More and more, contact center staff are taking ownership of structuring their workweeks to match their personal interests, goals, and obligations. In becoming their own boss, an empowered agent may have a day job and an evening or weekend job, may have a successful “side-hustle,” or may be cobbling together multiple “gigs” to create a full-time-like job.
Pew Research estimates that 16% of US adults are current or recent gig workers, while other analysts estimate that up to 35% of the US population is, or has been, involved in gig work. McKinsey posits that gig-weighted staffing models are leading to “an on-demand revolution in customer-experience operations.”
A mix of in-house and external talent with gig-style staffing models can infuse new energy and flexibility into many contact centers. Relying less on full-time roles can be advantageous for both workers and employers. However, when a gig worker has several companies demanding their time and attention, employers essentially compete for loyalty and engagement.
To make matters more challenging, an agent’s responsibilities are far from what they once were. Cognitive loads are increasing to levels that are especially inappropriate for gig work. Agents must remember hundreds of details. They are simultaneously listening, researching, writing, screen-toggling, problem solving, following procedures, and striving for targets during every interaction. They switch among channels, products, call types, and customers with increasingly complex issues.
Consider agents in the telecommunications space. NPS® is often low (relative to other industries), regardless of agent performance. Callers have high expectations and are stressed and emotive. In these environments, agents draw from their own emotional reserves to serve callers professionally, with empathy, day in, day out. Higher turnover results, as it is challenging for agents to feel they have actually helped someone. Answering the same tech questions repeatedly may not be intrinsically rewarding, so managers must invest more in agent retention. Layer in gig work and competition for an agent’s time and attention, and managers truly must look at the agent experience differently. Self-scheduling, cognitive contact center technologies, and applying tenets of organizational psychology may be good places to start.