Professional Listeners: the Evolution of the Contact Centre Worker

Contact centre professionals have an unfair stigma attached to them for being disloyal, unmotivated, poorly trained and having a 'couldn't-care-less' attitude. Independent research, commissioned by Siemens Enterprise Communications, looks beyond the technology employed in UK contact centre environments and into the habits, tips, thoughts and working practices of the workers themselves. This first of three parts puts paid to perceived wisdom and generates a 21st Century profile of the modern day 'Professional Listener'. The research questioned over 500 contact centre workers in the UK, comprising a combination of inbound and outbound workers across both the public and private sectors.

The research concludes that there is a new breed of Professional Listener emerging who is loyal, motivated and highly satisfied, all set against a backdrop of ever increasing process and the proliferation of IT applications needed to do the job.

Key trends in the survey provide insights into where contact centre improvements could be made, and how to achieve best practice. Significantly, it highlights that Professional Listeners have the same career aspirations as any professional worker in any other industry. These career aspirations have in turn created loyal employees who stay in the same job for more than two years, on average. They crave training, want to improve and, as with all of us, want to be paid more!

Some of the characteristics of the Professional Listener include:
- On average, 4.3 years of experience.
- 2.2 years average job tenure.
- Loyal to company 44% who would like to progress within the department of their current job.
- Keen to work flexibly 77% of non-home workers would like to work from home, or combine home and office working.
- Overall satisfaction is high 53% satisfied, and 17% "very satisfied".

"The Siemens findings are at an aggregate level, but if you disaggregate the data there is a significant variation in the experience of contact centre workers. We agree that contact centre work is becoming more complex, and that contact centre workers identify with the job and want to do a good job", said Jeannie Drake, Deputy General Secretary at the Communication Workers Union. "Skill levels are rising, and contact centre workers want to be committed to their company and to customer service. Attrition can be quite low where people have permanent jobs in good companies."

"Contact centres have been undergoing a quiet revolution for some time now increased automation and efficiencies gained through better working practices and increased usage of unified communications technology. This research uncovers one of the key drivers behind this transformation: the Professional Listener. The results clearly challenge the traditional stereotypes of contact centre workers with the modern worker seen as motivated, loyal and keen to progress", said Tim Bishop, Head of Strategy at Siemens Enterprise Communications. "At Siemens we are constantly looking to improve the contact centre experience for both the Professional Listener and the customers that they serve. It is great to know that over time the industry has matured to such an extent that people coming to work within it are seeing it as a valid and valuable career choice. We are very proud to be part of that shift, but realise there is still a long way to go in ensuring that the technology we provide contributes to this positive perception."

UK contact centres are responsible for employing almost 300,000 people in the UK this equates to 1% of the UK workforce. Through automation of processes over the past decade, contact centre managers have a vast array of data at their disposal to inform strategy and business decisions.

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