantee of lower AHTs, higher CSAT scores, or lower queue times
  • Cost overruns, sometimes paying for agents to not be online
  • Harm to your brand promise from lack of control and unpredictability
  • Staffing issues in BPOs themselves

Truth #5: The “innovation race” is on

According to Harvard Business Review, 52% percent of companies accelerated their AI adoption plans because of the pandemic. Just about all, 86%, said that AI was becoming a “mainstream technology” at their company in 2021. 

That’s because AI-driven automation directly addresses the challenges brought on by the Great Resignation. It performs the jobs of an unlimited number of agents, helps retain your current employees by automating repetitive tasks, gets customers resolution faster than ever, and protects your brand promise. 

Download The Great Resignation: Why Your Contact Center Won't Survive Without Automation


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