How the Great Resignation Is Impacting Customer Experience — and Your Workforce

March 04, 2022

Contributor: Matt LoDolce

Our “new normal” is affecting customer service reps and their willingness to stay within their field of expertise. The result? A significant impact on the customer experience.

In short:

  • Thanks to the Great Resignation, service organizations are experiencing mass customer service representative (CSR) turnover and supply chain issues.
  • These disruptions will harm the customer experience (CX) and perhaps lead to even higher attrition rates in the future.
  • Business leaders who oversee customer service and CX must put in place a strategic plan to understand and overcome these challenges.

Everyone, from consumers to CEOs, is acutely aware of the so-called Great Resignation, which is currently impacting all aspects of peoples’ personal lives and business performances. Customer service is not immune to these challenges — in fact, it is affected twice over by both the supply issues impacting its business and customer loyalty, as well as mass CSR turnover. 

How supply chains are affecting customer service 

A recent Gartner survey found that almost half of organizations report more supply and fulfillment issues compared to 2021 projections. At the same time, slightly more than half of surveyed leaders reported increases in demand for their products and services and their customer base. Unsurprisingly, this disruption in supply and rise in demand have culminated in increased inbound volume. In fact, two out of every five leaders report their assisted-service volume is higher than 2021 projections.

Download now: The Top Customer Service Tends, Channels and Behaviors to Watch

“CSRs are increasingly leaving en masse, presenting increased problems across a multitude of business aspects,” says Deborah Alvord, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner. “Leaders must recognize these high levels of attrition will negatively impact remaining staff, harm the customer experience and perhaps lead to even higher attrition rates in the future.”

Those who oversee customer service and CX must put in place a strategic plan to understand how these disruptions impact CX and benchmark the average impact against their own metrics.

When higher rates of attrition make it difficult to handle increased volume, ask yourself the following questions regarding the long-term health of your customer service programs:

Are unique COVID-19 situations masking operational issues?

The Customer Effort Score (CES) and customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores tell two very different stories. While CSAT scores are the same or better than projected, CES scores are the same or worse than projected, meaning customers are happier at the individual transaction level, even though it requires more effort to solve their problems. 

“The discrepancy between CSAT and CES performance indicates solid rep performance may be masking operational issues that increase customer effort or that customers are more understanding during the unique circumstances we all face in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Alvord. 

As organizations are stretched thinner because of attrition and struggle to address the drivers of greater customer effort, CSAT may decrease. Also, the increased tolerance from consumers may diminish as customers continue to live with high-effort experiences and supply chain issues. Focus on reducing the drivers of effort and on stemming attrition.

CX Outcomes Compared to 2021 Predictions

Are you cognizant of attrition across your team?

A director of customer service and support recently told Gartner, “We’re asking representatives to do more and work more to make up for the decrease in headcount, competitive market and limited hiring approval. The tie-in here is that these efforts will only drive more attrition of good, competent reps who feel they are being taken advantage of by the business.”

Organizations are hiring, cutting services and accelerating digital investments. As a customer service and support leader, you must identify and fully understand the problem before you begin to address it. 

“Our research shows that only one in three customer service reps are engaged, with two in three either at risk of becoming disengaged or actively disengaged,” says Alvord. “Disengaged reps are five times more likely to exhibit attrition behaviors (i.e., considering leaving, applying for other jobs and actively interviewing for other positions) than engaged reps, a dynamic that exacerbates the current attrition crisis.” 

How you can address CX challenges head on

Once you ask and address these questions, take these next steps to minimize the effect the Great Resignation may have:

  • Avoid repetition: Reduce customer effort by identifying common points in the customer journey when customers have to repeat steps, information, or contact the company multiple times to resolve their issues. 
  • Upskill reps: Train reps on various low-effort skills, such as experience engineering, forward resolving, interaction tailoring and content surfacing, to reduce the perception of effort.
  • Address attrition: In conjunction with upskilling, address rampant attrition while ensuring remaining tenured reps aren’t overwhelmed.
  • Accelerate hiring and flexibility: Doing so makes the job more attractive. Consider offering flexible work options, allowing work from home and awarding one-time hiring bonuses.

Experience Gartner Conferences

Join your peers for the unveiling of the latest insights at Gartner conferences.