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What We Aren’t Talking About: Skills, Talent, and the Future of the Contact Center

Mar 08, 2023, By Maddy Hubbard

Learn about the looming talent shortage in the call center industry and the challenges it poses for efficiency. Explore the factors contributing to this shortage, from changing workforce dynamics to evolving job requirements.

Is the call center industry facing an impending talent shortage that poses significant challenges to its efficiency and effectiveness? 

Finding and retaining skilled call center agents can be a persistent challenge. In the last several years, the demand for agents with strong communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and technical proficiency has skyrocketed. Despite efforts to hire, train, and support, the demand has consistently outpaced the supply, which may leave us on the precipice of a talent shortage. Before we discuss strategies to mitigate its effects, let’s take a quick look at how we got here. 

Changing Dynamics of the Workforce 

One of the main factors contributing to the talent shortage in contact centers is the changing dynamics of the workforce. Millennials and Gen Z, have different career aspirations and preferences compared to the historical workforce. As we’ve discovered in our annual agent index, the developing workforce places great emphasis on meaningful work, seeks out opportunities for growth, and demands a healthy work-life balance. Contact center jobs, which are often perceived as repetitive and lacking in career advancement, struggle to attract and retain this talent pool. 

Evolving Requirements 

Gone are the days of the telemarketer. Contact center roles are no longer limited to handling basic customer inquiries or simply cold-calling. With advancements in technology and the need for personalized customer experiences, agents are expected to become resources that possess a broader skill set. The shortage of individuals with these skills is prevalent across industries but is especially evident in the contact center. It may be worthwhile to examine that public perception of agents has not evolved or kept pace with the skills needed to become successful agent; further exacerbating the talent shortage in call centers. 

Market Competition 

The truth is that talent has never been more sought after or more expensive. Recruiters who are vying for top talent are no longer relegated to region or to industry. This increased competition makes it challenging for call centers to attract skilled individuals; and increased compensation, incentives, and commissions are making it hard to retain your talent.  

The good news is that most of our clients and colleagues are already taking steps to counteract the conditions causing this talent gap. Now that we’ve heard the doomsday scenario background and impact let’s talk about the bright side. 

Training and Skill Development 

You already rely on comprehensive training programs to bridge the gap between new hires and the skills required for the job; investment in robust training and skill development programs is the most important tool in the recruitment, development, and retention of skilled individuals. By offering innovative, structured training platforms, with functional career advancement opportunities, contact centers are attracting and retaining talent more effectively. 

Perception as Reality 

Efforts to change perceptions and promote the value and growth potential of contact careers are crucial in addressing the talent shortage. Veterans of the industry are well aware that our industry has been subject to negative stereotypes, often associated with low pay, high stress, and limited career prospects. These perceptions deter many potential candidates from considering contact center roles, further limiting the talent pool. The skills developed and desired within the contact center are highly cross functional and valuable in multiple industries. Contact center jobs and experience include a highly desirable curriculum: WEM platforms are built around the development of exceptional communication, problem-solving abilities, technical proficiency, and adaptability.  

AI and RPA 

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have already transformed the contact center. By streamlining processes and improving efficiency, they raise concerns about job displacement. But the integration of robotic process automation (RPA) and AI should also be viewed as a tremendous opportunity. These platforms are giving agents and the contact center workforce cutting edge training in the use of artificial intelligence and bots. Upskilling agents to work alongside these technologies is already creating a more sustainable and productive workforce for the contact center. 

The contact center is evolving at a dizzying pace. We’ve always been prepared to adapt to disruptions caused by emerging technologies, market shifts, and changing customer preferences; but the potential talent shortage in contact centers is a challenge we have not yet faced. This challenge – much like those that have come before – will require proactive strategies to overcome. By understanding the changing dynamics of the workforce, adapting to evolving skill requirements, addressing negative perceptions, and manipulating the nuances of market competition, call centers are already attracting and retaining the talent necessary to meet demand. Advanced WEM and WFM platforms are embracing automation and AI while prioritizing employee engagement and career growth opportunities; paving the way for contact centers to remain agile and proactive in response to these dynamic changes. Disruption and advancement are inevitable, resiliency and productivity are not. Is your business ready to adapt and evolve as fast as the workforce? 

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