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Article : Navigating Generational Differences in the Contact Center Workforce

#contactcenterworld, @BlueOceanTweets

Patricia Isnor, Senior Vice President of Corporate Services for Blue Ocean Contact Centers defines the common differences in the generational gaps working within contact centers. She also explains some of the different training methods that can be used to help get the most out of Baby Boomers, Gen X'ers and Millenials.

What makes a great contact center agent isn’t as easy to define as you might expect. Yes, they need to be great communicators and they need to have the chops to navigate call center systems and software in their sleep, but the best skills and personality traits differ from agent to agent, depending on the brand, the type of customer service, and the specific support channel. There’s another layer to be considered as well: generational differences in the contact center workforce.

A Baby Boomer agent may share some skills and traits with a Millennial agent, but their perspectives and cultural experiences often result in some foundational differences that can help or hinder their experience in the call center. We’re not just talking about contact center agents - coaches, supervisors, managers, and even your executive team are all part of this conversation. The way each role interacts with the other – whether directly or indirectly – is frequently impacted by perceptions that stem from generational differences. There are two key areas in which this is most apparent. The first is training; the second is management.

Training a Multigenerational Agent Workforce

When it comes to training, one size rarely fits all. Every individual possesses their individual profile of neurolinguistics traits that dictates how they work, engage, and learn. But generational differences add an extra layer of complexity.

You can probably guess that Millennials lean towards digital-based training methods. After all these are our true "digital natives" – people who grew up with computers in their homes and classrooms from their earliest days. They tend to be tech savvy and self-directed, hands-on learners, and they appreciate the benefits of on-demand training at any time, in any location. Plus, most online learning programs can be customized to the individual, depending upon their learning style and in what areas they require the most improvement.

With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Millennials are typically not raving fans of "old school" (literally!) classroom-style lecture where the expectation is that they will sit and listen quietly while someone talks at them. On the other hand, that is the exact classroom model that most Baby Boomers are perfectly comfortable and familiar with – someone speaks and you take notes. Many Baby Boomers appreciate a subject matter expert teaching them and they value the opportunities to ask questions and get immediate answers rather than hunt for the solution through a self-directed model.

In the middle of this spectrum is Generation X – a cohort that can be challenging to engage. They bring a healthy cynicism to the workplace and are generally proud of it. This is the generation that had to take care of themselves from an early age (the original "latchkey kids") and who have had to fight their whole adult lives for their place in a labor market overcrowded with Boomers. This cohort is looking for a clearly articulated return on their investment in the training and employment process – a "what’s in it for me" kind of approach. You need a strong evidence-based approach to engage the typical Gen X and you need to be prepared to be questioned. What matters most to this group is how they will apply the training in a way that is meaningful to them and to their goals. For example, on-the-job shadowing, giving them the opportunity to learn independently from real world examples, highlighting the direct benefits for them.

If your contact center workforce is generationally diverse, creating a successful agent training program that incorporates these alternatives in an engaging balance is a real challenge. In our call center, we balance different adult learning styles – auditory, kinesthetic, visual – with the generational make-up of the class. Trainers are expected to understand that a Baby Boomer who is a visual learner is not the same student as the Millennial visual learner, for example. How do you create a program that engages every learning style across generations? How do you avoid isolating certain groups of people? What balance will achieve the highest level of contact center performance across this generational divide? It’s a complex equation and one that requires continual development. If you’re seeking a call center partner, ask questions about how often their training programs are audited. And ask questions about how training results are measured, how trends are reported on, and how those results inform process change or content changes in how training is delivered. Our approach to training has been audited by JD Power and given their highest rating, but that doesn’t mean we’re done. It means we have to adhere to our proven process and keep an eye on continual improvement as training technologies and theories continual to evolve.

Managing a Multi-Generational Contact Center

Millennials are entitled. Generation Xers are apathetic and self-absorbed. And Baby Boomers are set in their ways. Right? Well, if you’re anything like us, those stereotypes make you feel just a little (or a lot) defensive and uncomfortable. But the hard truth is that generational biases seep into the workforce almost undetected and have a significant impact on the way agents and managers interact with each other.

You’ll probably notice this disconnect first and foremost in communication breakdown. With more channels of communication available than ever before, there are generational preferences that can quickly lead to conflict if not controlled. For example, Millennials will quickly turn to instant messaging and texting, whereas Gen Xers often stick to email, and Baby Boomers will pick up the phone. These choices may reflect different messages to different generations, causing misunderstandings in expectations and feedback, as well as tension in coworker or manager relationships.

We believe that overcoming the multigenerational challenge begins with awareness of our own habits and preferences and then creating an awareness that "different just means different not worse." We have a vice president who frequently reminds her team that a disconnect in communication "is never malicious." It’s great advice. If you’re a Boomer manager, reminding yourself that your Millennial direct report who sends a curt "yup" via chat instead of sending a response formed in full sentences and delivered via email doesn’t communicate like that to intentionally annoy you. They do it because that is where they live – that is the style and channel preference that has been embedded in their brain since they were in junior high making plans with their pals via MSN Messenger. That is worth remembering. And on the other hand, it is worth letting the Millennial know how you prefer to receive communication so that they can help themselves grow by adapting their style to their audience in order to get their message heard clearly and quickly. It is unreasonable to expect people to adapt if they don’t know what the barriers are or what the triggers are for a communication disconnect.

Finally, a significant benefit to the multi-generational contact center is the opportunity for mentorship. Individuals with richer work experience can guide employees who are newer to the workforce, providing valuable feedback and fostering employee appreciation on all sides. After all, no matter what generation they identify with, every employee simply wants to know they’re a valued member of the team. Some of our most successful and exciting moments of development have resulted from cross-generational mentorship. Young Millennials thrive on sharing knowledge and helping others grow and GenX and Boomer managers can learn as much from the digital native with a passion for creative problem solving as the Millennial can learn from the experience of the Boomer or Gen X.

Navigating Generational Differences in the Contact Center

There have always been a number of generations working side-by-side in the workforce, but today’s world has made those differences all the more apparent. With Baby Boomers retiring later than the norm and the Millennial generation entering the workforce en masse, keeping everyone on the same page is a fresh challenge.

For a multigenerational contact center to thrive, we recognize the need to build a meaningful, empowering workplace where people connect and grow and succeed. If you’re looking for a contact center solution that aligns with your brand and values, let us know. We’d love to get to know you.

#contactcenterworld, @BlueOceanTweets

About Patricia Isnor:
Patty Isnor is never satisfied with status quo. Her primary focus over the course of more than 30 years with our organization is on ensuring that our company is in a constant state of striving. As Senior Vice President, Corporate Services,she leads initiatives in human resources, facilities design and management, and employer branding. She has been the driving force behind many of Blue Ocean’s (and CCL Group) innovations in administrative, financial, legal and human resources systems and processes. Her leadership in this space has earned Blue Ocean national and international recognition for ou

About Blue Ocean Contact Centers:
Company LogoWe thrive on delivering critical customer service solutions that go beyond transactional interactions. As such, our goal is to enhance lifetime customer value, providing support that is a reflection of your brand promise, even in high-pressure, complex customer service scenarios.
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Today's Tip of the Day - Ask For Ideas

Read today's tip or listen to it on podcast.

Published: Friday, April 7, 2017

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2021 Buyers Guide IVR

Call Center Studio

Call Center Studio
Call Center Studio is the world’s first call center built on Google and is one of the most secure and stable systems with some of the industry’s best reporting. It is one of the most full-featured enterprise grade systems (with the most calling features, one of the best call distribution, outbound dialing features and integrations—including IVR, AI Speech Recognition, blended inbound/outbound calling and includes Google’s new Dialogflow and Speech API. Call Center Studio is the absolute easiest to use (with a 10 minute setup), and is the price performance leader with lower equipment cost and less setup time.

Computer Data Services, LLC

Get the benefits of an expensive, on-premise telephone system without the high price tag and annoying maintenance.

- Never miss another phone call
- No more busy signals
- Feature rich
- Answer your calls from anywhere

eGain Corporation

eGain SmartIVR
eGain SmartIVR is an over-the-top solution to modernize IVR systems. Businesses can offer smartphone callers an easy choice to resolve queries via digital messaging and intelligent self-service. And they can optimize the IVR experience with end-to-end analytics.


Virtual Switchboard
Megacall provides a fully customised Virtual Switchboard software for all companies (including IVR service). No matter the size of your business, our services adapt to the needs of each client.

Are you looking for a more effective way to communicate with your customers? Discover the advantages of using the IVR and how it can help in your communications.


MightyCall's IVR that will increase your business’s efficiency at a fraction of the cost of a secretary. Your auto-attendant is designed to:
- Greet callers
- Deliver necessary information
- Forward calls to the appropriate extension
- Take human error out of the system

Nuxiba Technologies

Provide your customers with an effortless self-service experience. Easily create menus using predefined or custom prompts and data dips and route customers to live agents when needed.

Enable your customers to make payments and access information 24/7 at their convenience. Request a quote or live demo today.

OpsTel Services

The SPEED solution solves for service level issues while cost optimizing the environment with automation.

Provides an enhanced way to speed up & optimize invoking temporary agent skills configuration changes into the contact center environment.

Speed allows you to schedule both future changes & temporary changes that auto-revert back to the original state when scheduled time expires.

Speed features:

*Automated / Scheduled Temporary Agent Skills Configuration Management
*Immediate Temporary or Reoccurring Schedule Skills Configuration Changes
*Easy to Use/Operations Administration Focused
*Descriptive Monitoring Activity Dashboard
*Detailed “End to End’ Audit Trail and Performance Monitoring

Teckinfo Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

IVR Edge
IVR Edge is a high performance, robust and scalable ivr system that works on various leading hardware such as Dialogic, Keygoe and Synway etc. It can handle the simplest of simple to the most complex of requirements to when it come to creating an IVR. Integration with any 3rd party database, be it for banking, telecom, insurance, travel, payment gateway etc can be handled with ease. Ideally suited to create Hosted IVR and virtual patching solutions with scalabilities that can range from 4 to 128 E1’s per setup with voice recording and CDR functionality. Integration with leading text to speech (TTS) and speech recognition ASR engines add to the flexibility and functionality.

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