According to the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), “for the first time in history, our workforce is comprised of four generations, and that will jump to five by 2020!” Many headlines talk about engaging Millennials, who are typically between the ages of 18 and 35. Admittedly, they account for almost 50% of employees today, but what about the other half of the working population? High performing companies excel at attracting and retaining the brightest, most passionate people, inspiring them with a common culture, whatever their profile or age.
Each generation comes with its own unique perspective on the workplace and shares different career aspirations. Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 typically prioritise work over personal life, whereas today’s Millennials demand a high work/life balance, are confident and expect immediate recognition and rewards.
For today’s contact centre leaders, this presents an exciting, albeit challenging, conundrum. Creating a successful multi-generational contact centre lies in harnessing the unique talents of every age-group. Don’t delay! Here’s a five-point plan to put you on the right track.
1. Re-think your training environment – what appeals to the younger generation might not bring out the best in experienced, more mature individuals. Be sure to develop a portfolio of different learning styles, a mixture of traditional in-classroom training and online or virtual sessions including the latest gamification techniques.
Pair up recent graduates with seasoned professionals. That way, both parties benefit as Millennials have the opportunity to explain their intuitive understanding of the digital age while learning valuable skills that only experience can bring from their older colleagues. Meanwhile, in an age where those approaching middle or retirement age can feel left out, mentoring can boost self-esteem and make them feel valued.
2. Keep staff motivated – once good team-work is in place, it can be marred by an inequitable approach to goal-setting, appraisals and rewards. Make the most of advanced workforce management (WFM) reporting and dashboards to provide a real-time snapshot of employee and team performance against specific contact centre key performance indicators (KPIs) or customer service level agreements (SLAs) in a fair and transparent way.
Similarly, use automation to make life easier and more interesting for contact centre agents. Simple tasks such as brochure fulfilment and utilities meter reading can be handled by technology, leaving staff with time to devote to complex enquiries or the chance to turn around unhappy customers by delivering a personalised service.
Everyone wants to feel involved, whatever their age. Create a work environment where agents feel part of everything from the company mission, to their fellow team members and the customers they serve. Actively gain their feedback for important decision-making through regular focus groups, where management listen but don’t necessary speak.
Introduce the latest gamification features to motivate employees, provide a forum for sharing top tips, encourage healthy competition and reward individual and team performance in a fun environment.
3. Social media – love it or hate it, social media is here to stay and the whole contact centre needs to understand it and make it work.
Think age before beauty! Don’t fall into the trap of using your youngest team members to deal with social media enquiries. Older staff are more likely to have well-honed customer service skills and in-depth knowledge of your organisation’s products. Social media can be learnt in a matter of weeks, years of experience take far longer!
4. Flexible working – think technology and place, as well as working hours. The benefits of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) scheme may mean your tech-savvy younger generation flourishes with multiple apps, working from more than one device and in various locations. While at the same time, mature workers will benefit from the use of technology they know and trust.
Using self-service, agents are empowered to control their own schedules, select breaks and lunches, swap shifts, and request time off with immediate feedback from their manager. This means that older members of staff, for example, might apply for earlier start times while the younger members recover from their nocturnal social whirl and will perform at their best later in the day!
5. Work closely with Human Resources – contact centre managers should work with HR to build an environment that makes them the employer of choice for all generations with clear career paths and continuous training, a real competitive differentiator. Benefits shouldn’t just be financial. Is the office warm enough, are the chairs comfortable? Perhaps you could offer a free breakfast every day, birthdays off and plenty of social events, including funding for different groups ie cycling, singing etc to make everyone feel connected.
Nothing is worse than overwork and stress to make staff head for the hills. Maximise the latest forecasting technology to right-size your contact centre for the future. Running a series of ‘what if’ scenarios can predict staffing needs not just for regular seasonal fluctuations like Christmas or upcoming new marketing campaigns; they can strategically support your organisation’s long-term business plan.
The rewards of developing a slick and success multi-generational contact centre are exponential: enthusiastic staff, lower attrition levels and recruitment costs, happier customers and healthier profits.
Tommy Palomaki is a Senior Project Manager and Partner Advisor at Teleopti WFM.