State of the nation: contact centres in 2021
The contact centre industry is always a fast-moving one – but the pace of change in 2020/21 has been phenomenal!
Since the pandemic broke out, the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) has been conducting an in-depth research programme into how the sector is changing. Connect Assist’s Chief Sales Officer, Amanda Mullans, is one of the contact centre leaders who’s been taking part.
So let’s do a quick dive into the study’s most recent findings – and some other research – to paint a picture of the state of the contact centre industry in 2021.
What happened in 2021?
Remote and hybrid working
Pretty much overnight in spring 2020, all of us switched to remote working. Now we’re settling into a hybrid pattern. Only around one-third of contact centre staff are in the office full-time.
Hybrid working has pros and cons, with some organisations finding it boosts productivity, and others saying advisors can feel isolated and “always on”.
The CCMA research suggests we’re in the “experimental phase”, with organisations making tweaks to get hybrid working right. But it’s definitely here to stay!
Recruitment and retention
ould this upheaval be one of the factors driving a recruitment and retention crisis in the sector? According to Calabrio, one-third of all advisors are considering leaving within a year.
However, the contact centre industry is not alone: Office for National Statistics figures cited by the CCMA show there were 953,000 UK job vacancies between May-July 2021.
Organisations are competing for talented staff – and offering remote working and flexible hours is a big draw. Onboarding and training for remote staff is tricky, but at Connect Assist, we’ve put a lot of effort into getting it right.
Probably the key issue when it comes to retention is that advisors are dealing with high volumes of stressed callers.
But already, this is prompting welcome change. According to the CCMA report: “One of the lasting legacies of the pandemic will be a heightened focus on colleague wellbeing, including more frequent check-ins and communication.”
Good employers are scheduling downtime, finding ways to build supportive teams, and introducing Employee Assistance Programmes. At Connect Assist, we’re doing all we can to help advisors build emotional resilience.
The pandemic has also prompted contact centres to develop their omnichannel provision, reducing strain on advisors while providing seamless customer journeys.
The report states: “The hard yards put in by contact centres to optimise their channel strategies since the start of the pandemic are now starting to pay off. Self-serve and live text chat are growing and are beginning to take demand away from phones and email.”
Of course, that human touch is still essential. But skilled, trained advisors should be focusing on complex or emotional calls, leaving AI-powered tech to deal with routine enquiries.
So with resilient advisors and great tech, are customers getting the best experience?
Another step forward is that contact centres and customer experience teams are becoming integrated. They’re also feeding into the development of new tech.
As our very own Amanda Mullans told the study: “We always involve [advisors] in user acceptance testing. When we design a new IT solution, we’ll ask advisors, ‘would that solve the issue?’.”
The future for contact centres
So what’s next? You can read our contact centre predictions for 2022 here.
But the pandemic has proved that contact centres must continue to be resilient and flexible throughout these uncertain times.
As Amanda Mullans says: “It feels as though there are fewer things that are obvious now, which makes strategic planning more tricky.
“The most successful organisations are going to be those that can pivot quickly to take advantage of that revised awareness or knowledge, and are able to adapt.”