It’s something every call center faces; the roller coaster of call volume, the seasonal ebb and flow that can create staffing chaos and dropped calls. Try as we might to improve upon call projection models, there will always be a time when we run up against the restrictions imposed on us by the lack of “butts in seats”, regardless of whether the call center is virtual or brick and mortar. How do we span the void? What is the bridge that could bring us to a pool of readily accessible, trained labor?
Let’s talk for a moment about crowd-sourcing. One of the first business ideas I ever had was how to harness the crowd to figure out how to aggregate people’s backyard gardens. Unfortunately, while there was a significant amount of opportunity with that idea, the seasonality of the growing seasons made the logistics too difficult.
In thinking about the garden idea, the wrench in the opportunity will always be around (at best) a six-month growing season. And while call volume, arrival patterns, and labor availability also experience seasonal ebbs and flows, non-seasonal events like new product launches, security breaches/mass compromises, ethical lapses etc., can spike call volume further. Depending upon how a company handles these, it can either be damaging or enhancing. We live in a “Gig” economy and tapping into that for On-Demand customer support is the solution companies have been looking for.
A Gig Economy is defined as “a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.” In an article published on money.cnn.com in May of 2017, Intuit – the owner of TurboTax – estimated that right now the Gig economy makes up 34% of the American workforce or 4 million workers. The estimates show an increase to 43% by 2020, or roughly 7 million workers. In our ever-increasing digital existence, this translates into a larger workforce that can be tapped from just about anywhere at any time.
As an example, let’s look at Uber. Uber advertises the “side hustle” and I think there’s an angle here for the BPO industry as well. The “side hustle”, in this case, would be for former agents who have moved on to other opportunities but still retain their knowledge level/training. These agents could make themselves available on demand. Now, this might require the use of virtual support to fully enable it, but I think it can be done. From a brick and mortar perspective, one could also configure some floor space in a site for “On-Demand Agents” that would be utilized in a surge capacity type situation. The key is maintaining a relationship with former agents, or even agents from other suppliers that have supported the client, or the client’s internal employees, and have them log-in for support. This could be an “Uber” type app/database where companies use the crowd to fill their peak or surge needs.
Think about it for a moment. A specifically targeted workforce that could be alerted through their smart device in the event of an increase in call flow at any given time. The agent would still feel the freedom of working around their own schedule and when the volume decreased they would be done for that timeframe. The call center would be able to offer more flexibility for the agents and the client while also having the ability to successfully field a higher volume of calls. It’s a win/win scenario.
The bottom line with this one is that I believe there’s a significant opportunity to tap into this labor pool.