The vast majority of customer service agents say they would prefer not to return to the contact center after being forced to work from home during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research published by ASAPP.
Based in New York, the firm best known for its cloud-based contact center platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology said it surveyed more than 570 contact center agents for its report, Is The Future Of CX At Home?
Despite ongoing headlines about companies asking employees in other business functions to return to the office, ASAPP found that nearly three-quarters of contact center agents, or 72 per cent, continue to work from home five days a week. Only nine per cent said they come into work even a few days per week.
Flexibility around where they work is only part of what contact center agents are looking for, however. The research showed that half of those surveyed believe their contact center technology is behind the times. Only 36 per cent of those working directly in customer service roles, meanwhile, have had four weeks of training or more.
The data also debunked the notion brands were truly supporting customers in an omni-channel manner. A full 95 per cent said they interact with customers through phone calls or audio, compared with 60 per cent e-mail and 43 per cent chat applications. On the other hand, nearly a third (29 per cent) said they were interacting with customers through video calls, suggesting this may become a more standard medium for service and support.
Overall, just under half, or 49 per cent of those surveyed said they felt optimistic about their career as a contact center agent.
“Over the last two years, agents have eliminated commuting and adapted
to working from home,” the report’s authors wrote. “CX leaders have the opportunity to reallocate budget from real estate expenses to invest in the digital transformation needed to support a remote workforce and deliver a modern customer experience.”
360 Magazine Insight
Leave it to ASAPP to ask the questions you almost never see in a contact center study. This included the consequences of giving up commuting and staying home, such as weight gain, alcohol consumption and more. Beyond the high-level findings there is much in this 30-page ungated report that provides a more illustrative look at agents are human beings, rather than simply corporate assets.
The is data to show, for instance, that agents are well aware that their employers are often investing in functions such as sales and marketing, but under-investing in automation that could empower them to work more successfully and from home. This obviously speaks to the kind of solutions that ASAPP provides, but the report pays as much attention to the training and development of agents as it does putting more software at their disposal.
This study builds upon research ASAPP has done in the past (360 Magazine Pro members should check out the interview I did with the company’s chief experience officer–and former contact center agent–Mike Lawder). If I had any suggestion for future surveys, it would be to check in with these agents in about a year and find out how coaching and managing changed for those who got to remain working at home. There’s no question that technology can do a lot to make agents more successful, but many firms still need to figure out how much direct guidance and supervision will be necessary in a WFH paradigm.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.