Opening Up About Contact Center Design
In August, it was widely reported that employees at Apple had begun to voice their dissatisfaction with the open layout of the company’s new Apple Park campus in Cupertino, Calif., which is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The $5 billion campus will offer the latest in energy conservation and green technologies and a host of employee amenities, including a huge fitness center, a relaxing meadow and pond, and more. But not all of the 12,000 Apple employees who will be moving in are as excited as you’d expect. Many reportedly have a problem with the new open office design, a stark change from the closed offices that they had in the old facility.
Apple’s employees are not unique in that regard. A quick Google search of the term “open office environment” today produces mostly negative sentiments in the top results. “Why Your Open Office Workspace Doesn’t Work,” read one headline from Forbes. “Google Got It Wrong. The Open-Office Trend Is Destroying the Workplace,” read another from The Washington Post. A New Yorker headline referred to the open office as a “trap.” The list goes on.
Nonetheless, open office designs like the one being implemented by Apple have been gaining popularity in the past few years. According to Gallup’s “2017 State of the American Workplace” report, about 70 percent of U.S. offices currently use some form of an open floor plan design, meaning that individual work stations are separated either by low partitions or no partitions at all.
Open floor plans have been around for at least 10 years, and in that time they’ve seen their share of controversy. Proponents of the open office say it can stimulate collaboration among employees, spark new ideas and approaches, and produce a more inviting culture, but others say open offices can also hinder employee productivity and satisfaction. The top complaints generally relate to the levels of noise and frequent visual and aural distractions, as well as a lack of privacy.
When it comes to contact center employees, feelings on the subject are mixed.
To keep contact center employees—and, by extension, the customers they interact with—happy, companies must take the right approach and invest in the right people and technologies to make their office settings work.
CHOOSING AN APPROPRIATE OFFICE LAYOUT
With contact center design, unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Companies must ask themselves a number of questions to determine which approach will work best for them.
Many contact center operators might prefer to keep the cubicle model that has worked for call centers since the customer service industry’s inception, but experts agree that the open office environment is not entirely out of the question simply because the contact center deals with customer interactions.
“It can...be helpful for the team to work together to meet service levels and ensure all contacts are being handled correctly and efficiently,” maintains Angela Garfinkel, owner of Quality Contact Solutions, a call center consulting firm.
“A lot of the layout [decisions are] really going to be dependent on what channels you’re going to be using to answer customer questions and the demographic you’re servicing,” says Jeffrey Wartgow, senior director of product management at Oracle Service Cloud.
As contact centers move away from phone-only contacts and see a huge rise in the use of messaging apps, for example, the old rules might no longer apply.
“There’s a huge, huge push towards messaging apps,” Wartgow points out. “People would rather text a problem [or] send a picture than describe it to you over the phone.”
This decline in phone conversations is making for a quieter contact center, which could lessen the noise levels that have previously fueled the perceived need for more private workspaces, he explains.