By Felix Serrano
In a world where customer experience is essential, an organization’s choice of CX delivery model is equally as vital.
Gone are the days of buying hundreds of seats in a cramped call center, filling them with local employees, and pacing the aisles under the guise of “coaching.” Today’s CX delivery is about empowering and motivating people to provide the best possible experiences to your customers—and how/where people work plays an essential role in that process.
Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between the three most location-agnostic models around today: GigCX, hybrid, and SmartVirtual™.
First, the positives: the gig economy can provide talent at a highly attractive price point. It is also ideal for filling gaps on an immediate, short-term basis, both for brands and employees. Still, the downfalls of the model far outweigh the benefits, especially when customer experience is at stake.
For jobseekers, gig contracts are simply a way to bridge the gap between full-time roles or to subsidize a primary job, perhaps. Still, there is almost no incentive for them to go above and beyond the scope of their contract—once they check the boxes and complete their allotted tasks, it’s straight on to the next gig. Plus, there are no guaranteed hours, no benefits, and minimal opportunity to advance a career.
GigCX comes with a lack of job security that leaves the workforce without income if there isn’t enough work. The lack of security goes both ways. Due to the nature of gig contracts, GigCX workers have the freedom to jump ship without any ramifications, so brands risk having to start fresh with new people constantly.
Also, by law, brands don’t have the same mechanisms at their disposal as they do with employees. For example, you can’t provide explicit coaching direction or corrective action plans; instead, you provide feedback, and the contractor can choose whether or not to apply it. If they decide not to listen, the customer experience is at risk. You can dismiss the contractor, of course, but the damage to the brand has already been done.
Furthermore, since the pandemic struck, the GigCX model has been more at risk than ever. Regulators recognize that a handful of businesses are using gig workers to circumvent legal responsibilities around taxes and social security. Plus, with many states working toward legislation to consider long-term contractors as employees, brands are at risk of relying on the temporary benefits of the gig model.
So, what’s the takeaway here? Well, GigCX provides the opportunity to match resources to specific business needs. Still, there are legal obligations to consider when keeping them long-term, and it isn’t very easy to create and maintain a healthy continuous improvement culture.
As I’ve stated before, there’s a place for GigCX, but I’m still waiting for compelling evidence to support the notion that it can compete with the employee-based model for pure CX. Sure, it has an attractive price point, but its predominant lure—CX value is a distant second.
Hybrid is the new catchword on the block since COVID-19 sent the workforce home, but its meaning has become skewed lately, so let me start by clearing that up. A hybrid model allows contact centers to service a campaign with a seamless team of work-at-home and in-center agents. The keyword here is seamless.
Loads of companies are selling “hybrid” to their clients, when it is just two separate delivery locations operating independently. It becomes a choice between in-center or work-at-home, but very rarely an effective blend of both.
For hybrid to work, employees should choose to work at the contact center or their home office. At the same time, operators should have the technology and expertise to manage people in both locations simultaneously. Still, as of now, there is no evidence of any company of scale successfully blending work-at-home with in-center in this true hybrid fashion.
Quite frankly, the absence of a “true hybrid” in the market comes down to the significant risks and challenges associated with blending two delivery models. As you might imagine, it creates an entirely new level of cost and complexity.
When COVID-19 arrived, several providers assumed they could take in-center processes and apply them to work-at-home, a fundamental flaw in their strategic business continuity planning. Things like training, coaching, tools, payroll, scheduling, and communication techniques are entirely different from one model to the next, so the idea that you can operate one campaign across two models with a blanket approach is ludicrous.
Then there is the question of sustainability. When offering hybrid, BPOs have to sit on fixed costs for their physical facilities, with built-out infrastructure that isn’t being utilized. The mixed model, or hybrid, whatever you choose to call it, is more complicated and costly than operating a single model—either at-home or in-center. They are two very separate cultures that have difficulty coexisting. Also worth noting, on a like-for-like basis, work-at-home outperforms in-center every single time.
I’ve been itching to tell you why.
SmartVirtual™ is a combination of technology, people, and processes that thrive in a work-at-home setting. The concept was founded, well before the pandemic, on elevating experiences for employees, customers, and the communities we support.
As opposed to the help-yourself nature of GigCX, SmartVirtual™ provides coaching, professional development, competitive benefits, and the ability to maintain and sustain a personal life with an above-average living wage for the industry. In addition, this steady stream of revenue allows our Ambassadors to proactively plan for vacations or other personal activities, representing an implicit level of protection and job security that much of the U.S. workforce seeks.
Our employees have a vested interest in performing well for the company, as they are usually in it for the long term. From their perspective, high performance is measured by their ability to provide better customer experiences, so the longer they stick around, the better it is for all stakeholders.
As a 100% work-at-home model, SmartVirtual™ expands the available talent pool exponentially instead of the limited local scope of a hybrid model. With no location barriers, we can find knowledgeable, skilled professionals uniquely paired to a client’s needs. There’s also greater flexibility, both around work hours and the ability to integrate with employees’ personal lives. In addition, our Ambassadors’ careers are portable, meaning they can take their job with them if they relocate.
Still, we know that SmartVirtual™ is not for everyone. Individuals who prosper in a contact center setting may struggle to adjust to the exclusive work-at-home environment. In addition, it requires the ability to have uninterrupted space and time to work. We’re proud of our ability to pre-screen candidates based on these and other factors, giving us an incredible workforce that is perfectly suited to the at-home model.
Whichever CX delivery model you choose, be sure to keep it in line with your priorities. If reliable CX is not a priority over cost and rapid scalability, then GigCX is worth experimenting with. If complexity and additional costs aren’t a concern, then a hybrid solution may be an option. If elevated customer experiences and employee satisfaction are more important, SmartVirtual™ is the clear front runner.