- By Alex Gaw
- September 21, 2022
A new report by MIT Technology Review Insights points to a grim irony currently at work in the way CX employees are treated by business concerns in the post-pandemic era. A so-called “people paradox” is discernible when it comes to CX staff, according to the report, Customer Experience and the Future of Work, with employers more concerned about finding new workers than retaining those that they already have.
The paradox underscores the contradictory views held by organizations about workers who interact with customers on a daily basis. While almost 9 out of 10 respondents in a survey for the study recognize CX as a strategic differentiator for their brand, the research shows that CX employees are seen as being dispensable, with companies training their focus instead on finding new workers to hire.
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“A successful CX organization will ensure that vital ‘voice-of-the-customer’ insights are permeated across different departments to improve their processes, and employees understand how the organization works and what career paths are available to them,” says Laurel Ruma, Insights global director of custom content. “Yet the ‘people paradox’ still exists. CX leaders are more concerned about the challenge of bringing in new people than they are about the volume of people leaving. This approach to employees has to change. Organizations that don’t start thinking differently will continue to lose people and the customer experience will suffer.”
Merijn te Booij, an executive vice president and general manager at Genesys, the CX technology provider that co-produced the report, agrees. “It’s time to rethink how we approach the employee experience with intentionality and empathy,” te Booij says. “Instead of accepting high attrition as an inevitability, organizations need to invest in developing and retaining highly trained and engaged staff who deliver the best customer experience. Providing your CX workforce with the right path for their long-term success is a win-win scenario that leads to happier employees, better customer loyalty, and ultimately better business results.”
The report by Insights and Genesys is based on a survey of 800 senior executives as well as in-depth interviews with business executives and experts at organizations including IBM, AT&T, Zurich Insurance, Marriott International, and Probe CX. Insights is the custom publishing division of MIT Technology Review, the bimonthly magazine owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Insights conducts both qualitative and quantitative research and analysis in the US and abroad and publishing a wide variety of content, including articles, reports, infographics, videos, and podcasts. The report’s co-producer, Genesys, is the Daly City, California-based software company that sells CX and call center technology to midsized and large businesses.
The report also explores how global organizations are reassessing their CX workforces and processes after the pandemic upended and rewrote the nature of work.
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A key finding of the report was that Covid-19 catalyzed a long-term shift toward flexible working for contact center employees. According to the survey, the remote and hybrid working models rapidly deployed during the pandemic are here to stay. More than one-third of contact center employees will be permitted to work remotely by 2024, and an additional 23% will be in a hybrid arrangement.
While remote working has numerous benefits and allows organizations to better retain staff by offering flexible schedules, concerns about productivity and culture remain, the report found. Many CX leaders fear that hybrid or remote work could result in lower output, inconsistent customer service, and a negative impact on workplace culture and collaboration.
Another key finding of the report postulates that CX work will require a more specialized and technical skill set as well as shifts in workforce strategy, with more than two-thirds of survey respondents expecting CX work to become more specialized in the coming two years. The skills required will include data and analytics, customer journey optimization, specialized product knowledge and emotional intelligence. To develop these high-value skills, organizations predict expanding the number of full-time CX employees, hiring more learning and development specialists, and exploring “gig work” models.
The report’s fifth and final important finding states that learning and development is a strategic focus area for improving the CX employee value proposition. More than two-thirds of survey respondents identify learning and development as an area of the CX employee lifecycle with the greatest need for improvement, as nearly half consider insufficient learning and development opportunities to be among the biggest frustrations of employees on a daily basis.
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