Steve Sullivan

The cost of living crunch and a value generation opportunity

Steve Sullivan, Head of Regulatory Compliance, Contact Centre Panel

Are you responsible for a contract centre operation? Got enough on your plate just now coping with economic chaos, ongoing supply chain difficulties, recruitment and retention challenges, customer rage and challenged budgets?

Thought so. In which case how do you fancy tackling the low pay and high inflation conundrum (as no one else seems to know what to do about it) of contact centre salaries?

It is not an attractive prospect, is it? However, you or your team are probably already doing just that, in small ways. I recently spoke to an operational leader who has agreed that a handful of their most vulnerable employees can get ‘first dibs’ at the weekly food donations gathered across the centre for a local food bank. People’s financial circumstances are highly variable and not always linked to the macroeconomic situation. However, right now a lot of people working in contact centres will be feeling more financially exposed than they have in years, or possibly ever.

The backdrop to all this is two-fold:

The bosses are getting richer

In the US the pay gap between CEOs’ and median workers’ earnings in 300 major firms has now stretched to 670:1. In the UK things are a bit fairer, but Reuters has reported that, based on company results published in 2022 up to early summer, CEOs were paid 63 times as much as their median employee’s salary. Bear in mind that’s the median (“mid-way”) salary point, not the lowest. In most companies traditionally low-paid jobs like cleaning, catering and security will have been outsourced long ago. So, in many organisations, the largest group of relatively low-paid employees are likely to be found in your contact centre – whether that’s in your corporate offices, at home or a bit of both. Of course, some or all of the customer management and contact centre operations may have been outsourced, too, but low-paid and financially struggling outsourced representatives of your brand are still your problem!

Contact centre salaries remain low

Despite the nature of the roles getting progressively more complex and challenging, contact centre salaries, in-house or outsourced, have remained stubbornly relatively low for over two decades (as ContactBabel’s long-term research results demonstrate), certainly before the ‘Great Resignation’.

So, what on earth can you do about it? Unless you have an especially well-funded and guilt-ridden executive team and shareholders it will be a variation on the old theme. That is, how to maximise the value generated by your operation and the customer interactions it is responsible for.

More than ever, the insight you hold into what are the broken processes and failed communications that drive unnecessary contacts is truly valuable. Make a nuisance of yourself and use a time of change and uncertainty to champion what your organisation needs to do for its customers. Only then can you either allow your people to focus more on value generation and be in a better position to argue for pay and rewards that can help them avoid the worse effects of the cost of living crunch.

If you’d like to discuss your current employment challenges or how to help drive and demonstrate more value from your contact centre operation, just drop us a line.