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The impact of industrial action on CX – an agent’s perspective

The CX industry has had a challenging few months in the face of substantial industrial action. However, when we think about the disruption caused, there’s one core group of individuals that are often overlooked: the contact centre agents.

As the intense battle of wages and other disputes continues, the subsequent stampede of strikes has had an enormous impact on CX professionals across the country.

Strikes across the rail industry and the National Education Union are two prime examples of recent industrial action. The knock-on effects of these actions are staggering. In the case of UK schools, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that more than half of parents reported that they would be affected if schools closed because of strikes, with almost a third (31%) stating they would have to work fewer hours, and 28% feeling they would be unable to work.

For customer service representatives, the impact of disrupted commutes and lost working days can be significant. Whether it means workers are unable to get into the office because trains aren’t running (and lack an appropriate remote working setup), or they have unexpected childcare demands due to school closures, this can all have a dramatic impact on their ability to do their job.

In the CX industry, a disruption on this scale has a ricocheting effect.

CX defines how a customer feels about their interactions with a business, from the sales experience to product and service quality to customer support. And unfortunately, strikes can create several points of friction throughout the customer journey.

Providing a seamless service and quick, meaningful responses is vital to delivering sound CX. However, if customer service agents are unable to work due to industrial action, then companies can be left short of staff, meaning it may take customers longer to speak to a representative and get their issues resolved.

Not only can this damage the overall experience, leading to agitation on the customer side, but it can also impact those agents who are subjected to the frustrations of customers – which can be extremely draining on their well-being.

Three ways to empower your customer service agents 

Given the challenges that strikes present, businesses need to keep agents at the top of their priority list. It is the responsibility of businesses to ensure agents are correctly supported in times of industrial action – and beyond!

Here, we outline three key strategic considerations to empower agents in the face of industrial action:

 #1 – Adopt omnichannel communications

An omnichannel communications strategy can go a long way in responding to consumer agitation, where agents are empowered to converse with customers through a variety of different channels, spanning social media, video, live chat or email. This enables agents to best respond to customer queries, while operating in channel that they find most comfortable.

#2 – Embrace automation

In short, technology helps simplify customer-brand interactions. By automating key functions, such as implementing package tracking and returns portals, customers will be able to resolve their own queries in a quick, straightforward, and transparent manner. Not only will this improve customer satisfaction, but it will also free up customer service agents to focus on higher value tasks, engaging customers with alternative concerns and queries that require more attention and genuine interaction more effectively.

#3 – Don’t underestimate the importance of empathy

In the same way that businesses encourage an empathetic approach to customer engagements, agents must be supported in the same. With strikes impacting operations, customers are more likely to be left disgruntled, adding stress to customer service representatives.

Further, many employees will be impacted by industrial action and the cost-of-living crisis themselves, creating a volatile cocktail of more difficult and abrasive work engagements and increasing personal pressures. For this reason, agents must be wholeheartedly supported. Doing so will serve to increase motivation and productivity, while also preventing resignations and quiet quitting to safeguard critical customer service functions during a challenging time.

Strikes are only expected to continue, causing further disruption through 2023 and beyond. However, with the right technologies, strategic tweaks and support for agents, firms can get ahead of the curve and build resilience to protect the CX function during the potentially challenging times ahead.