Designing Contact Centers for 2021

Your contact center is often the first point of interaction for a customer. The employees who work there become the voice of your brand and they provide services that can make or break your brand loyalty and returning customer base. In fact, 44% of customers reported they stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service. With contact centers for U.S. companies currently employing about 3.4 million people and the global market expecting to reach $407.1 billion by 2022, it’s important these centers are functioning at top performance levels.

As contact centers continue to grow in importance to a company’s operations and bottom line, how can we make sure they are successful? Customer service staff are a large component to an effectively run center, and employers not only want to attract the best talent, but retain these customer service superstars. This can be achieved in part through the call center’s design. A thoughtful design can shape the look and feel of the workplace and can positively influence employees’ morale, helping them feel valued and setting them up for success and growth. With e-commerce becoming a primary mode for shopping, and customer service a front-facing function, we’ll see some major changes in how companies view contact centers and how they are designed. Here are trends for 2021 that will make an impact:

  1. Wellness and mental health
    Employees want to know the company values them beyond their work, and prioritizing employee wellness and mental health within the work environment is the first step. Comfort and health can directly affect an agent’s mood, impacting their interactions with clients and, therefore, clients’ experiences. If you want your employees to be empathetic and engaging, the workplace needs to reflect these factors. This means shifting the focus from solely KPIs to the staff and their workplace experience. It will be important to design workspaces that are not only visually appealing, but are ergonomically superior and offer amenities that reduce work-related pain and discomfort.
  2. Amenities
    If you want to be the best, you need to hire the best! This means being able to attract and retain top talent. From wall color to furnishings to natural daylight, office design can positively (or negatively) affect someone’s work experience. Forward-thinking design can ensure that the right amenities are incorporated to create a sense of belonging for employees.

The inclusion of amenities in the design can be a huge boost to employee morale. Conveniences such as vending machines and on-site food options subtly encourage employees to take a break during the workday. Creating areas for employees to blow off steam gives them an outlet from the rigors of their role and supports mental health and wellness. Spaces like scream rooms, quiet rooms, sympathy rooms and meditation pods provide agents with a place to relax and unwind after potentially stressful client interactions. These spaces can help them reset and feel refreshed for their next call, ensuring each customer receives the best service. Contact centers should also include meeting areas so employees can easily connect with each other or debrief with management, particularly with challenging cases.

Other design features can provide even more functionality within the workplace. Sound hoods give better sound isolation so employees can have focus time when needed. Incorporating places to get some fresh air and even technology providing autonomy over certain areas can create a more inviting workspace. Anytime you can give a center agent control over their environment, it can make a profound difference in how they treat the customer. This includes allowing agents to adjust the temperature or work from a standing position. Other controls, such as task lighting, background music volume and movable screens to block glare, can boost productivity as well.

Design can also facilitate a sense of camaraderie. Employees want to feel like they’re part of a community, and design that supports interactions and connections can help build a team-oriented environment and foster feelings of ownership and responsibility. Collaboration and refuge spaces like game and entertainment rooms, town halls, and multi-purpose cafes provide places for staff to take mental breaks, socialize, and celebrate. Whether it’s a high-spirited air hockey game, recognizing hard work and success, or family-oriented events, areas that support these extracurriculars are important to maintain employee happiness, and can help attract and retain talent.

  1. Mentoring, learning and training
    Integrating spaces that encourage learning, training, and growth is another important element to include in call center design. With this type of role, learning is often done by osmosis. By sitting near their managers and hearing how they handle certain situations, employees can gain the tactics and tools they need to provide better customer service. Strategically placing new staff near their teams can help them find their rhythm, and make collaborating with managers much easier. Fostering these types of continuous learning opportunities will ultimately lead to better customer experiences. Creating zones or neighborhoods are other ways to support training and learning among teams. This provides employees with different space types for day-to-day functions like focus work, collaborative activities and socialization.
  2. An integrated approach
    As we dive into 2021 and staff come back into the office, companies will need to re-evaluate their workplace design to accommodate new ways of working. Contact centers are no different, and since these roles are often out of a centralized location, businesses may be more invested in developing workplace strategies that meet the needs of their staff. The solution is a real estate partner that does it all — one company that provides space consultation, property selection, office design and construction. This integrated approach led by workplace experts combines strategy, design, and construction into a seamless delivery process, for a faster and more cost efficient build-out and move-in.

Contact centers of the future
Contact center operators of the future will need to rethink their workplaces, embracing design as an integral part of functionality and business success. It’s not enough to provide employees with a standard workstation and equipment. Incorporating these design trends into call center workplaces will help employers attract new talent while keeping current staff  happy, motivated and engaged. A larger focus will need to be placed on supporting health and wellness, creating areas for team building, mentoring and training, and prioritizing employee happiness through refuge and socialization spaces.

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