How can contact centers respond to the Great Resignation and reduce agent turnover? The key is purpose-driven agent engagement through automation.

It’s no secret that agent turnover is a massive concern for contact centers everywhere—and the Great Resignation is magnifying that reality. Microsoft’s most recent Work Trend Index reported that 41% of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer in the next year.

What’s more, contact center managers face enormous pressure even under the best of conditions—and the Great Resignation only increases this stress. With nearly half of their agents considering quitting, the additional pressure may cause managers to consider a career transition of their own. Layer in the challenges of coaching a team remotely or not having the right tools, data, or insights to support performance improvement, and the outlook may seem bleak.

By understanding what drives the skilled labor shortage, what agents want in the workplace, and how to engage them better, contact centers can reduce agent turnover through a purpose-driven environment. Jay Gupta, Director of Product Marketing for AI, Automation, and Analytics at Talkdesk shared insights on engaging agents with AI and automation in a webinar with CIO Marketing Services.

What the skills shortage means for contact centers.

The Great Resignation is—or, rather should be—a wake-up call for employers to understand what motivates staff.

Across industries, workers no longer see employment as simply a contract between two parties. Rather than seeing their position as merely a paycheck, employees want to feel a sense of purpose in their role.

This is particularly true for customer service agents. To reduce turnover, it’s crucial that contact centers understand exactly why their staff may be leaving in droves.

Many agents aren’t pleased with their work because they feel that they could be doing something else more interesting. They might feel that their day-to-day responsibilities involve too much repetitive work and not enough variety. Or they may feel unsupported if they don’t have the tools they need to complete their work properly.

Other agents seek new opportunities because they want to expand their skill sets and take on new tasks.

Contact centers need to take each of these concerns seriously to mitigate agent turnover. But the Great Resignation presents a prime opportunity for contact centers to foster alignment between employees and employers. It offers a chance to ensure contact centers are on-course with the latest processes, technology, and tooling needed to retain their teams.

For instance, automation tools can support agents by limiting their repetitive workflows and freeing up their time for more interesting tasks that require a human touch. Contact centers should also make the most of the opportunity to upskill agents. Providing AI and automation training can drive employee satisfaction (through new skill sets) and customer satisfaction (through improvements in automation).

Gen Z: The future of customer service.

The next generation of customer service is already here. Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, is arriving on the customer service scene, bringing unique skills and clear expectations of employers.

Gen Z workers are digital natives, and they bring high levels of technical skills from their experiences of the rapid evolution of technology. Because they’re accustomed to fast-paced notifications and up-to-date tech, they expect the same from their employers.

They want updated tools for maximum productivity. Out-of-date tech doesn’t just frustrate them—it’s likely to lead them to move on from a company. Contact centers must empower Gen Z agents with the latest tools and tech.

As a whole, Gen Z is also driven by purpose in the workplace. They want to add to the world through their work and seek to work for employers whose values align with their own.

Contact centers need to help agents feel motivation and purpose for their career path, and they can support Gen Z’s search for purpose by providing them with the right tools. Tech on its own won’t overcome the impacts of the Great Resignation. But having the latest tech to maximize the productivity of Gen Z contact center agents is an important part of attracting and retaining them amidst skills shortages.

In addition, making meaningful improvements to the customer and employee experience through tech shows a commitment to purpose. An informed, data-driven culture leads to business growth and the kind of workplace environment Gen Z is looking for.

Purpose and inclusivity in the workplace.

Amidst the skills shortage, employees across all demographics are committed to finding more meaning in their work—not just Gen Z.

While it may seem difficult to measure a brand’s “purpose,” employees can see and feel when their workplace is driven with intention at the forefront. For contact center agents, this might mean readily available metrics such as the number of customer queries they answered in a day. Knowing how many people they’ve helped can be a strong motivator.

Purpose isn’t just positive for employees—it’s also great for business. Boston Consulting Group reported that brands with a strong sense of purpose saw their value increase by 175%. For agents, a sense of meaning in their role is rewarding because they know their work makes a difference, which leads them to want to perform well and improve.

For both customers and employees, inclusivity is a defining trait of a purpose-driven organization. This looks like identifying small details of the user experience that might pose an obstacle to customers (or employees) with different needs, then working hard to remove those obstacles. Inclusion practices consider the needs of customers who speak different languages, for instance, or prioritize creating accessible customer experiences.

Inclusivity can be challenging for contact centers because of the complex and often multichannel nature of customer journeys. Discrimination may not come from willful exclusion, but it does come from failure to consciously consider unique customer needs at every part of their journey.

Today, the digital marketing landscape means brands can cost-effectively advertise to wider audiences than ever before. But the challenge is this: if you can market your services to anyone, you should also be equipped to offer the same quality of care to everyone.

How AI and automation can drive inclusivity.

Contact centers must equip their staff to meet the unique needs of customers of different backgrounds and circumstances.

Automation can help drive inclusivity by gathering data insights to shed light on the diversity of a company’s customer base. These tools can quickly identify data patterns to help identify the root of customer issues that affect certain audiences more than others.

Only through detecting biases against certain customer groups can contact centers work to resolve them. With more observable and trainable AI (such as Talkdesk AI Trainer), contact centers can dedicate efforts to making the needed improvements for a more inclusive and accessible experience.

AI also aids in giving customers multiple avenues to provide feedback about their experience. From social media commentary and reviews to raw customer interaction data, AI can efficiently analyze these forms of unstructured data to provide contact centers with feedback. Insights from these analyses can lead to new ideas to improve the customer experience.

In addition, AI and automation drive inclusivity by helping contact centers handle more calls and improve self-service rates. Many contact centers constantly deal with more customer calls than they can handle, and this strain on the workforce leaves little time to devote resources to D&I efforts. Particularly amidst skill shortages, AI can help with scaling operations and handling high call volumes, giving contact centers the margin they need to focus on inclusion.

Transformational change through AI and automation.

Automation can and will lead to major shifts in the customer and employee experience. These tools have led companies like Apple to serve customers faster by removing traditional checkout counters. For Apple, this revolution started with putting automation tools in the hands of employees.

Contact centers should aim to empower employees with tools that allow them to support customers more effectively. AI and automation can improve the efficiency and accuracy of contact centers, leading to more satisfied customers and more purposeful employees.

Upskilling, empowering, and supporting contact center agents with tech and tools increases retention and leads to a stronger business.

Download Talkdesk’s guide on AI to learn about the key AI techniques that will drive better outcomes in your contact centre.

This article is based on the webinar, “Solving the skills shortage with a purpose-driven agent experience,” featuring Jay Gupta and hosted in partnership with CIO Marketing Services.