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The Dichotomy of Contact Centers

We know that customer experience (CX) focused companies are three times more profitable than those that don’t focus on CX. And yet, contact centers are still considered entry-level roles and can be the lowest paid in a company!

By: Luke Jamieson, Global Content Director

The Dichotomy of Contact Centers

Contact centers (call centers) are the purest form of customer service that any company can be. We know that customer experience (CX) focused companies are three times more profitable than those that don’t focus on CX. And yet, contact centers are still considered entry-level roles and can be the lowest paid in a company! 

Everything about contact centers contradicts their purpose.  

Contact centers should serve the customer in the best way possible, and yet companies fail to hire people with experience or under-value employees through low pay and demanding expectations.  

So, let’s dig into this dichotomy of contact centers and look at how to turn things around.  

The Problem with Contact Centres

Companies expect their employees to offer great CX at a contact center. But what are they doing to create the conditions for employees to provide CX? Think about some common features of contact centers: 

  • Employees are considered entry-level, “unskilled” workers.  
  • Jobs are often outsourced and not held within the hiring company.  
  • Low-paid positions.  
  • Little autonomy, highly scripted, and strictly procedural.  

These things do not empower or motivate an employee to do their best work. It doesn’t signal value and care to them, either. One study showed that 87% of call center workers reported high or very high-stress levels at work. The same study reports over 50% feel emotionally drained after their workday.  

Something’s not working here.  

Some leaders try to fix this problem by introducing “fun committees” that throw pizza parties and dress-up days in an attempt to boost morale. But again, let’s think: does treating adults like children who get excited over pizza inspire them to do their best work? I’ll let you answer that one…  

How to Boost CX 

Now to be fair, not all contact centers struggle with these problems. I’ve had the privilege of being a judge in contact center awards around the world where I have witnessed some inspiring operations and cultures. I have led multiple award-winning contact centers too but for every great center, there are enough that are stuck in outdated, disempowering, antiquated ways of working that warrant this to be addressed. To boost CX, we must start with empowering employees. Employee engagement is the key factor in great CX—happy employees work hard to create happy customers.  

Here are a few areas that leaders can focus on:  

  • Autonomy: Great CX is about reducing friction. If a call center employee can’t venture away from rigid scripts with uncompromising policies, there will be friction. Allowing autonomy and the ability to have real conversations offering real solutions can transform how employees feel about their job.  
  • Quality vs. quantity: Leaders need to consider what’s ultimately more important. If you’re trying to rush through as many calls as possible, there’s no way to provide quality CX. Sometimes letting a customer vent or express their emotions is actually the best CX you can provide! The average duration of a call through a call center is four minutes—surely a slight uptick in this duration is worth it for happy customers and employees! 
  • Ownership: Along the lines of autonomy, contact center employees need to be empowered to offer solutions. It is demoralizing and a terrible CX to be transferred to multiple departments. Increase ownership by empowering employees to make decisions. 
  • Training and growth: Offering advancement opportunities will show you, value employees, by wanting to invest in them. More than that, it practically equips them to do the job better! When employees see a path forward to higher positions and opportunities, they are more likely to remain loyal to the company.  

Alongside all these points are perhaps the most obvious one: compensate employees fairly. Contact center jobs are not easy and anyone who thinks otherwise has probably not worked in one, and if you want to boost your CX, you need to start treating—and paying—employees for the customer service professionals they are, remembering that the return on investment is going to be 3X! 

If CX-focused organizations are three times more profitable, then we need to rethink contact centers. More autonomy, personal and professional development, ownership, purpose, and meaning would be a smart first step toward that increased profit.  


About the Author: Luke Jamieson is the Global Content Director at Centrical and one of the top 25 global influencers and thought leaders on customer experience and employee engagement. His rebellious, unconventional approaches have been attributed to him earning such titles. But it is his combination of vision, high energy, audacious creativity, and mischievous execution that makes him an inspiring and refreshing speaker, podcaster, and blogger. 

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