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Guest Blogger

by Mark Hillary

Earlier this year Megan Neale, the co-founder and COO of LIMITLESS Technology featured as a guest on my CX Files podcast. Megan was talking about Gig CX because the Limitless platform allows companies to onboard, train, and manage remote gig customer service agents – all based at home.

This is quite a dramatic change from the traditional contact centre, but now that most contact centres are functioning with people entirely based at home, isn’t it time to start looking at some more imaginative ways to engage the people that are answering those calls? Instead of 8-hour shifts at the kitchen table, why not pay agents for each customer interaction, even if they only work for a couple of hours a day?

I recently wrote a book about Gig CX with Terry Rybolt and Brian Pritchard from LiveXchange. This is a similar platform from across the Atlantic and although the immediate assumption is that these companies are trying to replace the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector, Terry has argued several times on his blog that this isn’t the real target.

Terry said in a recent article: “When you look at Gig CX from this angle there is the potential for it to be a useful tool for managers who run their own in-house customer service center or those who work with a supplier and find that their supplier constantly struggles during those periods when they need to stretch.”

Terry nailed it in this comment. It doesn’t matter if you are running a contact centre in-house or working with a CX specialist, there will always be some busy periods when you just cannot ramp up to meet demand. This has been a perennial feature of the pandemic with airlines struggling to process booking changes and refund requests and government agencies desperately trying to coordinate Covid tests or vaccines.

Gig CX offers an immediate answer. Build a bench of people who are trained and capable of answering calls or messages, but are not coming into work everyday – they are just out there and available to work from home when needed. If Black Friday is approaching then you can ramp up the team to meet demand and then reduce it back to normal as the crisis subsides.

The analyst firm Gartner recently predicted that Gig CX is about to become so pervasive that 75% of customer interactions with an agent will be with a freelancer by 2025 – not with a permanently employed contact centre agent. This Gartner prediction is interesting because it suggests that even the BPOs might start exploring the Gig CX model themselves, creating a core team that is supported by contingent workers.

So far this might sound a little like just another justification for the gig economy. I am personally not a fan of gig economy platforms that drive down rates to an almost impossible low – paying almost nothing to have your meal delivered from a restaurant is a good example. Gig CX is quite different. People want these jobs.

In fact it’s not quite the correct analogy to compare someone in a contact centre to a Gig CX agent. Here’s why. The Gig CX agent will work when they want, within the boundaries of when the brand needs extra help. The Gig CX agent will know about the product or brand they are supporting and will often be a fan. A good strategy for many brands that want to build up a bench of Gig CX agents is to go out and find their fans on social networks and ask if they are interested in getting paid each time they help a customer.

Imagine if you are a fan of clothes from Asos and you regularly post new styles on Instagram, then Asos gets in touch and says ‘hey we love your photos, do you want to be an ambassador for us by helping our customers?’

This is an entirely different approach to customer service and it is only possible through the Gig CX approach combined with working from home. I can’t imagine a traditional BPO hunting down influencers on Instagram and asking if they want to spend 40-hours a week in a contact centre handling calls.

So, you have agents who love your products, they want to engage with the customers, and they know they are getting paid each time they help someone. Imagine how fired up people like this will be. Just show them how to use the system and you are away.

There is another interesting aspect to this. The point at which a customer and agent interact is changing. It is now normal for a customer to turn to Google or Alexa for ideas before ever calling a helpline. Their first interaction when reaching out to a brand might be an automated chatbot anyway. This means that there might be 2-3 levels of interaction between the customer and brand before a human is ever answering a call or message.

This is another reason why Gig CX can be a useful tool. The expectation on agents to really know about the products is going to be through the roof. If your customer can’t find the answer on Google, has asked Alexa, and then the AI system said you need to talk to a human then that agent needs to be on top of their game. Just imagine getting this far and then finding that you know more than the agent.

Hiring fans of your products means you are already most of the way there. Teaching someone to use the virtual contact centre system has to be easier than teaching them how to love and understand your products so they can demonstrate enthusiasm to every single customer.

A combination of Gig CX and fans of brands will drive a wave of change in CX this year – are you ready to embrace it?

Please let me know what you think about fans of brands and Gig CX. Leave a comment here or get in touch with me via my LinkedIn profile.

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