Published: November 09, 2022 | Comments
Keeping customers happy has never been more important, or more challenging. The last few years have brought massive changes in skill and training requirements, technology, and workforce management practices.
In mid-2022, ICMI once again asked contact center professionals to share their biggest challenges, best practices, and strategic plans by taking part in our State of the Contact Center survey. We are sharing an executive summary of the findings from that survey here, and we encourage the ICMI community to download the full report to help benchmark your contact center organization’s people, process, and technology maturity against your peers.
Demand for contact center skills remains strong. In fact, 9 out of 10 contact centers plan to maintain or grow their workforces in 2023, with half of those filling roles as they come open, and another half creating and filling new roles. Only about 5% of respondents are looking at a hiring freeze and a mere 1% are planning to eliminate contact center positions.
Many of those new hires, and the teams they’ll be joining, will be working remotely. In 2021, 13% of respondents said they planned to keep all agents at home full-time. This year, 20% told us they remain all remote. Very large contact centers are most likely to have brought everyone back to the office, with 22% of organizations with more than 10,000 agents saying they are now all in-person. Overall, however, just 13% of contact centers require workers to show up at their facilities in person every day.
That shift is having an impact on compensation plans. More than half of respondents’ contact centers (59%) adjust salaries and hourly rates based on staff location (we are hearing anecdotally that pay differentials are cutting both ways – employers are considering reducing pay as remote work allows some contact center staff to move out of high-cost regions).
While direct comparisons aren’t perfect, due to yearly changes in the size and type of organizations our survey respondents represent, average salaries were up slightly at every level from Agent to Director.
The compensation outlook is positive for many workers in the coming year, as 51% of contact centers plan to increase salaries and hourly rates over the next 12 to 18 months. Plus, a majority of staff (about 87%) are eligible for compensation when they work outside normal work hours, whether that’s added to their paycheck or earned as comp time.
Bonuses may also help ease any macroeconomic pain that contact center pros might be feeling. As of mid-2022, 83% of management and 71% of staff were eligible for bonuses, and more than a quarter of respondents told us they expect bonuses to increase in 2023. Another 24% plan to begin offering bonuses for the first time in the new year. Benefits will also be improving for many workers, as almost 40% of organizations in our survey plan increases.
For most contact center pros, getting a big pay jump still requires taking on a new role, adding a new skill, or leaving the contact center altogether.
In terms of skills, agents who are looking for a raise need to focus on their people skills. Respondents told us that the top factors determining which agents will see increases are interpersonal skills, communication skills, teamwork skills, an ability to learn quickly, integrity, customer service skills, problem-solving skills, ability to work under pressure, and adaptability.
Supervisors should hone a similar list of skills, but will also be expected to demonstrate integrity, a grasp of the technology agents are using, and leadership. Line and senior managers are naturally expected to have developed exemplary business skills, but emotional intelligence and conflict resolution are also high on the list of factors determining who might move into a new tax bracket.
Even with a relatively positive compensation outlook, contact center attrition remains high, with 57% of respondents telling us that turnover is up over last year. Some blame the turnover on hiring teams, with bad fit/bad hire topping the reasons cited for the increase. Workload, pay equity, and lack of growth opportunities are also near the top.
Not all who wander away are lost, however. On average, about three-quarters of those changing jobs over the last year stayed in-house, either moving to a new role in the contact center or taking on a new challenge elsewhere in the organization.
Even in an increasingly omnichannel world, quality managers remain focused first and foremost on voice, email, and chat channels when monitoring quality and performance. The fall-off for other channels is steep, with less than 10% of respondents tracking self-service and social channels on a regular basis.
Across all channels and industries, the metrics most commonly tracked by respondents in 2022 are:
- Customer satisfaction
- Agent productivity
- Abandonment rate
- Adherence to schedule
- Average handle time
- Average speed of answer
- Quality score
- Service level/response time
- Average response time
Solid training for newly hired and tenured agents, as well as all other contact center roles, is the biggest determinant of quality and performance. Unfortunately, training time is limited (less than 10 days per year, on average) once employees complete onboarding. Only 70% of respondents feel that new agents receive adequate training in their contact centers, a drop from 90% in our last survey.
Most training remains on-the-job, with call monitoring, shadowing, and coaching common, along with more formal classroom and online classes. AI-based training is increasing. More more than a quarter of respondents checked the box on real-time guidance from an intelligent virtual assistant.
About 56% of contact centers in our survey have dedicated managers or teams responsible for scheduling. Unfortunately, workforce management remains a manual process at more than half of the organizations responding to our survey, with managers adjusting and updating schedules - and building forecasts - by hand. Schedule creation, analysis, and changes to channel assignments are more likely to be automated.
Close to 90% of respondents are outsourcing some or all of their contact center services/interactions. Most who are outsourcing (70%) aren’t planning to make any changes to their current arrangement in the coming year. Very good news for BPOs: only about 6% of their customers in our sample are unsatisfied with their outsourcing arrangement.
About 43% of survey respondents outsource less than half of contact center services. Only a very small minority are outsourcing all contact center services/interactions.
Cost remains the primary reason organizations aren’t expanding outsourcing activity. Control and service quality concerns top the list of reasons given by the 11% who haven’t yet hired an outsourcer. Less than 10% of our sample pointed to better technology as a reason to outsource.
Organizations continue investing significantly to keep their contact center tech up to date.
In 2022, contact centers that are investing in new or upgraded technology are doing so to support continual process improvement, to better align with business goals, and to accommodate or prepare for changes in business model. Improving the customer experience and controlling costs are still important investment targets but are less of a focus compared to last year’s survey.
Analytics and AI are taking up a good percentage of tech budgets, making up half of the categories targeted for organizations planning updates or new investment in 2023, with predictive analytics and intelligent virtual agents the top targets for new spending in that category. Workforce collaboration and quality monitoring tech are the top update or replacement candidates.
Thank you to everyone from the ICMI community who participated in this year’s State of the Contact Center survey. Sharing your insights and best practices each year is immensely valuable to your peers as they benchmark their own practices.
Be sure to download the full report and please let us know how you use the information to improve operations, evolve how your teams work, and supercharge their ability to delight your customers.