While contact center agents might be ready to jump head first into the gig economy, contact center management is a bit more reluctant, and for good reason. Having on-demand customer service agents isn’t as simple as engaging drivers for Uber. Before making the transition to gig workers, it is important to explore the differences between managing employee-agents and on-demand agents.
- Gig workers are likely to be:
- More challenging to train (limited to online training typically). If training isn’t handled property, access to training could be part of a retention strategy
- Less tenured and less likely to earn tenure
- Less likely to have same levels of loyalty as an employee
- Motivated by access to more hours, or preferred times
- Gig workers will also tend to be:
- Easier to acquire
- More flexible
Beyond the mindset differences, there are other unique challenges to managing gig contact center agents that companies must address before they look at an on-demand agent model.
It all starts with a sound technology foundation. Real-time adherence data and alarms are critically important in a Gig Economy environment because your staff will not be standard. Gig economy workers typically do not have formally scheduled non-working times such as breaks or vacation time, sick time, etc. When forecasting, don’t inflate staff requirement by applying staff shrinkage predictions for these types of activities. Shrinkage types such as non-vacation absence, unproductive will apply. There may be types of staff shrinkage unique to these workers. WFM acts as a filter and arbiter of times potentially conflicting with work rules.
Create the Building Blocks of Schedules
There needs to be a clear understanding of what staff is needed and when. Then this needs to be communicated to agents in a way that they desire, push notifications from an app, text messages or any other channel they prefer. These work opportunities should be presented as “Requirements” or Time Blocks which will be visible to agents and available for them to grab time slots to work like inventory on a store shelf.
Stock the Shelves
What time blocks do you want to offer agents (15 minute, 30 minute, 1 hour, 2 hour, etc.)? Larger blocks are less efficient for volatile staffing requirements while smaller blocks offer more options for employees. Of course some time slots will be less desirable for agents to work like holidays or meal hours. Consider offering incentives for working these blocks. This could be merit increment for gamification, different pay rate, or other special incentive.
Publish the Inventory and Control Who can Access the Store
There are certain blocks of times that you may want to exclusively offer to particular groups of agents. Perhaps there is one area that should only be staffed by agents with advanced training. When stocking the selves of the gig economy, it is important to have controls in place for what employees, contractors, agents, or workers may build schedules and when they are allowed to build schedules. Considerations may include:
- Arranging by skill, contract or employment status, regional applicability, etc.
- Automate control over when employees are allowed to start building schedules
- Automate control over when employees must stop building schedules
- Example strategies for managing access:
- Free for all
- Reward a group or groups(s) with early access as part of gamification strategy
- One worker or team at a time
Request and Release Options
Agents should be free to make changes to their schedules during their time window and request and release slots as they wish. In our store analogy think of this as the inventory model: selecting apples, returning some apples to shelf, selecting some carrots, checking out. Once an employee ‘saves’ their schedule or ‘checks out’ there should be business rules that are enforced should a change need to be made. This keeps flexibility for agents and predictable continuity for the business.
The gig economy provides new opportunities for contact centers to meet staffing requirements nimbly and with less cost than hiring employees. Agents are embracing the gig economy as it provides flexible work arrangements that they have more control over. However, there are many business and legal considerations to consider before diving in head first but now is the time to lay a solid foundation for the new on demand workforce.