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Guest Blogger

by Mark Hillary

I was talking to a US-based senior executive in a CX specialist recently. He was asking me about what really matters to his potential customers. Of course, he has a lot of his own ideas, but he was asking for my views on what I would be looking for if I was in the market for a contact centre specialist.

I said ‘culture.’ If I’m running a big company and you are going to be handling my customers in your contact centre then I want to know that your team is treated well, they enjoy their jobs, they have good prospects, and we can plan for the future in a way where we trust each other.

He stopped me and said: ‘we invest a lot in our team and we know they are engaged and happy at work. In fact, you don’t need to take my word for it, go and look at glassdoor.

I looked. He was right. When I compared his company to some of his CX rivals it was clear that his employees were more satisfied in their job and even those who left the company often recommended it to others. Their employee satisfaction ratings were averaging in the top decile – basically scoring 90% or more satisfaction from present and former employees.

He told me that they recently ran a paid advertising campaign. A consulting firm had published an article about their approach to culture and engaged employees and it was extensively promoted on LinkedIn. How many prospective clients clicked on the information and went on to read the article published by the consulting firm?

Zero.

It’s quite a surprise. This was a paid promotion on LinkedIn with solid information published on the website of a well known consulting firm and it referred to some real evidence – including the glassdoor ratings. Not a single person clicked through to see what they had said about employee engagement and corporate culture.

Let’s assume that there was not just a problem with the promotion itself and that there is an issue with the topic. Do people really care about employee engagement and corporate culture or are they just paying lip service to this and really just focusing on which BPO can deliver 200 agents at the lowest price?

I think this is a dangerous situation for the clients and BPOs if they are reverting to the old adversarial model of only ever pitching for business based on price.

The entire contact centre business model is changing rapidly at present. A BPO needs more than just FTEs on seats. They need to show they can offer improved self-service, even the ability to create fantastic YouTube videos that the customers will find when searching for help. They need to influence what Alexa says when questioned about the products being supported. They need to build intelligent automation that really works and can offer help with simple problems immediately 24/7.

They need to understand that if a customer does speak directly to an agent then it is because they could not get the answers they needed from Google, Alexa, or a chatbot. This conversation may be the fourth attempt at help for the customer, even if it is the first human to human contact. The warehouse full of minimum-wage agents is going to be replaced by smaller contact centres staffed by real experts capable of this third or fourth line support.

Can a BPO keep a team of experts if they are not engaged? I don’t think so. Imagine employing a team of gamers to support other gamers. If they hate their job and just spend all day watching the clock – or playing more than helping – then who loses? The customer gets terrible service, the client isn’t satisfied, and the BPO will probably lose the contract at the next review point.

It seems obvious that employee engagement and culture matters even more in CX than in other industries because agents are on the frontline talking to customers. If they don’t want to be there then the customers will know and will not be satisfied with the service they receive.

But what about the experience of the executive I was talking to? He has a genuine good news story – independent evidence showing that people really like working in his company, not just some fake materials from marketing featuring smiling faces. Even he doesn’t seem to be able to get any prospective clients interested in culture.

Does nobody care about the agents? And if not, then how are we going to build great CX?

Please let me know what you think about how BPOs need to focus on culture – Leave a comment here or get in touch with me via my LinkedIn profile.

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