Executive Interview : Larry Schwartz From WorkFlex Solutions On The Past Year And What To Expect In 2017
Larry Schwartz, C.E.O. at WorkFlex Solutions has an interesting take on giving power back to the employees by allowing them to access a flexible schedule. Schwartz takes the time to speak with ContactCenterWorld.com about 2016 and what he sees coming this year in the following interview.
ContactCenterWorld: In your opinion, what has been the greatest challenge the contact center industry has faced in the last 12 months?
Larry Schwartz: The biggest challenge facing the contact center industry has been the ability to effectively recruit and retain productive and engaged contact center agents.
ContactCenterWorld: Why do you believe has this been a challenge?
Larry Schwartz: The industry is facing a perfect storm caused by the following:
(1) Millennials have now become the dominant contact center agent demographic. The majority of Millennials value scheduling flexibility more important than opportunities for pay and career advancement and 75% of Millennials consider scheduling flexibility as a primary driver of career choice.
(2) The rapid growth of GiG Economy (Think Uber, Lyft, Taskrabbit). GiG Economy jobs inherently provide the scheduling flexibility empowerment prospective employees are looking for. Three years ago GiG economy employment in the U.S. was about 250,000 while Contact Center Employment was over 3 Million. By 2017 employment in the GiG Economy is projected to surpass contact center employment.
ContactCenterWorld: In 2017, what do you think will be the top priorities in the contact center industry for each of the following: a) Contact Center Directors b) Company Executives c) IT Directors
Larry Schwartz: a) As Work-Life Balance increasingly becomes the top driver of agent satisfaction, the top priority for contact center directors will be to provide agents with schedule-change empowerment.
b) The top priority for company executives will remain on improving customer satisfaction, and improving agent satisfaction will increasingly be recognized as a key focus to achieving this.
c) The top priority for human resource directors will be how to more effectively recruit and retain contact center workers and they will increasingly recognize the importance of offering scheduling flexibility as a means of achieving this.
ContactCenterWorld: What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the industry over the next 12 months?
Larry Schwartz: Agent Empowerment Technology, particularly mobile-apps that enable agents to better manage their work-life balance.
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ContactCenterWorld: What impact have "external events" even had on your company, and how have you adapted your business?
Larry Schwartz: Our initial business focus was to empower workforce administrators with technology to improve intraday staffing agility, agent utilization and performance. In response to the changing agent demographics and rapid growth of alternative GiG Economy employment that has driven the need for companies to provide their agents with schedule-change empowerment. Our company adapted technology to introduce an intelligent agent mobile app that empowers agents with the flexibility to instantly view and change their schedules anywhere/anytime while ensuring that each change actually helps optimize staffing levels. This App enables companies to provide agents with the schedule-change empowerment they really want without additional administrative overhead and by "transforming agents into active workforce management partners" the app actually reduces the level of intraday staffing variances that workforce administrators need to address themselves.
ContactCenterWorld: Do you feel the service you personally get as a customer is better or worse than it was a year ago?
Larry Schwartz: It is getting worse. I have had several experiences with contact center customer service agents where it was clear that they were just going through the motions, following a predefined customer service decision tree, and were not really actively engaged, or particularly interested in actually solving my issue. It is increasingly rare to talk to a contact center agent that appears to be happy and enthusiastic about their job.
ContactCenterWorld: What contact center technology or other innovation excites you the most right now?
Larry Schwartz: Any technology that makes life easier for contact center workers. This includes workflow automation technologies that enable agents to service their customers more quickly and effectively, and mobile empowerment technologies that provide agents with the ability to better manage their work-life balance anywhere/anytime.
ContactCenterWorld: What has been the most important contact center related conversation topic in 2016 and what are your views on this?
Larry Schwartz: The most important topic has been to understand what the underlying factors are that are making it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain contact center workers and what are the most effective strategies to address this.
ContactCenterWorld: Can you share a great story of service you received when contacting a contact center in the past year?
Larry Schwartz: I always enjoy my interactions with the travel agency associated with my premium credit card. They go out of their way to ensure they understand my complex travel needs, take the time to analyze my needs, anticipate potential issues and provide me with several alternative solutions. They always follow-up after the call with email confirmations, and proactively contact me when something has changed that might affect my current travel arrangements.
ContactCenterWorld: What do you think will be the buzz word / focus for the contact center industry this year?
Larry Schwartz: Agent-empowerment.
ContactCenterWorld: Regarding the change in governments in places like the US and the Philippines - do you see this is good or bad for the contact center industry in those countries and why?
Larry Schwartz: Changes in governments will not substantially affect the more significant mega-trends that are fundamentally affecting the offshoring contact center BPO industry. There will continue to be a short term tactical driver to reduce contact center wage costs which will provide fuel for growth on offshore markets like the Philippines. However, the longer term strategic driver for companies to more directly manage customer service operations as a core competency to improve customer satisfaction will increase pressure on companies to insource contact center operations. The virtualization of the contact center that enables part-time/work-at-home contact center employment is reducing the total cost gap between offshore and onshore which is making it easier for companies to repatriate offshore contact center jobs.
ContactCenterWorld: Lastly, what do you think 2017 holds for the industry? (Good or bad and where/how etc.)
Larry Schwartz: The changing demographic and marketplace drivers that are impacting companies' ability to maintain an engaged and productive workforce are only going to continue to grow in 2017. Companies that can provide their agents with the schedule-change empowerment they really want will thrive in this new Millennial-Centric GiG-Economy, whereas companies that fail to recognize that schedule-change empowerment has become the new currency for recruiting and retaining contact center agents will increasingly struggle to survive.
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Published: Friday, January 13, 2017
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