Customer Service Job Projections and New Bureau of Labor Statistics Report

Help wanted and now hiring signs for labor statistics

Customer Service Job Projections and New Bureau of Labor Statistics Report

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their newest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) yesterday. A new report but not much new movement: minimal change in openings, hires, and separations (which include quits, layoffs and discharges) for July compared to June 2022.  However, in their Occupational Outlook Handbook for Customer Service Representatives, the BLS provides insight more specifically into customer service job projections in the US.

Customer Service Growth Projections

The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook  projects little change in hiring for customer service agents  from 2020 through 2030. The estimate is -1% change (the average is 8% growth across industries) and a loss of 34,500 jobs in the sector for the time period. Most of the predicted job openings for agents over the next decade are for replacements rather than new positions. 

The reason for this anticipated shrinkage is the expectation that agent tasks will become more automated and self-service options more robust. Other data supports this. The Zendesk CX Trends 2022 Report indicates 89% of customers will spend more with a company that gives them the opportunity to find online answers rather than have to contact anyone.

Call Center Outsourcing and The Role of the Agent

One service area that is projected to have agent job growth is call centers used by businesses to outsource a combination of sales and support. However, these are some of the lower paying agent positions, with a median of $14.44 per hour compared to the overall median pay of $17.75 (as of May 2021). According to the Handbook, the highest earning agents receive over $28 per hour. With only positions in the lowest earning agent jobs projected to increase over the decade, it appears there is potential for overall median pay to decrease in this line of work which may affect agent churn.  

Another interesting point made in the Handbook is that companies may use human support systems, whether in-house or outsourced, to set them apart from other companies that rely on technology alone. 

There’s room for a hybrid approach too blending AI tools, like CSAT.AI, with live agents. The CSAT.AI solution provides training, assistance, automated QA, and surveys integrated with company goals. Having the right tools makes the agent job easier and reduces churn. Multiple tools which integrate seamlessly is key. 

Status of The Great Resignation

The BLS has also released a deep dive into data to get perspective on the fact that the Great Resignation quit rates  “reached highs not seen since the start of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey program in December 2000.”  

The quit rate for Professional and Business Services from April 2020 to November 2021 rose from 2.3 to 3.7 percent. That change of 1.4 percent is considered significant in a sector like this with one of the largest shares of overall employment. 

Their findings suggest that the quit rates can’t be attributed solely to a tightened job market though.  

The Why Behind the Quit

Pew Research reveals some of the why behind the Great Resignation, with the top three reasons being low pay, no advancement and disrespect. 

Another differentiating factor was education level. The Pew study showed that those without a bachelors or higher were more likely to indicate the following reasons for quitting: 

  • lack of flexibility of work hours – 15% more likely
  • not enough hours – 18% more likely
  • mandatory COVID-19 Vaccine – 13% more likely

Customer service agent work typically has minimal education requirements of a High School diploma or equivalent to start. Lack of flexibility, low pay and respect issues have been problems in customer service jobs for an extended time. The Great Resignation in this sector is no surprise and may not be over. 

In early 2022 Salesforce conducted an agent survey that found 71% thought about leaving their job in the 6 months prior and 69% might exit customer service completely.

The Rise of Gig Customer Service

A study of 400 US and UK customer service managers in spring 2022 found:

  • 62% of managers were spending more to fill seats 
  • 44% indicated hiring was harder than pre-pandemic 
  • 35% thought quits have increased
  • 40% struggle with WFH models

The cost and time to onboard a new agent is substantial. According to data from a Call Centre Helper article of August 2022 less than 10% of contact centers are able to get agents proficient in under two months. Such a time drag, along with the evolving worker preferences, add to hiring challenges. 

This is leading managers to seek gig customer service, also referred to as  GigCX, to fill the gap. 

Much like other sectors of the gig economy, workers have more freedom and companies have a ready made work force for a particular role. These workers can be external, internal or a mix of both to handle seasonal high volume for example. 

Where does your company stand? 

Are you differentiating yourself from competitors by investing in a human agent customer support model?

Does technology and automation seem a better fit for you?

Is GigCX the customer service solution you need?

Or do you intend to use a mixed approach when building your customer support model?

You have options. Define which allocations of your resources are best suited to the KPIs you value most, the budget you have, and the growth you desire.