Research launched by Jabra reveals businesses are struggling with culture, technology and processes that are preventing them from creating great working conditions for some of their most highly-valued workers.
These employees are struggling to create productive working environments, with the research showing that the most productive customer service profiles are up to 47 per cent more productive compared to the least productive in the survey. As customer calls grow in complexity, the results indicate that the winning companies will be the ones that invest in working environments that allow for concentration and efficiency.
For employees who add significant value through conversation with customers on the phone, there are many complex issues with ensuring productivity as a result of interruptions, noise and their working environment. The availability of multiple communications methods for customer service, such as company websites, email or instant messaging, means on-the-phone conversations are even more value-creating.
Simple problem-solving conversations on the phone have decreased, yet customer calls are often key when customers find that other problem-solving methods have failed. For workers responsible for these conversations, as many as 36 per cent think there are too many interruptions from colleagues throughout the day and on average 34 per cent find noise levels in their working environment too distracting. These are rated far higher than factors such as the number of calls made per day or too few breaks between calls. They are therefore prevented from producing value in a productive manner and as a result, businesses need to re-think the culture and tools they offer in order to fully enable and maximise the resource of these highly valuable employees.
Nigel Dunn, Managing Director UK & Ireland, Jabra, comments: “Within every business there is a group of employees who spend a significant amount of time and effort on their call-based communication. Conversations that this group is having are important in-depth discussions, bringing significant value and adding to the success of the business – they represent the organisation publicly. Yet organisational culture doesn’t prioritise the enablement of productivity for these individuals and too often it’s not a consideration at all.”
The research defines four groups of workers that are focused on bringing business value through call conversations with customers. These groups have varying priorities depending on how the calls need to be handled: efficiently or delivering strategy value. Some invest more time on calls, some on concentration when preparing for calls. Each of these four profiles – call centre agents, civil servants, traders and advisors – are all struggling at different levels to achieve concentration, avoid interruptions and over-communication through too many meetings and too many emails. As well as technology issues, they all experience challenges with their physical working environments, with open plan offices in particular adding to the concentration challenge.
The group of employees defined as civil servants, those working in HR or IT support for example, take over 20 calls a day that are complex and require high levels of concentration in between calls. They are often working in a highly stressful environment due to the volume and unpredictability of calls. Yet the most negatively-impacting factor on productivity for around 35 percent of this group, is noise levels in the surrounding environment. This group, like the other profiles, independently seeks ways to help them achieve more. For example, over 40 percent of support experts listen to music while working.
For the profile defined as traders, which includes workers like account managers and consultants conducting in-depth, important calls up to 25 times a day, the value of their conversations could be as important as closing a deal. However 35 percent of this group feels that noise levels are too disruptive for them to be productive. Whilst many businesses recognise the importance of customer service, the value this group of workers offer is the level of interaction with customers. They should therefore be the same priority level – especially as research suggests perception of customer service does not match the reality that customers experience*. 80 percent of organisations say they deliver excellent customer service, yet only 8 percent of customers agree*.
Dunn comments: “Communication trends between customers and businesses have shifted a lot in the last five years. The variety of methods available to customers means that the phone is now used more strategically, for people seeking empathy that’s apparent in human interaction. Any opportunity to speak with customers on the phone is more valuable than ever before and investment in supporting this group should be a strategic priority for any business in order to make sure those conversations deliver the value customers expect.” This research was carried out across seven countries (US, Germany, UK, France, Sweden, China and Australia) polling the views of 3,166 call centric workers.