It seems like every day we learn about a new brick-and-mortar retail giant that is closing stores across the country. Sam’s Club, Toys R Us, Sears and Macy’s are just a few retailers saying goodbye to physical locations. While some are moving to e-commerce, others are simply no longer competitive. The result is a workforce of retail associates in need of work. Many may pursue positions in the food service industry or other retail opportunities, but contact centers are also a great fit for these workers’ skill sets. While customer service jobs within contact centers are often overlooked, they present opportunities for career growth and development in a way that other alternatives cannot.
To attract and retain qualified workers, contact centers must key in on who they are recruiting to fill positions. Millennials and some Gen Z cohorts are looking for employment opportunities characterized by flexibility, community engagement and a sense of purpose. As a result, companies must be more agile in their scheduling, hiring and training. In fact, according to a study by Bentley University, 77% of millennials feel flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive, and half of millennials are looking for their employer to invest in training and development. It is also important to understand generational differences when looking at your approach to hiring and learning, as more recent generations are seeking meaningful work, while less recent demographic generations may seek opportunities to learn about advanced technologies.
While a competitive wage and enticing benefits are important, organizations also have to progress their training and development programs to accommodate the aspirations of entry-level employees and empower customer service representatives to meet the needs of consumers. Below are three ways contact centers have changed their strategy as staffing has transformed.
Evolving the Curriculum
As the demographics of contact center employees have changed, the way entry-level workers learn has also transitioned. Rather than sticking with traditional instructor-led training, it is critical to shift to a blended learning approach. Training programs must embrace adult learning and performance-based curriculums that encourage active participation and job practice. Learning has become more interactive than lecture-style training, and most learners need more hands-on practice to cultivate problem-solving skills that are critical in customer engagement. Contact center learning has shifted from training to facilitation, and learners now demand shorter, yet practical application during knowledge transfer.
Today, consumers are constantly shifting their preferred customer service support channels. Keeping pace with evolving customer expectations requires an understanding of technology. With the rise of chat, email, social media and voice assistants, consumers expect fast response times in the channel of their choice. To adapt to new communication structures, it is imperative that representatives are comfortable interacting with customers on a growing number of channels. Furthermore, the increasing use of chatbots and AI to automate customer service inquiries makes it even more essential that representatives have the technical capabilities to manage the transition from chatbot to human-human communication. Given the complexities, employees must be given practice using technology in the classroom, and training by device is critical.
Making Training Worthwhile
View the learning you provide as a product that can attract employees. A strong curriculum that allows people to grow their skill set is a value-add for entry-level employees who are focused on professional development. By attracting candidates who are focused on additional education and creating a career in customer service, your employees will be more passionate about the company. As a result, customer service representatives will be willing to go the extra mile and share improvement suggestions, which can improve your contact center’s customer satisfaction scores.
Customer service tasks are also becoming more complex. This means more demands are being placed on employees. Continuous and lifelong learning will become increasingly relevant for employee development. To retain motivated customer service representatives, microlearning and individualized training must be integrated.
As contact centers look to adapt to societal trends and find the right talent to deliver a high-quality customer experience, training and development are more important than ever. Whether it is evolving the curriculum to better meet the needs of today’s learners, integrating technology to support the growth of omnichannel customer service or offering training that helps entry-level employees advance their careers, contact center staffing must progress in order to meet customer demands.