The Agent Agenda
02 September, 2021
Where have all the customer care agents gone?
By Marilyn Soares
VP of Client Services
Welcome to the new economy.
Businesses continue to rethink their supply chains and their vendor relationships but the single most disruptive factor the pandemic revealed was the volatility in our labor ranks. The labor shortage in the United States represents continued friction in our fragile recovery – and the Delta variant is adding another challenge to the recovery
Companies who host in-house customer care centers domestically are reportedly running lean operations because they can’t find enough agents. Their recruiting teams are facing continued stress and pressure to hire agents, just to get someone to answer the phones, chat or email requests. And if they use an outsourced business process outsourcer who supports their business with domestic labor, these companies are paying a premium and are often challenged with hiring quality agents. This takes its toll on the customer experience.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified a host categories of front-line workers where there is an acute shortage, from nurses, truck drivers to farm workers The shortages are being exacerbated by a several issues, including:
- The lack of accessible, reliable and affordable childcare;
- Continued health concerns and exposure to COVID-19 and its variants;
- Larger employers are attracting candidates by increasing their minimum wages and offering signing and retention bonuses.
Another challenge is workers’ preference of the ideal workplace. According to Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker survey, 87% of workers who shifted to remote work because of the pandemic want to continue working remotely, at least one day a week after the pandemic recedes.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track customer care jobs as a sector or industry so we can’t analyze this occupation quarterly or even monthly, but we have to rely on the annual Occupational Outlook Handbook instead. Unfortunately, by the time we see the next outlook next spring, the labor demand for customer care agents will have been exacerbated.
We do know that attracting, recruiting, training and retaining customer care agents in the United States is a major headwind for American business. The evidence is overwhelming. According to CustomerServ.com, training classes are reporting record low attendance rates – even after agents have received their job offer. In one instance, the website cites a 20% attendance rate.
If anything, labor market indicators of the New Economy are telling us that change will be an even more constant and the real leaders will be those who are able to install a sense of stability and predictability to their business operations.
This isn’t going to be easy.
For businesses recruiting customer care/customer service representatives, the headwinds are real:
- You can find and hire enough agents;
- When you do find candidates, the cost is prohibitive;
- And when you manage to find and hire candidates, you find a capability gap.
While the customer care job market is upside down in the U.S., there is solution.
There are Nearshore and Offshore providers who offer agents with strong U.S. cultural affinity that excel at customer service. Retaining a customer care provider with these credentials not only allow you to focus on your core business, but it also removes some of the volatility that has been disrupting our business models for almost two years now.
A credible Nearshore/Offshore provider offers:
- Lower Agent Turnover: Our operations in Belize and Philippines have one of the lowest attrition rates in the entire industry. Our low attrition rates in both countries is a testament of our recruiting models. We screen for candidates who are a good fit for BPO services – from customer care to sales to back office or technical support. Hiring on a conveyor belt of processing agents for short term employment hurts client relationships, and ultimately customer service.
- Ready Workforce: Our market research in Belize indicates the pool of qualified candidates is deep. The country’s high school and post-secondary graduates a fluent English speakers who are eager to join the workforce and consider working for a BPO provider to be a career and not simply a short-term job. In the Philippines, we can draw one of the world’s deepest pool of agents with up to five million experienced candidates in the country.
- Sales IQ: Unmatched U.S. cultural affinity in both Belize and Philippines set these two markets apart from other Nearshore and Offshore providers. Both countries have strong ties to American brands, and American lifestyle choices. They understand U.S. purchasing habits, our sports, our media and our entertainment.
Finding a customer experience provider to manage your customer demands is critical to wading through the waters we find ourselves in today. It would be the understatement of 2020s to say that the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to take their eye of the ball.
Finding an outsourced customer care provider – and someone you trust – shouldn’t be a barrier to focusing on your business.
In fact, it should just be as easy for you as you hope to make it for your customers to find answers.