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CX: Don’t Fear The Gig Worker

10 minute read

Regular Engage Customer Contributor Mark Hillary has just published a new book titled ‘Don’t Fear The Gig Worker: GigCX And The Employment Reboot.’ It’s an analysis of how the gig economy is entering into customer service and how it may actually help to address many of the post-pandemic requirements for more flexible work. Mark’s co-authors are the CEO and CRO of the GigCX technology platform LiveXchange.

The founder and principal analyst at TrendzOwl, Stephen Loynd, contributed this foreword to the introduction of the new book.

“Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.”

James Joyce, ULYSSES, 1922

When James Joyce wrote those words, the world was changing in what must have seemed unfathomable ways. And by the time he published FINNEGANS WAKE in 1939, there’s a definite sense that Joyce felt everything was going too fast.

How many pints have Mark Hillary and I shared in pubs all over the world as we analyzed Joyce’s perspicacious vision? Mark is somebody who gets it (I haven’t met too many people who’ve read as much Joyce – as well as Joyce-obsessed Anthony Burgess – as I have).

He gets that we live in a world where change is constant and technology is accelerating us forward at fever-pitch. This is our “The Exponential Age.” Such was the case before the Covid-19 pandemic, but since around March, 2020, the alien nature of societies in lockdown seems to have triggered a wave of events that are impacting us in ways that can never be reversed. It’s a Joycean sense of vertigo. It’s the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” squared.

Don’t believe me? The metaverse is soon to become a reality. Customers are constantly interacting with brands through an ambient customer experience process – smart speakers are always ready to respond to every request. The relationship between people and the brands they choose to purchase from has never been more complex, but this also makes the situation more interesting.

How can we imagine the world in five years, let alone a century? Looking back only a decade reveals a world before social media had flooded our world with fake news and vitriol. Where political leadership involved managing the economy, rather than just shaming the opposition. Where shopping usually involved shops. Where brands sold products and only communicated with customers to sell more, or to handle complaints.

Now I can have an ongoing relationship with my local grocery store. They send recipes and advice. They answer questions and reply with memes. Over 2 million people follow Dunkin’ Donuts on Instagram to see cute photos of dogs with their nose inside a Dunkin’ cup. One click and you can be wearing the t-shirt. America Runs on Dunkin’ after all, especially in Boston.

Can you sense my enthusiasm for a hot cup of Dunkin’? For my beloved City on a Hill? Well, that’s as it should be, no? In today’s world, customers are now fans. We’re no longer measuring interactions between customers and brands in the minutes it takes for a phone call to take place. There is now a lifetime of interaction.

The management of Domino’s Pizza once told their employees to always imagine the customer has a $10,000 bill taped on their face. That’s the value of that customer to us over the many years they will keep ordering our pizza. If they have a problem, and it might cost a few dollars to resolve, then fix it. We can lose a few bucks today because we want to earn all of that $10,000 over time.

There’s much wisdom there, and the world is changing so quickly that Domino’s management might need to also consider whether cryptocurrencies will soon become useful for everyday transactions. Will most customers someday use cryptocurrency to pay for their pizza? Either way, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve, the percentage of Americans preferring to pay with cash plunged from 27% in 2016 to 18% in 2020. The pandemic is no doubt accelerating that process.

Meantime, the process of managing customer interactions is maturing and can no longer be solely focused on the post-purchase phone call. People are interacting with brands they have never purchased from, building a relationship, and staying in touch with the brands they love. The entire process of managing the experience of a customer with a brand has evolved far beyond the concept of a contact center just managing calls.

What Brian, Terry, and Mark have illustrated in this book is that there is far more to GigCX than just the process of paying someone each time they help a customer – rather than paying an hourly wage.

The book indicates that there is a wider societal shift taking place. Our expectation of employers has changed. Workers no longer believe that commuting should just be accepted as essential or that an employer can deny them the flexibility to leave work early when they have a family emergency.

The great resignation of 2021 indicated that millions of people are not prepared to skew their work/life balance entirely in favor of work. We all need to work, we have bills to pay, but we don’t need to work in a way that destroys our physical and mental health.

GigCX is a result of many factors. The pandemic proved that professional employees could successfully work from home without a loss of productivity. I wrote about this over a decade ago, but it took a crisis for many executives to be convinced. Well, welcome to the future.

The widespread adoption of working from home has created the ability to introduce more flexibility into working hours. The continuous eight-hour shift was a result of the First Industrial Revolution. Factory employees were usually forced to spend long arduous hours at work and the agreement to limit shifts to just eight hours protected their health.

But in 2022, why is the Monday-Friday eight-hour shift still accepted as normal? We have workforce management software that can match up when companies need people and when people want to work. It should be simple to accommodate employees that want to do a few hours in the morning, then take a break to collect their kids from school, and then add in a couple more hours in the evening.

The gig economy has many critics, and often for a good reason, but GigCX is very different to the gig worker delivering restaurant meals. GigCX workers are choosing the brands they want to work for, how many hours they want to work, and when they want to work. GigCX agents are often fans of the brands they support.

Much of the debate around the great resignation has focused on the need for companies to listen to their workforce. To modernize and offer flexible hours and the ability to work from home when it is the preference of the worker. Companies that want to thrive in the 2020s need to pay more than just lip service to these requests for flexibility.

In fact, companies that offer their workers genuine flexibility will find that they are more attractive employers – so the best talent will gravitate in their direction. In addition, this ability to place workforce agility at the heart of operational strategy increases the resilience of the company to endure a future crisis – such as a new virus or disease that requires social distancing. Hopefully not in the near future though.

The doctrine of Milton Friedman is that a business is responsible only to the shareholders. This may need revision for the twenty-first century because a company that offers greater flexibility to its workforce will also create a more resilient organization that is ready for future challenges.

Listening to the workers may in fact also be better for the shareholders. And in the customer service environment it’s likely that GigCX will be an increasingly popular organizational structure, not because it reduces operational cost, but because it’s where the best talent can be located.

Far-sighted executives with one eye on the future need to chart a course that increases the resilience of their business and delivers the employee experience workers expect in the 2020s. GigCX has the potential to redraw how customer service strategies are designed and this book goes a long way to explaining why. All the future will soon plunge to the past. Don’t get left behind. Cheers.

For more information about the new book, please click here.

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