With vaccination programs rolling out across the world, employers everywhere have been wrestling with the conundrum of how to keep staff safe, whether or not to offer ‘hybrid working’ and when exactly to reopen their offices. Or in the case of Anthony Klotz, professor at Mays Business School in Texas, they might as well not bother. If Klotz is correct, the ‘Great Resignation’ means there will be fewer employees to worry about for a lot of companies.
Klotz’s theory is that during a time of huge uncertainty, many workers who are unsatisfied in their jobs will continue to stay put regardless; a pandemic-induced ‘better the devil you know’ situation. The UN reported that 225m jobs were lost in 2020 worldwide, so remaining in a role you didn’t love was preferable to the alternative.
In businesses and departments where maintaining a certain level of staffing is crucial to its ability to provide good customer experiences, a large churn of workers could have a huge impact. Disgruntled customers won’t have a lot of patience for waiting on hold or not receiving a response because there aren’t enough agents in the contact center, for instance.
As the pandemic subsides, these would-be quitters...will likely enact their plans to leave. In fact the surge of turnover is already underway...In short, the backlog of resignations caused by the pandemic are now beginning to clear.
Anthony Klotz, Mays Business School
What will 'The Great Resignation' look like?
The turnover in the US workforce was significantly lower year on year in 2020, with 6 million fewer resignations. According to employee analytics company Visier, the ‘Great Resignation’ may have already begun, with resignation rates starting to rise in March of this this year, a figure backed up by Microsoft’s Work Trend Report which says over 40% of global workers are considering leaving their job.
One solution to offsetting a potential mass exodus of workers is introducing a hybrid work model that allows staff to split their time between the office and home. Strangely, saving time and money on commuting, lunch, and regular coffee breaks, as well as having more time with family, has woken the world up to an alternative way of working. Who knew?
73% of employees want flexible remote work options to stay. The desire for continued remote working when Covid restrictions are lifted has prompted the UK Government to consider the right for hybrid models to become law.
Government legislation and measures put in place by companies can help meet the demands of a modern workforce, but it’s likely to impact certain areas of business more than others. Let’s look at the contact center and how teams have had to adapt over the past 15+ months; in January to July of 2020 there was a 47% increase in demands for remote working for call center workers. This presented an issue that initially seemed like a short-term solution, but is in fact becoming a long-term reality.
Looking at the potential impact of both ‘The Great Resignation’ and a desire for more flexibility with working locations, customer care operations need to investigate ways to adapt and still maintain the level of service that their customers expect. This can potentially mean fewer human agents, and those who are left aren’t all going to have access to all the technology and equipment they used to- like phone or computer systems - to help them perform their jobs.
At the start of the pandemic, we at Conversocial saw unbelievable surges in volume, with the first industry to be hit being airlines. As you can see below, there was a 2600% increase of inbound queries in just a ten 10 day period in March 2020 for one of our airline partners.
Increase in customer inbound queries for airlines in March 2020
I’m not suggesting that this is likely to happen to airlines, or indeed any industry again anytime soon, but the amount of agents and phone lines was nowhere near enough to cope with such a huge uptick. Another solution was required. Similarly, with a reduced workforce split between home and the office, the solution is still the same - messaging channels and automation.
Messaging channels are built to handle millions, if not billions, of conversations at any one time. This means that no matter how well-staffed a contact center is, the ability to serve customer queries will never be affected.
Whats more, a high proportion of customer conversations fall into the same categories. Using data to understand which are the most common queries means they can often be handled without the need for human intervention.
Take for instance airline data from early in the pandemic shown below. In order to manage the volume surge, it was vital to understand what was driving it.
Two intents drove the majority of the volume surge early in the pandemic
You can see from the graph that it was two particular requests that were disproportionately affecting the volume. Once those top intents are understood, finding a way to take as much of the pressure off the customer care team and handle the extra conversations at scale is the key to keeping customers happy.
For airlines, especially at that time, most of the queries were cancellation or voucher related. In the retail sector, most customers wanted to track their delivery or in the case of brick and mortar stores location or opening hours.
These principles can likewise apply to times when the world isn’t imploding as well, especially when resources are reduced or agents don’t have the equipment to operate at full capacity. It’s possible to completely automate certain sections of the process, or for more complicated issues, deploy a service bot that can take the relevant information (like order number or booking reference), so the agent has all the required information when it’s handed over to them.
During the pandemic, many employees reassessed what they want from their personal and work lives. But instead of accepting an onslaught of two-week notices, companies can reengage employees and plan for the inevitable.
A new hybrid way of working is looking likely to become the norm, just as a global employment merry-go-round is starting up. Our data shows that brands across a wide spectrum of industries are still seeing much higher digital engagement than that of pre-pandemic levels. Customer habits are changing so brands can’t afford to have any drop off in their ability to service consumer needs.
A cost effective solution is to introduce automation to help manage the load. It could be just to fill in the gaps during a time of increased recruitment and training, or as a fundamental shift in CX strategy that introduces service bots as an essential cog in the machine. Hybrid working doesn’t just have to refer to staff splitting their time between the office and home, it can also mean bots and humans working together to improve customer satisfaction and reduce contact center costs for good.