October 4-8, 2021, is National Customer Service Week and we’d like to recognize a group of workers that often fly under the radar.
Their days involve interacting with unhappy customers. They get yelled at. Their conversations are measured down to the second. They solve problems all day and too often no one remembers to say thank you. Yet they are optimistic, fun, smart and usually full of ambition. These are call center employees, also known as customer service reps.
Want to be a good CS rep? Learn to put your personal issues aside as you try to explain and listen with understanding, compassion, the patience of a saint, and nerves of steel.
Unsurprisingly, the call center industry also holds record rates of turnover when compared to nearly every other industry in the world. This makes customer service employees’ dedication to work even more impressive and valued among those who interact with them, which -hint- has been everyone at some point in their lives.
As businesses transitioned online in the wake of pandemic lockdowns, e-commerce skyrocketed 49% and call center employees became the most essential part of an essential economy.
Join us as we uncover the obstacles that call center employees tackle every day to deliver excellent customer experience (CX) and represent your company’s brand in the best possible way.
Often forgotten or taken for granted, call centers employees have one of the most necessary professions in the world. Call centers and their employees are utilized 24/7/365 by online retailers, telemarketers, SaaS companies, mail and polling services, charities, and more. Call centers currently employ roughly 2.83 million people across the country and abroad, but serve the entirety of the US population currently standing at 329 million people. That’s a lot of calls.
Many workers are required to make up to 50 calls a day. If divided into an 8-hour workday, that equates to nearly 7 calls in a single hour. Working at this pace for a prolonged period of time is mentally and physically draining leaving the customer service employees feeling unappreciated and overworked. It destroys productivity and it destroys the soul.
Such stress can be mitigated when employees get compensated adequately like sales positions do (another high-intensity position that many argue is just as stressful). However, the heavy amount of work in call centers usually comes with relatively little compensation. In fact, the average call center employee earns just $29,761, while employees with higher education and Masters degrees only earn $31,102 per year. Such low pay leads to financial stress and creates a distracted and disengaged workforce focused on surviving instead of thriving.
Additional factors like inflexible schedules that force employees to miss family events and milestones, a lack of training by managerial staff, and frequently abusive customers that blame them for the problems they are experiencing, all compound to create a nearly unparalleled environment of financial and mental stress.
The intensity of a call center job isn’t for everyone. This makes their work ethic that much more commendable. However, when financial stability and mental health are risked for too long, employees choose to move on to other occupations.
That is shown when looking at the industry’s notorious turnover rates. The average turnover rate in a call center is 35% and as much as 100% in a single calendar year. When turnover rates are this high all year round, immediate consequences reverberate through the centers and their employees.
Such pervasive issues are difficult to eradicate and often permeate the call centers resulting in a quick “burn and churn” culture. This can have several immediate consequences:
In order to stay operational and succeed, employers must look at decreasing turnover. By offering benefits like Earned Wage Access (EWA), employers see huge decreases in attrition, and improvements in recruitment and engagement. EWA allows employees access to their earned wages when they need it. They can transfer wages to their card or bank account to make payments, pick up as cash from Walmart, or use them directly for Uber or Amazon.
The impact of Payactiv on turnover was highlighted in an interview with one of our clients, an elite CX outsourcer, IBEX. Robert Dechant, the CEO of IBEX, simply said “After Payactiv was implemented, IBEX attrition was cut almost in half.”
Without cutting attrition and turnover, employers cannot keep their most talented staff to pass down their expertise to newcomers. This leaves centers stuck in a constant state of catching up and hiring new employees, essentially trying to kickstart an engine that won’t stay on.
Speaking of engines, many call center employees deal with a unique challenge most inner-city white-collar and blue-collar workers never have to: transportation. Call centers are oftentimes located in remote, rural areas that require employees to travel long distances to and from work.
This means many employees who don’t have reliable transportation of their own travel long distances by subway, carpool with friends, or rely on family to go out of their way and drop them off. After long treks, they still do their job with vigor and help those who call in every single day.
In addition to EWA, Payactiv also has a solution to help with employee transportation problems. Employees can get to work quicker and more efficiently with access to Uber, a Payactiv partner. Funds earned that day can be used to pay for an Uber ride to work the next morning. If an employee uses a car for transport, and that car breaks down, their employer can send an Uber ride for them to get to work. This provides employees more flexibility and less stress in and out of the call center.
Well-trained employees are the backbone of successful customer service. People talk to them when they have problems with a wide range of different products and services and expect them to be experts in all of them. The company’s brand is often built and solidified on the ability of the call center employees’ to answer these questions with confidence and ease.
When irate customers call in and want to take their frustration out, employees must remain calm, collected, and personable while helping the customer through their grievances. In that way, the call center employee IS the brand of the call center.
Brand representation is a hugely undervalued aspect of customer service employees’ work. Every interaction can make or break the vital connection between a customer and the company and this is often followed by negative online reviews and social posts. For this alone, we should applaud them, as they are the first line of defense for any brand.
The call center market is expected to grow by 14.05 billion dollars during 2021-2025. This means that more employees than ever will need to be recruited, onboarded, retained, and engaged. These can feel like difficult tasks for any HR professional when considering the inherent challenges associated with the call center industry.
While you can’t change the nature of the job, as the call center employer you have the ability to help recruitment efforts and impact your employees’ mental and financial wellbeing by offering new employee perks and benefits.
Flexible payment models like Payactiv’s EWA mitigate financial and mental health in employees so that they don’t have to resort to borrowing money, payday loans, credit cards, or overdraft fees between paychecks. This results in increased recruitment and retention of employees.
Offering Payactiv has helped call centers with both recruitment and retention. “Payactiv is a great recruiting tool. New hires can start taking advantage of this program right away,” said Bethany Callahan, Human Capital Manager at TTEC, one of the largest global end-to-end digital CX solutions.
It’s a quick and easy process to offer call center employees access to their earned but unpaid wages between paychecks. Payactiv utilizes API integration through HR systems that call centers already use, making it a seamless experience for employees and employers.
Once connected, employees can access their wages directly from a mobile app and employers can advertise the benefit as a competitive advantage for new recruits and a genuinely impactful incentive for existing employees.
“Payactiv has been extremely successful for TTEC.”, continues Bethany Callahan, Human Capital Manager at TTEC. “It was simple and seamless to implement and having a benefit that was great for recruitment and retention has let us focus on growing the business and getting new clients.”
It’s clear by now that call center employers benefit by considering the life of their workers holistically, outside of the center as much as they do inside of it. It’s been proven that focusing on employee wellbeing and providing recognition, flexibility, and engagement increases productivity, mental health, financial stability, and tenure at a call center.
That’s why Payactiv takes a holistic approach to employee financial wellness, including services that help address immediate financial needs and also make it possible for users to take steps toward long-term financial stability and growth. Services include on-demand EWA, cashless payouts of tips and mileage, off-cycle pay, the Payactiv Visa Payroll Card, a communication platform for deskless employees with Shift coordination, employee Awards, and the aforementioned employee Uber rides.
By caring for call center employees, employers create happier workers, more productive workforces, and stronger customer experiences.
While employers and employees alike see positive results from offering a benefit such as Payactiv, call center employees like Jeremiah (seen below) are the ones who truly feel the strongest impact.
Between the low pay, grueling hours that affect mental health, transportation issues, and more in their day-to-day lives, call center employees have a lot of challenges ready to be solved.
Until then, whether you’re considering new HR benefits for your company or confirming a bill payment on a service plan, the least we can do is thank our workers for the hard work they do. The best we can do is approach them with as much patience and consideration as they give us each and every day.
Happy National Customer Service Week!
To learn more about Payactiv’s services, get in touch with us, and let’s talk.
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