The Execs in the Know Customer Response Summit in Marina del Rey has come to an end and with that comes reflection on the fantastic discussions and presentations from the event.

The Challenge of having Agents as At-Will Employees

Leaders from top brands like Microsoft, Nationwide, and Amazon were all in attendance to discuss the latest trends in customer service and what disruption/innovations they should be ready for next. One persistent theme that was heard throughout the event was how brands can continue to drive exceptional customer service experience despite the rising demand from agents to be at-will employees. Popularized by Uber and Lyft, employees can pick-up a “gig” and work when it is convenient for them. Contact center leaders are now thinking through how best to live in this new Gig Economy while also managing service levels, agent performance, and scheduling requirements. More solutions on how best to proceed to follow.

In addition to being active participants at the three-day event in Marina Del Rey, Sparkcentral also conducted two 40-minute presentation/workshops. A compelling discussion was led by our CEO, Joe Gagnon, on how messaging can help organizations deliver extraordinary customer experiences and change the way service is delivered. We explored questions like:

  • If asynchronous messaging had been around ten years ago, would session-based live chat even exist?

  • With the empowerment and convenience that messaging provides, what impact might that have on customer satisfaction?
  • How do voice agents and messaging agents differ in terms of skill-set, onboarding period, and performance management?

Can’t say enough great things about the active participation and the positive feedback we received from the 100 plus attendees.

Managing Agents in the new Gig Economy

Now, circling back to managing agents in the new Gig Economy. It was clear after our conversations that there are many hurdles that organizations must deal with in order to support this new type of workforce. For large organizations, there are simply infrastructure challenges that may take years to overcome in order to support remote voice agents. There are also technology hurdles, for example, most Workforce Management platforms do not support the ability for agents to choose their own schedules easily via a mobile bidding application. The last challenge that was discussed was the investment organizations make in onboarding voice agents and the risk/lack of return they might receive by allowing the employees to be at-will.

Contact center leaders will continue to work through these challenges and change will not happen overnight, but one takeaway from the conference is that leaders know they must shift soon, before it is too late.

Steps to Take Now

The above challenges notwithstanding, there are steps that organizations can begin to make to get ready for this new workforce. In particular, messaging as a customer service channel presents opportunities that voice just can’t match, such as:

  • Agents can work from anywhere! Voice agents need a relatively quiet workspace, aka a bullpen or if they are lucky a work-from-home installation. Messaging agents, on the other hand, could work from a Starbucks for all we care. This type of flexibility is exactly what the Gig Generation is looking for.
  • The onboarding and investment of a messaging agent is significantly less than that of a voice agent. Depending on your organization onboarding a voice agent may take anywhere from two weeks to four months, whereas onboarding of a messaging agent can take as little as one day. The reason for the discrepancy is that voice agents must be able to think on their feet and be equipped to handle screaming customer complaints. With messaging the interaction is not real-time, and the agent has time to think, ask questions to other team members, and draw from a customized, drag and drop knowledgebase.
  • No more technology hurdles. Sparkcentral can literally stand up an environment in a matter of days. The only thing the agent needs to be productive is a laptop and an internet connection.

It is not hard to believe that messaging will be the future of customer service. Just ask yourself, “Would I like to message an organization and continue on with my day, or would I prefer to be put on hold and listen to a bad saxophone solo for 20 minutes?” I love Kenny G as much as the next guy, but I think the answer is clear.

If you are interested in learning more about how Sparkcentral is helping brands like Netflix, Instacart, and others reach their customers across a variety of different messaging channel feel free to MESSAGE US!

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