Think the growth of the gig economy is hurting your business? That may be true if you're a taxi company... but if you're a growing startup, the gig economy might be the answer to your demand spike needs.

The following is from Keith Leimbach, the CEO of Liveops, a company that provides managed, flexible workforces and, with 20,000 independent agents, is the largest marketplace for call center workers in the world. (Liveops also just launched Skill Builder, a customizable distance learning and development solution that enables enterprise organizations to develop highly skilled customer service agents.)

Here's Keith:

"Thanks for holding. Your call is very important to us."

Is it really? If my call was so important, wouldn't it make sense to have someone available to answer it? Many organizations are heading back to the drawing board to find better options to improve their customers' experiences, and they're coming up with new solutions that are showing results.

For decades, companies have hired full-time call center employees supplemented by a few extra staff during peak seasons, tried to cut costs by moving work offshore, and then smothered it all under "Press 5 to be ignored." These choices sacrificed quality when workers were unable to live up to customers' expectations or call volumes spiked beyond available capacity.

The surprising solution to poor quality? The gig economy. It's more than adding staff during peak periods. In a gig economy, flexible jobs are commonplace and it's gaining momentum. Companies that use contingent workforces find breakthroughs in cost, quality and flexibility. Forward-thinking business leaders are using "gig" or "flex" workers as part of the design to be more nimble, reduce costs, and quickly respond to wild swings in staffing needs. Flex workers perform critical business functions such as customer service, sales, tech support and more.

According to a survey by McKinsey, the total number of gig-workers in the U.S. is now 53-68 million, or 35 percent of the total civilian labor force and growing to 50 percent by 2020. In fact, other research shows that 90 percent of employers already use independent contractors to gain access to workers with specific skills as the need arises.

Deploying gig economy-sourced flexible workforces is the inevitable future. At Liveops, we like to call it the "flexiprise." For businesses, the flexiprise is a new source of fuel--namely, virtual talent. It's faster, cheaper and more predictable. Past approaches to tackling this has been primarily through compromise, meaning enterprises had to sacrifice quality for cost. In the new paradigm, this is no longer true. Here are the top reasons companies need to adapt their process to embrace the gig economy now.

Flexibility is a must

Customers are conditioned to expect a fast and personalized experience when they interact with your business. They want short hold times, solutions, and access to a human being who can solve their problem when they are unable to get solutions otherwise. Responsiveness wins greater share of mind and wallet.

The retail industry is a great example. Seasonal spikes in customer demand, unexpected service needs, or a wildly successful product launch all put additional pressure on organizations to respond rapidly. And most industries are subject to business spikes. Just think of insurance companies after a natural disaster, or airlines managing bookings after a major weather delay.

How many times can you remember hearing, "Your call is important to us, please wait for the next available agent?" Traditionally structured customer service organizations--meaning, those with full-time, 9-to-5 employees -- often struggle to keep up when call volumes are higher than expected. Because these organizations can't respond quickly, their brand is tarnished and they lose customer loyalty.

Enterprises that survive the next decade need to think creatively about how work gets done and shift to a flexiprise model to adapt on the fly and efficiently scale up or down. Leveraging the flexiprise, organizations are more agile and can proactively plan ahead for spikes and lulls. This agility will help elevate business performance faster and more effectively, plus it will keep your customers happy.

Minimize the skills gap

It's no secret there's a national shortage of skilled labor. According to research by PwC, 72 percent of leaders in financial services see a skills gap as a threat to growth. This skills shortage can hinder progress for your business. Companies often struggle to find the right workers--a challenge that can be multiplied by a limited pool of local talent and competing employers.

How do we bridge this employment skills gap? This is where the gig economy plays a key role. In the flexiprise, there is an incredible amount of good talent available because through technology, that talent is geographically limitless. This lets you focus on finding the best people for the job, with relevant experience, who are motivated to invest time in your company.

For example, let's say you need an expert with an insurance background who happens to be fluent in Spanish. In the flexiprise, you can widen the geographical net as far as possible to increase your chances of finding the perfect match. Just as people can find almost any product online, rather than just settling for what's at the local market, you can use the gig economy to fill your business needs with the perfect talent.

Control costs and drive growth

The bane of customer service work is attrition. Ask any enterprise--it's expensive finding and training qualified staff, and far more expensive doing it over and over again as staff leave. Plus, high turnover hurts business performance and customer satisfaction.

The gig economy is necessary for the cost-conscious enterprise. It's cost efficient for your business. Research from Ernst and Young shows that the No. 1 driver (at 62 percent) for enterprise companies to hire flex workers is controlling cost. They are self-motivated, train faster, require less supervision and are ready to work whenever needed.

It is also important to bring up the spikes and lulls when it comes to controlling costs. Traditional customer service organizations have to over-staff to ensure enough workers are available when call volumes peaked. Yet, if call volumes are lower, workers sit idle. That wastes money.

In the flexiprise, not paying for idle time means enterprises are able to deliver more cost-effective customer service. And, because flex workers are better qualified to help customers, they generate more income per call through increased sales conversions, greater average order sizes and higher customer satisfaction rates.

Every business leader is looking for flexibility without sacrificing quality and reducing cutting costs - that's the perpetual trade everyone is making. What many of these leaders are missing is the opportunity to integrate contingent skilled labor into their workforce--transforming their organizations from an enterprise to flexiprise.

Ask yourself, how flexible is your workforce today? Start by using flexible talent to supplement permanent staff. To stay nimble and productive, you must embrace the gig economy as its flexible staff create higher margins and increased satisfaction.

Workers in this new gig economy are already out there and ready to work -- what are you waiting for?

Published on: Jul 21, 2017
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