Gig customer experience (gigCX) workers—independent contractors, freelancers, and other temporary workers who provide customer support and other related services—are a natural fit in the contact center space. Individuals who are looking for a remote work environment with flexible hours are increasingly joining customer care, back office, growth services, data annotation, and content moderation teams.
However, in order to attract and retain gigCX workers, especially in a tight labor market, it’s essential to approach engagement and retention with strategies that are customized to fit their needs and interests. Here’s how to engage and motivate a gigCX workforce that delivers exceptional results.
The rise of the gigCX worker
The number of participants in the gigCX economy has rapidly grown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase is partly due to an increased reliance on gig workers to handle a variety of jobs from food delivery to answering the phone, in addition to more people pursuing gig work for supplementary—or primary—income during these tumultuous times.
For gigCX workers, the benefits include an opportunity to work with multiple companies simultaneously, which can potentially translate into a higher earning potential, and greater scheduling flexibility. Indeed, “heavy attrition is a common challenge in the contact center industry,” says DC Wright, chief transformation and innovation officer at TTEC. “The traditional model is very inflexible which people find unappealing.” An on-demand model like gigCX, Wright continues, solves some of those challenges by “allowing people to work when they want to work.”
According to a Pew Research Center report, “The State of Gig Work in 2021,” 9% of U.S. adults are current or recent gig workers. This figure is expected to grow in the next few years, with some analysts predicting gig workers will represent more than half of the U.S. workforce by 2023.
It behooves companies from across a wide range of industries to consider making gigCX a part of their regular operations. As an on-demand model, it offers greater staffing flexibility; during periods of high-demand, companies can activate a talent pool of gig workers and scale back when the volume decreases.
In addition to greater flexibility, gig workers are less restricted by geographic limits, reducing the need for physical infrastructures reduces costs and increases efficiency. Companies can also recruit brand advocates or domain experts as gig workers, creating a highly informed and passionate service experience.
Imagine a music store (online or brick-and-mortar) where tier one gig workers field general inquiries and requests while other gig workers such as professional musicians handle calls related to instrument recommendations and technical questions.
Think like a gigCX worker
On the surface, gigCX work is incredibly transactional—workers are there to complete a task, get paid, and move on. But just because a job may be short-lived on a task-by-task basis, there is still much that companies can do to motivate talented gig workers. The first step is to recognize that gig workers are not motivated by the same things as full-time employees. “To be successful, companies must remember that gig workers respond less to recognition among peers or professional mentorship and more to transactional benefits that support their flexible lifestyle,” according to a blog by Everee, a payroll and payments systems provider. Adjust your perspective on strategies for gig workers to build programs that successfully engage your workforce and promote loyalty in a short-term work culture. Other tips and best practices include:
1. Focus on flexibility
The evolving state of the workforce presents employers with a new challenge: how to attract and retain workers. Small and medium-sized businesses, especially, can only raise wages so much. And so, even ensuring that gig and part-time workers remain loyal to an organization has become mission critical.
According to a 2019 study by researchers at Yale University, flexibility was the main driver among gig workers. Organizations that are accustomed to having workers clock in and out for a 9-5 job will need to reassess their workforce planning processes to identify areas that would benefit from flexible staffing and work backwards to fill those roles.
2. Double down on onboarding and setting expectations
It’s a mistake to assume that gigCX workers don’t need to understand a company’s culture or the brand that they’re representing. Make it a point to help gig workers feel welcome and part of the company, even if it’s temporary. Providing interactive training, introducing them to internal staff, and including them in team meetings can make a difference. In addition, communicating clear performance expectations is key. Make sure gig workers understand how their performance will be measured and policies that they’re expected to abide by, even though they’re setting their own hours.
3. Provide regular feedback
Being a gig worker can be lonely, isolating work, especially if team leaders don’t communicate often or provide feedback. Being transparent with a gig worker about areas where they’ve excelled and opportunities for further improvement can encourage them to strive harder to meet the client’s expectations. Quickly communicating over a chat platform to simply thank workers for a task well done can drive loyalty and increase enthusiasm for the role. Another important part of feedback is timeliness. Managers that rarely communicate with their teammates may miss an opportunity to easily address an issue and improve performance.
4. Make payments easy and fair
It goes without saying that workers should be paid fairly for their work in a timely manner. However, delivering fast payments with a nimble payment system that is customized for gig work is still a work in progress at many companies. TTEC’s Wright predicts that eventually companies will adopt a pay-for-performance model through digital payments. “Companies need a platform that is able to track the quality and throughput of each transaction and in a perfect world, use a pay-for-performance model where workers can easily see how much they’ll earn for each transaction and get paid as soon as they’ve completed each task.” The more positive a payment experience workers have with a company, he adds, the more likely they are to choose it over competitors for similar work.
5. Provide transparent tipping
Payment terms for tips are another thorny issue. Learn from companies that have been hit with lawsuits from workers for unfair and dishonest tipping policies and clearly communicate terms. “When advertising gig opportunities at your business, be transparent about material terms,” states the Federal Trade Commission. “Like other objective claims about product attributes, performance, or price, companies also must live up to their representations about tipping policies and practices.”
Measure the right behavior
Make sure a gigCX worker’s performance metrics are aligned with the right results. For a gigCX worker completing back office work, it may make sense to rate their performance based on number of tickets closed and other efficiency metrics but not for a gig worker who interacts with customers. Rating a gigCX worker who answers customer inquiries, for instance, by the number of jobs completed doesn’t reveal the quality of the customer experience. In this case, customer satisfaction or effort scores are more relevant. Be strategic and creative about using performance metrics and milestone incentives to promote the results that matter and reward talented workers.
6. Work with an experienced CX partner for faster and better results
A gigCX model is only as successful as the quality of the workers who are powering it. But not every company has the resources to attract, onboard, and train gig workers in addition to managing them and ensuring that they’re properly compensated. An experienced outsourcing partner already has the knowledge, technology, and expertise to ensure gigCX workers are prepared to deliver excellent services and alleviate angst for the client.
As the economy becomes increasingly digital and connected, opportunities for different forms of work continue to emerge. For many job seekers, working in a conventional 9-5 job is undesirable or it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. And employers are exploring new ways of delivering products and services that reduce costs. GigCX workers are a natural result of these trends, but companies need the right approach to build a successful gigCX workforce.
Ultimately, the customer experience is still shaped by the employee experience. The companies that understand this and treat gigCX workers with honesty, respect, and provide the tools they need to succeed will thrive in a new economy fueled by innovative work.