It would be fair to say that business leaders have faced more questions than they had answers for over the past 18 months. While at the time this might have felt like chaos, the pandemic opened our eyes to a completely new way of working. Now, CX businesses around the world are exploring new opportunities for more flexible working models and for many, 2022 will be a period of readjustment.

Here, Susan Ysona, Vice President of Marketing at Talkdesk draws on recent research to explore how CX businesses considering building a hybrid working model can ensure great employee engagement.

Will hybrid working hinder employee engagement?

Earlier this year, Talkdesk conducted research and interviewed over 650 global CX professionals working in SMEs across healthcare, financial services, insurance, retail and e-commerce. The research aimed to highlight the challenges and opportunities CX businesses may face in the coming months, as flexible working arrangements become more common.

an image showing engaged employees.

The research found that a hybrid workforce model appears to be the “best fit” for the majority (61%) of contact centres, while nearly half (45%) plan to implement flexible shifts, allowing employees to work varying hours and days each week. Only 4% intend to leverage a fully remote workplace. While these working models are sure to bring greater flexibility, agents need to continue feeling supported and engaged with their roles.

Supportive employers recognise the changes in working practices that agents have experienced as a result of the pandemic and the importance of new habits. But they also make hybrid working possible so that agents can interact and engage with colleagues professionally and socially when together on-site. This can drive stronger employee satisfaction which has a positive impact when it comes to retaining and attracting talent. 

Currently, just 53% of organisations report their contact centre employees to be “highly engaged”, while 54% expect the average level of agent attrition to be 20% or higher over the next three years. As the industry progresses into a new and more flexible era, this is the perfect opportunity for agent retention to be taken seriously.

Build a hybrid working model with metrics in mind

CX leaders need to understand the importance of employee engagement in driving business outcomes. As they fight to retain employees amid the “Great Resignation” this year and beyond, CX leaders might stand to benefit from a fresh look at the role of employee satisfaction in driving long-term, sustainable productivity and business growth.

an image showing two young woman talking about building a hybrid work model.

Currently, less than half (42%) of organisations track Employee Satisfaction (ESAT) scores in the contact centre, with many using productivity and attendance metrics to indirectly get a more traditional ‘output’ performance-based view. It could be time, as many of us shift to a hybrid model, for CX leaders to prioritise more immediate — and more “human-centric” — measures that drive engagement, like ESAT.

Our research also identified a number of different ways CX businesses can track engagement, without over-emphasising performance-related metrics, which can have a detrimental impact.

Of the businesses we surveyed:

  • 53% currently use employee productivity metrics such as call resolution rate and calls taken per shift to track engagement.
  • 51% look at employee attendance metrics such as the number of days absent, late or taken off sick.
  • 43% rely on regular group or department meetings.
  • 42% use employee satisfaction ratings.
  • 39% conduct one-to-one employee-supervisor meetings.

Digital solutions present a number of new opportunities for CX leaders, who are now able to benefit from a fresh way of looking at employee satisfaction.

Are digital collaboration tools a worthwhile investment? 

While large organisations can easily afford to invest in new technologies, those with small budgets may question if digital collaboration tools are really a worthwhile investment.

Our research found that organisations plan to invest more in Workforce Engagement Management (WEM) tools over the next three years, with improved productivity and customer satisfaction the two main drivers.

In fact, 57% of those surveyed expect to see an improvement in efficiency and productivity, while 48% believe the implementation of WEM tools would lead to higher rates of customer satisfaction. Looking more closely at the bottom line, 37% hoped to see reduced running costs, while 30% believed these tools would lead to a decrease in staff turnover.

The importance of an engaged workforce in delivering the best customer experience cannot be understated. It all starts with a driven team – whichever shift pattern they might be working. 

Which shift pattern is right for my business?

Flexible shifts look set to dominate the post-pandemic workplace, however, in order to build stability across the team, organisations need to consider which model works best for them and their individual needs.

Our research identified four of the main flexible options to build a hybrid working model:

  • 45% of those surveyed planned to introduce  flexible shifts, where employees can work varying days and hours every week.
  • 32% favoured a rotating shift pattern, meaning employees rotated between day and night shifts.
  • Just 19% were open to shift bidding, where employees can express an interest in a specific shift window.
  • Interestingly, the traditional ‘fixed shifts’ pattern is still expected to be used by 39% of those surveyed.

As with most complex business decisions, a “perfect” solution will likely evade leaders and when choosing a long-term workforce model the anticipated benefits need to be weighed against the potential challenges. During this process, you need to keep in mind the organisation’s goals, resources and unique circumstances.

For example, a fully remote working model might reduce operational and contact centre costs by removing the need for many costly overheads, however, an investment may be required in data security processes and this might outweigh the perceived cost savings.

It will come as no surprise that communication and collaboration challenges ranked among the top two issues expected by organisations planning to use a hybrid or remote workforce model. Digital tools offer the perfect opportunity to foster effective employee communication and collaboration whether working in a hybrid world or not, as well as improving customer experience and we anticipate seeing them being deployed at speed throughout 2022.

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