Trends drive business and social behavior, which is why we are always interested in observing and analyzing those that will impact contact centers and their suppliers now and into the future.
Following are five over-arching business trends from Pelorus Associates’ latest report, 2018 World Market for Workforce Management Systems Market. The first two trends have occurred in our reports for over a decade; the others are more recent. As you review these, think about how they impact the way you manage and equip your contact center.
- Service as a competitive differentiator. Delivering superior service is a major point of competitive differentiation. Unlike technology innovations, price reductions and special promotions, quality customer care cannot be easily replicated by competitors.
- I want it my way. The preference for individuality over conformity can be seen every day. Businesses seeking to win over today’s consumers need to have a thorough understanding of customer preferences and possess the agility to respond faster than their competitors. Businesses also need the flexibility to communicate with their customers in a variety of modes.
- Gig economy. A generation or two ago (depending on your age), it was not unusual for individuals to spend their entire careers with just two or three employers—all in the same industry and often performing the very same or similar jobs. Not so anymore. “Secure employment” has become an oxymoron. Economists are now talking about the so-called “gig” economy where workers become Independent contractors that sell their skills on an opportunistic basis. Contact center work is highly desirable for qualified people that are predisposed to favor contract relationships. With today’s cloud-based technology a customer service representative can perform his or her work from virtually any location that has good voice and data communications service.
- Pending labor shortages. U.S. unemployment dropped to 3.9% in August 2018, thanks to continued economic growth, boomer retirements and a productivity slump that forced companies to add new workers. This will exacerbate the already difficult job of recruiting and retaining qualified customer service representatives and it will also impact labor costs. Amazon, with 250,000 employees, plans to raise its minimum wage to $15/hour. The median hourly wage for a customer service representative in May 2017 was $15.81.
- Slowing productivity growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that overall productivity has been growing, but only 1.2% per year over the past 10 years—the slowest growth since the 1970s. In the fourth quarter of 2017, productivity growth was 0.0% versus Q4, 2016. Currently about 90% of an agent’s day is spent handling customer interactions, waiting for calls, and in meetings or training. Managers can’t expect employees to work much harder without risking burnout. Further productivity gains can result from investing in workforce management software and other productivity-enhancing applications.