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By: Execs In The Know
The gig economy continues to gain a significant share of voice in the news, in online discussions, and at our customer experience (CX) events. Rightfully so, due to its great promise and allure as an effective, flexible, cost-effective approach to serving customers. This rapidly growing CX service model has leaders actively exploring it as an intriguing service alternative. However, it is clear there is still some looming fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
While the early adopters of the gig model can attest to some clear benefits and tout some early success for specific applications, a majority of companies have yet to tap into this ever-growing talent pool due to a lack of understanding, hesitation about where to begin, or simply fear of what could go wrong.
Adopting a gig model requires you to fundamentally evaluate everything – it’s the newest disruptor to the traditional CX service delivery model. Despite a number of unanswered questions, leaders remain hungry to understand gig’s place within CX. We’ve laid out some of the most common options leaders would benefit from investigating the gig model. Let’s begin with the most fundamental question.
How do we define the gig economy for CX?
Perhaps the best way to provide clarity to loosely thrown around buzzwords is to break it down in CX terms. The gig economy is the economic model for CX to employ, while the pool of flexible workers within the gig economy is what we call gig workers. These are the workers who choose flexible, task-based work over traditional 9-5 office jobs at a rapidly increasing rate. To engage these gig workers, companies must consider how they integrate various service models into their mainstream CX operations.
“The gig economy really is less about customer service itself and more about where the talent of the future is going to be and how companies will tap into that talent to best serve their customers,” said Brett Frazer, Head of Customer Service at Sun Basket.
According to Upwork, 51% of the US independent workforce would not take a traditional job for any amount of money. Additionally, 84% say they are living their preferred lifestyle compared to 54% of those in traditional jobs.
The most important takeaway to comprehend is that flexible workers are part of the gig economy by choice. They pick the brands they represent, the hours they work, and the type of work they perform. As it pertains to CX, companies can make the most of the gig workforce by gaining access to workers who are already fans of the brand, unbound by physical location, willing to work outside a traditional 8 a.m.to 5 p.m. workday, and easily scalable. Additionally, they come with a faster acquisition to production mode timeline and a very different financial compensation model, often pay by the minute or pay by the result.
There is an endless amount of service models companies can use when getting into gig, which is what makes gig appear to be complex, but understanding it actually turns complexity into an attractive option. When it comes to sourcing the right workers and providing the right platform, there are a few widely adopted options beneficial to both beginners and experienced practitioners within the gig economy.
The Gig Resource Platform Service Model
Advancements in technology and secure VPN capabilities allow work to be performed from anywhere at any time.
New technology capabilities have opened the door for new gig resource technology and service platforms such as Upwork, Limitless, and many others to make it easier for companies to find gig workers capable of handling the exact capabilities they need. These providers attract and retain a pool of gig workers, and through their technology, serve up knowledge and language assessment information, along with the ability create a seamless service workflow.
When you invite gig workers with the right attributes and passion for your brand to perform task-based work, you can connect them to your digital channels through APIs or use the platform tools available to manage the project. With some vendors focused specifically on CX, you can lean on the platform’s technology to resolve or route calls to qualified agents. Frazer discussed his company’s successful relationship with Limitless and explained how they streamline the process of tapping into gig.
“I work with Limitless to identify the customers we want to invite to join the platform, however, that platform is owned by Limitless and those who elect to join are independent contractors with Limitless,” said Frazer. “They have no direct affiliation in this work capacity with Sun Basket.”
“In our growing of the company, we looked at ways for existing customers to help customers in our retention model. Our retention model was very phone heavy, and gig and phone really haven’t been able to merge very well yet with some of the technology. I liked many of the technologies Limitless was talking about when it came to gig and how they focused on providing a way for people to make a career out of customer service,” said Frazer.
By partnering with a gig resource platform service provider, companies can hand off management time-intensive tasks of the talent recruitment, training, and compensation with the added benefit of limitations in liability.
Lisa Oswald, SVP of Customer Service at Travelzoo, has been able to rely on Upwork to handle her company’s gig work.
“We trialed the Upwork platform in May 2019, shifting from a traditional staffing agency to the freelancing site to hire a dedicated team for full-time contract work,” said Oswald. “There’s no difference in the way we manage our gig team or any other on our payroll. We apply the same quality assurance processes, set the same performance targets, offer the same pay for performance incentives – and just as important, communicate on the same frequency.”
These new platforms help solve the problem of having to follow traditional time-consuming methods to find consistent, reliable gig workers that are a good fit for a company to perform a particular service. Whether it’s your first dip into the gig pool or your 100th, these resource platforms make it easy to quickly connect and ramp up with the right gig workers.
The Gig Outsourcing or Virtual Call Center Service Model
For companies looking for a turnkey solution, outsourcing remains a sound option within the gig economy. A full-service outsourcing model using gig workers lends itself to a full spectrum of gig benefits with the added confidence of traditional outsourcing services. This model allows a company to bypass the gig learning curve and retool to accommodate the nuances of gig.
A gig outsourcing service model opens the door to even more flexibility and greater access to different talent structures by either incorporating a pure gig workforce managed service, or by building a hybrid model to seamlessly leverage both traditional brick and mortar workers and gig workers. In some cases, these outsourced or virtual call center service providers act as the middleman, outsourcing to either independent gig workers, a micro call center company made up of incorporated independent work-from-anywhere gig workers, or to multi-agent call center companies.
“You have to break your mindset up,” said Frazer. “You have less control over your volume handling in a gig environment than you do in an outsource environment.”
This model also opens the door for sourcing diverse talent from around the world, different languages, different skill sets with more input and control over training, background check clearances, and even the tools they use. Oswald pointed out how gig “gives us access to talent unbound by geography, people who can work around the clock to support our global business at very competitive labor rates.”
The gig outsourcing or virtual model also allows for efficiency in an integrated approach. This includes a gig model to handle the definable, routine calls with escalation to the more seasoned office-based worker across the globe who handles the more sensitive, culture-dependent, or complex calls. This model is great when you need to accommodate seasonal spikes in call volume, service a global customer, and when more control for security or training is needed.
Custom Service Model
While advancements in technology have created platforms with the ability to connect data to view all work being done across gig workers and outsourcers, some companies feel comfortable enough plugging in gig workers through their own service models.
The process is a thorough undertaking that likely becomes more prominent in coming years. Unlike outsourcing or resource platforms, building an in-house gig model requires specialized knowledge in terms of acquiring and managing independent contractor talent and the legal nuances that come with it. This avenue requires agents to have access to the proper training materials and tools to ensure they feel they can confidently perform the work and earn an honest income while maintaining their highly desired independence.
Choosing a unique, do-it-yourself type of service model doesn’t have to be complicated. Companies can even choose to rely on organizational alumni networks, former full-time skilled workers looking for flexible work, or professionals looking for a side hustle.
According to a Mavenlink report, nearly half (47%) of respondents reported they are in the market to hire gig workers to fill management and senior executive roles, including C-Suite level positions. It isn’t uncommon to hire flexible agents with the intention of keeping them long-term and eventually developing them into higher-level pillars of the company.
Are You Ready to Get into The Gig?
Technology’s improvements have lowered the barrier for entry into gig. CX executives have a goldmine of talent and resources available, provided everyone knows where to begin, and which service model is the most feasible.
If you are reluctant to get into gig for agent services, these models aren’t restricted to call center agents, either. Some of our community members are testing the waters using gig workers for secret shopper services, data entry, outbound calling, and other specialized routine tasks.
With a new decade upon us and a gig workforce growing by the day, there is no better time to examine service models and explore how to best reach the ideal flexible workers to in turn provide the customer with the best possible experience.