Customer service means different things to different people. But, in the end, it’s about people – the people who are our customers, and the people we employ to serve them.
That said, it’s critically important for a contact center to recruit, hire, and train the right people, provide them with the training required to do their jobs well, engage them in their tasks, staff them in the correct numbers, and support and encourage them along the way. CGS takes special care in addressing all of the above so the organizations that rely on it for contact center business process outsourcing can deliver the best possible customer experience.
Privately owned CGS, which is based out of New York City, has been in business since 1984. CGS partners with and offers outsourcing, applications and learning services to such well-known companies as Aerosoles IBM, InterContinental Hotels Group, Microsoft, Red Hat (News - Alert), and Tommy Bahama.
CGS currently has approximately 8,000 employees, 7,000 of which are part of the BPO contact center division. The vast majority of these individuals work out of the company’s centers in Canada, Chile, Israel, Romania, and the U.S., all of which leverage globally redundant networks for high reliability and are PCI (News - Alert) compliant. CGS differentiates its services with its 24/7 and multilingual support, and via the people, process, and tools it delivers consistent quality customer services to its global customer base.
“The people component is actually the most critical variable in any customer support model,” said Michael D. Mills, CGS’s senior vice president of global contact center solutions.
The agents’ language skills and comprehension are of the utmost importance to CGS customers, he added, which is why CGS located its contact centers where it did and why it puts all agent candidates through comprehension tests to ensure English proficiency and very little accent. These tests can be a challenge even for people who were U.S. born and raised, Mills said.
All CGS agents are full-time employees with competitive wages and benefits, as opposed to the contractor and minimum wage workers so many other companies in the contact center BPO space rely upon, said Mills. Because CGS badges its agents, the company has far lower agent attrition (at 18 to 20 percent annualized) than the industry average (at 40 to 50 percent annualized). This results in increased continuity with the dedicated agents providing a consistent level of quality support that drives enhanced productivity and efficiency for CGS clients.
Although there’s now a waiting list of people who want to become CGS agents, the company’s centers are all located within 5 miles of technical colleges and major universities, so its recruiters can visit those locations, as well as attend job fairs and place advertisements, to find recruits.
Twenty-three is the average age of a CGS agent, and the company is proud to report that 70 percent of employees have a college degree and/or an advanced certificate in their field of support. What’s more, 95 percent of CGS managers and trainers were previously agents, which demonstrates that the company puts it people on a career path rather than treating them as temporary help. That drives agent engagement and better results for CGS customers.
Rather than outsourcing hiring to another organization, CGS has on-site hiring and workforce management teams at each of its 17 locations. That means it can quickly onboard new hires as demand dictates, and that CGS customers can interview and review the resumes of agent candidates if they so choose.
CGS conducts quarterly agent forecasting to see how many agents are required to meet its customers’ seasonal requirements, service level agreements, and key performance indicators. Then it staffs 120 percent to that plan. That way if an agent calls in sick, goes on maternity leave, quits, or is otherwise unavailable, CGS still has adequate human resources to get the job done.
Client trainers educate CGS leaders on what agents need to know, and then those CGS trainers educate their agents. Many BPO companies have separate charges for infrastructure, product management, team leaders, and training, said Mills, but CGS bundles all these components.
“We don’t nickel and dime our customers and do not have a lot of separate costs that clients find difficult and challenging,” he said, adding that CGS customers can pick the pricing model of their choice.
CGS customers also can elect to have agents that represent only their companies. To keep agents informed and motivated about the particular products they’re selling and supporting, CGS segments them within its facilities. Each area has on-site labs and trainers that are dedicated to that CGS customer, each area is decorated with banners from the company being represented, and the agents receive coffee mugs and shirts displaying the customer company’s name and messaging.
“We build a support model that is a true extension of our customers’ support environment,” said Mills. “That’s how we’re able to drive knowledge transfer, continuity, and call quality.”
U.S.-based companies want and need to be able to leverage a mix of on-shore and high-quality and stable off-shore contact centers to allow for around-the-clock support and seasonality, said Mills. CGS delivers that so its clients can lower their risk, and realize consistent, quality service that does not break the bank for their budgets.
Edited by Alicia Young