Workforce Optimization and GigCX: An In-depth Interview with CX Subject Matter Expert, Terry Rybolt

Today, we welcome to the podcast, Terry Rybolt, Chief Revenue Officer at LiveXchange Technologies. Leveraging over 20 years of business process outsourcing and experience, Terry is one of the subject matter experts on technology, remote working, customer experience (CX), and GigCX. He has worked for large multinational corporations in business development, technical support, and strategic planning throughout his career, and is recognized as a seasoned leader and gifted communicator who understands how technology aligns with businesses and client objectives to drive operational performance and cost savings. Welcome to the pod, Terry.

Listen to the full podcast recording here:

Hailey, thank you very much. I’m not sure I can live up to all that you just said there, but it’s great to be part of your conversation here.

I have no doubt that you will, but first I have to ask you a question. Do I have your permission to record this call for quality assurance?

You do. Yes.

Excellent. So first, can you give our readers and listeners some insight into your background, where you started, and how you got to today?

Sure. I’ve been involved in the tech space since the late 90s and specifically in the CX space for the last 20 plus years. Big fan, always been an advocate of the CX space because you’ve got a direct line of sight to the most prolific global brands. And when you’re interacting with the customers of those brands, it’s really powerful. And then to be able to watch and create opportunities for people to grow through that piece, I’ve had some amazing experiences where people said, “I met my wife because of this job. I bought my house because of this job. I put my kids through school because of this job.” It’s really powerful and I’m honored to be a part of it for as long as I have been. It’s amazing how it’s changed over the last 20 years for sure.

Something I hear a lot and we’re actually going to talk about it a little bit on the podcast today, how being in the space for as long as you have, seeing the big changes that have occurred. You are the Chief Revenue Officer at LiveXchange, can you share with our listeners a little bit about your day-to-day role and responsibilities within your organization?

Sure. I work with our team on our existing client base to make sure that we’re taking care of business for them, as well as with our new client acquisition teams to help preach the gospel of LiveXchange and how we can bring value to other companies out there.

It sounds like an exciting role to be preaching the gospel, as you say.

Yeah. We have a lot of fun. What’s exciting about LiveXchange is the growth pattern that we’re on. Just as a little bit of a backdrop LiveXchange was work at home and gig long before work at home and gig were cool. What’s really amazing is when you look at… unfortunately COVID has done and continues to do a lot of horrible things to the world. And I’m glad to see that we’re at least progressing our way through this, but what it did for a positive size is that it legitimized work at home overnight, literally overnight. And when you look at, and you read about the great resignation and you think about the growth of the gig economy, we believe that it is a perfect time for the intersection of CX and the gig economy and work from home. And that’s where we are really, really optimistic on the trajectory that we’re on at LiveXchange.

I’m excited to, like I said, longer in the podcast, we’re going to dive more into LiveXchange and exactly how it all works. And I can’t wait for you to share that with our listeners, but before that, when you look at BPO companies or even you were just talking about we’re in this area of the great resignation, what is it that we as an industry have missed the mark on in regard to keeping contact center agents happy?

In my opinion, flexibility is something that we talk a lot about, but you can be as flexible as you want, as long as you’re logged in at nine o’clock in the morning, and you log out at six o’clock in the afternoon, and you’ve got a 15-minute break here and a 15-minute break there and a 30-minute lunch. You could be as flexible as you want inside of that block, that’s not the world we live in anymore. And where I see gig stepping in is that…in the U.S. alone, there are 57 million gig workers in the U.S. alone and you look at the growth trajectory of that over the next five years. It’s incredible. And the key thing is that people want to control their own lives and coming into an office and doing from eight to five, nine to six, whatever it is. The workforce today has changed. Technology has changed that. So why can’t I work where wherever I want to work and whenever I want to work because technology allows me to do that.

And that’s where I see the discrepancy between what’s said and the reality and again, looking at gig as a real value add in today’s workforce. I was listening to a podcast or actually, the earnings release from Fiverr just the other day and the CEO of Fiverr said, “The great resignation has created this pool of gig workers, but the work still needs to be done inside to these companies. So the companies need to get comfortable with gig. And you can’t turn a blind eye to it anymore, you got to be comfortable with it, because the work still needs to get done.” Which was like, wow, that’s really amazing. That really caused me to take a big step back and like he’s exactly right.

My next question’s a bit redundant. Throughout your extensive career in CX, what are the best ways to accomplish agent satisfaction and how has that changed over the last 19 months or so? So you talked about that, it’s this flexibility that we give them. So I’ll change that question a little bit and ask, specifically talking about contact center agents that now are working from home, what does flexibility look like and how are we as managers or the individuals in charge of a big fleet of contact center agents, how are we gaining control now that we have those people at home? We can’t be looking over their shoulder. What are some of the ways that you’ve heard of, or even the ways that you’ve seen specifically to gain control with individuals who perhaps haven’t worked from home?

Sure. It’s a massive transition, right? You go from working in a brick and mortar facility for years and years, and now all of a sudden you’re working from home. And when you think about the millennial generation where maybe this is their first job and they’re just now getting out on their own and now they’ve had to go work at home. That’s the last place that they want to be, right? Because that’s where they’ve been there for all these years. So the first part of your question though, about agent satisfaction, you got to engage people. Engagement is critical, whether you’re working from home or you’re working in an office, you want to feel like you’re part of something and not out on an island, no matter what you’re doing. And so that’s really critical for satisfaction. And I’ve always believed that the best way to do that is to just ask, talk, right?

Further Reading: Onboarding and Training in the Work-From-Anywhere World: 3 Key Steps to Achieving Excellence

Get people’s opinions, find out what’s going on. I’ve learned more shadowing with reps over the years than I’ve ever learned in a boardroom. Because they’re the closest to the action and they’re going to tell you what’s going on, and if you hear it, you should listen. So that’s the first piece of this. As work at home continues to evolve, it is a totally different mind shift, right? Because the way you did things in the office, you made a comment about looking over their shoulder. Well, that can be viewed in one of two ways, that can be viewed in a good way or a bad way. And you have to have trust, you have to have engagement, you have to have teamwork. And that’s all part of what we believe is a key value proposition for work at home, if you do it correctly. Just lifting and shifting that doesn’t do anything. Actually, it creates more problems than it solves.

I really like that you said that. It’s not about just taking the old way that we were doing things in brick and mortar and moving it over, thinking that it’s going to work. We have to wipe the slate clean.

Right. Look at what Vistio is doing in the technology that you have. You have some amazing things where you can take basically the top call drivers and take someone off the street and make them productive literally overnight by just following how Vistio works. That’s pretty cool. When you look at work at home today, and you look at the content, the new hire training content, it’s still delivered in the old brick and mortar way. So it’s one thing to be able to deliver it online, it’s a completely different conversation to make it stick. Having more gamification, having more activity and engagement in this, that’s really critical in today’s workforce.

Interesting you talk about gamification. I think sometimes what I’m seeing in the industry is that people are wanting to move away from gamification. Can you talk a little bit, why you brought that up, and the use cases you’ve seen it really work?

Having an adult sitting and listening to someone speak for hours on end, flipping through a PowerPoint is not an effective way to communicate today. So thinking about alternative ways to deliver a message, and it’s not about just delivering the message, I’ve never heard of a training class being judged on getting through the content and everybody high fived it, “Oh, we got through the content.” It’s about the stick rate. It’s about the performance once you’ve completed the training. So whatever you can do to help the stick rate improve, whatever you can do to help the engagement rate improve, that’s going to ultimately benefit you from the material that you have to go through from a training process.

We don’t have enough time in this conversation to get into that topic, but it’s definitely another area that’s ripe for disruption. For sure.

Absolutely. We had a previous conversation before this and you brought up some points that I just want to make sure that we talk about today. You talked about the genuine cost of agent attrition. So how does agent attrition impact an organization as a whole? You had some really strong thoughts on it, and I want you to share it with our listeners.

Well, first off from a sheer dollar perspective, right? It is a massive undertaking when you have high levels of attrition, high or low. You’ve got to go recruit them, you’ve got to go vet them, you got to get them through new hire training, and then you’ve got a period of time that they need to be productive before you have any attempt at recouping the expense. So if you’ve got people that are leaving a new hire training or shortly thereafter, that cost companies a fortune. So that’s one of the costs. That’s a pure dollar cost. The second piece of this is that from a performance perspective, there’s always going to be a new hire impact. I’m speaking specifically from the CX space, that somebody that is today’s their first day versus somebody that it’s their 101st day, their performance is going to be different. Just from a sheer comfort level, even on their 31st day, it’ll be different.

So if the teeter-totter is tipped too much on the new higher scale, your performance is going to be impacted as a company. So there’s the other aspect of it and certainly, from the outsourced BPO space, you’re judged on your performance. So again, if you’ve got a high level of attrition, the performance that you have on a stack rank, or from a client’s perspective puts you at risk for not just growth, but just maintenance of the business. So it’s a real key. Those are some key areas to me that are a big piece of why attrition needs to be focused on.

I think sometimes it seems so obvious. The things that you just brought up, we think they’re very obvious, but I’ve seen that oftentimes people aren’t focusing on that attrition and what the true impact is. And so I’m glad you brought that up.

Sure. Yeah. It’s one thing to have a heartbeat to say, “Okay, I’ve filled the seat.” But it’s another thing to have that person actually make an impact. And nobody wants to feel like just a heartbeat.

Yeah. Just a pulse in the chair. I think I say this on almost every podcast that, why would we be looking at an agent just as a heartbeat or just as an entity when they’re usually the only touchpoint that your actual customer has with your organization?

Oh, Hailey.

That you’re representative. So why would you not want them to be vibrant and helpful, knowledgeable all of those things?

Right. You touched a very passionate subject for me, and it’s it never ceases to amaze me that the people that you’re entrusting with the perception that you have as a company to the marketplace, right, to your customers, you’re going to pay them the least amount that you could possibly pay them. That’s amazing to me. Right. But that’s unfortunately the way of the world, when I think that organization should be looked at a completely different way and certainly pay for performance is key, but it’s about preparing that person to be successful, to engage and then celebrating in that success not just I filled a seat.

Yeah. I think it’s interesting when we talk about, going back to that question about the cost of attrition. If we’re keeping those individuals happy, we’re focusing on the agents, specifically attrition going down, we can reallocate the funds that we would be losing to maybe giving those agents a little more incentive as far as what they’re getting paid or the technology that’s being used. We can allocate the money that we save with agent attrition to make the whole organization better.

Absolutely right. Absolutely right.

This is an exciting question for our listeners because I really want you to tell our listeners more about what LiveXchange does, the main benefits of the platform and how it aids in workforce optimization strategy.

Sure. So you hit it right on the head. Workforce optimization strategy is what we bring to the table. So LiveXchange at its core is a marketplace that brings labor as well as the tech to enable that labor, to work on behalf of our clients whenever, wherever, and for however long that they need them. So for example, you have a seasonal ramp, Christmas comes every year and for the retail organizations, that’s a big, big area. So they want to ramp up a bunch of people in the CX space for 90 days to get them through the holiday. Well, that’s where LiveXchange plays, because we can help them. We’re not replacing, we’re simply augmenting what they’re already doing, but we’re plugging these people in, where they need them to help them assist with those staffing plans.

We’re not a staffing agency, we’re not a BPO, we’re a marketplace that augments the current operational strategies of companies in the CX space. It’s a lot of words I threw at you there, but in a nutshell, we’re a marketplace that delivers the labor and the tech that enables that labor to work on behalf of our clients. And they’re driving the bus. It’s their own, they have complete control and visibility over the entire process.

I love the way that you talked about it. I think, especially in the world that we’re living in, where we are introducing some ways to connect vendors with customers in person, we are going back. But this is the time where I feel LiveXchange is such a useful platform, where we’re not getting to go to a trade show where we’re seeing vendors in person and set up and being able to look at the different technologies that are on the floor and vice versa. The technology is really being able to see their clients upfront, discovering new clients, vice versa, like I said, clients discovering new vendors. So that’s why LiveXchange seemed like such an interesting thing to me. And it’s an ongoing thing, I don’t have to sign up to go for three days and walk around this floor. I’ve got this resource basically in front of me. That leads me to my next question. What type of contact center or organization as a whole, would most benefit from LiveXchange?

BPOs have an ongoing workforce optimization strategy that fits perfectly in. And I don’t care whether it’s a global BPO or a boutique BPO, we can certainly fit and it’s all white-labeled under their name. That’s number one. Number two, when you look at the fact that 70% of the CX space is in-house, that they don’t outsource, they still have those same nights and weekend challenges. Christmas comes for a retailer, whether they outsource or not, that they need to deal with this on their side. Open enrollment, seasonality of any sort, this can fit into their operating environment because it’s completely under their control. And so I wouldn’t say that there’s really any place that it couldn’t fit, it’s just about the adoption rate of that industry or that organization to look at this alternative method.

And it’s the old definition of insanity, right? If I’m going to do the same thing over and over again, and expect a different result. How many times have we said, we are never going to go through a 90-day seasonal ramp again, where we’re going to ramp up a 1,000 people for 90 days? As a BPO and I’m speaking from experience, you do it over and over and over. And this is a way to help ensure a level of success to give some space, to give some breathing room by adopting this capability.

Love that. I love that answer. This leads me to my next question, which is a little bit of playing devil’s advocate and Terry, we’re friends. So I don’t want to play it that hard, but when we talk about agent attrition and we’re really highlighting that during this chat, so do you think the platform can ease agent attrition? Does it help organizations fill the gaps of undesirable working times, like you just stated, and then perhaps those agents stay on as full-time employees? Is that at the possibility?

So the purpose of gig is to help fill gaps where you need it. So these people have made a conscientious choice, I do not want to be an employee. You’ve seen millions of them through the great resignation say, “I don’t want to be an employee anymore.” So they’ve made this decision, “I want to be a gig worker and I’m going to pick and choose where I want to work.” So that’s the first piece of it. The second piece of it, though, to your point, the marketplace can help solve the problem for the client. But if the client doesn’t engage with these individuals, they’re not going to stick around. If the individual doesn’t feel like they’re being respected in what they’re doing and the contribution that they’re making, they’re not going to stick around.

If what we thought the deal was and turns out to be something completely different, and we’re expecting the individual to do backflips to be able to accommodate this, they’re not going to stick around. So the marketplace is the enabler, but the sticky piece of it still comes down to helping these people be successful, and can they see a way forward to be successful in the gig that they’re working on?

I like that you put it, that it’s… I didn’t even think about it in that way, that there are some individuals that they want to work on a contractual basis and they want to work seasonally or things like that. I didn’t even think of that side of it, so that was a great answer.

All right. Well, I’m glad I can help.

Yeah. Thanks for giving me a new perceptive.

You’re wearing me out here with these questions, but I’m glad you’re asking.

We only have 15 more, Terry. So you’ve mentioned some great statistics. In a previous conversation, you mentioned some great statistics. Can you share right now some great statistics that demonstrate the benefits of a gig platform specifically for contact center agents?

So let’s just look at the cost of recruiting that you have. Pretty safe to say that to bring someone on board is going to cost probably $5,000 plus an individual to get them on board. Well, leveraging the gig model that we’re bringing on board that’s already done for you as an organization, number one. Number two, when you look at staffing inefficiencies over the course of a day, let’s just call it bubbles in the middle of the day, where you’ve got no volume, but you’ve got high volume in the morning, high volume at night, but this middle part of the day, not a lot going on. So how do you balance that out? Well, working on a full-time basis, that’s really difficult. So leveraging gig to help balance that out is a huge cost savings there.

The fact that from just the overall company side, the taxes and the benefits and all those things, from leveraging gig versus an employee model, you’re easily saving 30% from just that perspective. And then you look at the overall SG&A costs that are associated with that from recruiters and trainers and workforce and all that stuff. You’re probably looking at another three to five points of SG&A coming back to you as well. So those are all pieces of gig that bring value to organizations.

I always love some good metrics to prove a point. We’re going back to the agent satisfaction, again and again, and especially with what’s happening now. We’re asking agents to do so much, much more as customer expectations have risen, call volumes have risen because people were at home getting angry about a bunch of things. How do you gain control over your hybrid workspace when you have agents at home, agents in the contact centers, and how does workforce strategy aid in that whole situation? We’re regressing a little bit, but I think it’s something that we should talk about.

It’s work, right? There’s no silver bullet or magic wand that you can wave to make that all go away. You really do need to pay attention to this. And what we’ve seen with our clients is they’re not looking at gig across the board, they’re looking at gig in very specific segments. Take the quick-service food industry, right? So 70% of the volume in the quick-service food industry comes in on Thursday, Friday, Saturday from the hours of 4:00 PM until 8:00 PM. How are you going to staff that with a full-time person to actually make it cost-effective for you as the employer? You can’t. So why not gig? Why not throw a gig into that? So these are things where leveraging that component and looking at it from a workforce perspective and understanding where your gaps are, not trying to boil the ocean, but be very specific on where you’re plugging this in. That’s where you get real value from this.

We say to the companies that we’re talking with about our capabilities, it’s like, look, let’s not start with a 100 people or 500 people. Let’s start with 20 and let’s pick a shift and plug them in there and prove the concept out. And then we can scale it from there, but let’s just solve a simple problem for you. One client, one shift, one team, plug them in and watch and see what happens. Do nothing else, make no other changes and just it let it run out and see how it goes. When you do that, the success profile is significantly higher than when we’re trying to spread this out, because it really is a new concept to be thinking about. And we don’t want to get too far over the tips of our skis with this as well.

I like that you say that. We’ve been talking about gig economy, not in the CX industry specifically, but it’s been around. So that’s why LiveXchange caught my eye specifically because I was so interested to see, Hey, that’s happening in my industry and what I’m excited about. Cool. Let’s see how this is going and that’s why this conversation has been so great. So we’re going to switch up as we wind down. When I said there were 15 more questions, I was lying. Thank God. Right? So Terry, you’re so knowledgeable, you’ve been in the industry for so long. What are resources talking like podcasts, online publications, blogs, things like that, do you regularly reference to stay on top of industry trends and news?

I’m a big fan of CXFiles as it relates to the industry piece. I think TED Talks brings another whole aspect on a big picture level of what’s happening and just in the world in general and how technology works. From a daily thing, I’m a huge fan of Flipboard. I think Flipboard is a great app. You can personalize your news feeds on things that you’re looking for. I really love the way that they chunk it out for you, and you can click on the article from all over the world and just read about things that are going on there. I’m a big fan of the app Motivate, that’s a great app. Just with the things that they put out there on that app. And certainly, the podcast that you see out there, like this one on Spotify and on the various channels. But those are some of the key areas that I look at.

Great. You named two that I had never heard before. I can’t wait to go check them out. So you talked about CX Files, that’s Peter Ryan and Mark Hillary. Those are two standout leaders that you and I have talked about. Can you name some other standout leaders in the industry that you follow, you look to advice or that you collaborate with or that you’d like to collaborate with?

Look, I’m a big fan of what’s going on in McKinsey right now and what Vinay Gupta is putting out there around gig economy, in GigCX. I’m a big fan of what’s Stephen Loynd from TrendzOwl is putting out there and Steve Weston and the things that he’s doing, Mark Angus and the things that they’re doing with their business. I look at people like Michele Rowan, who is the head of Work at Home Alliance, just doing some really amazing things with their content and the topics that they’re sharing out there. As well as what Melissa O’Brien from HFS is putting out there, and just really cutting edge stuff around the CX space that I think everybody could benefit from.

Those are some great names and a big shout-out to Melissa O’Brien, she’s a genius. I love the research she puts out for HFS is pretty awesome.

Yes, for sure.

So we’ll wrap it up with one final question. Terry, what career or practical advice do you have for people looking to grow their skills and impact the technology used in contact center management?

Be a student. Be humble, be a student, learn something every day, be passionate about it. If you’re staring at your email all day long, you’re reacting. Email’s important, but chunk it out, right? Don’t spend your whole day just responding to email, but be a student, be a student of the CX space, be a student of leadership, be a student of management and optimization and things like that. Because that’s what’s going to help you learn. You have to take the initiative upon yourself and read, right. Just go read. There’s so much more information out there today. That’s what I love about apps like Flipboard, right? Because I can plug in a topic and suddenly from around the world, content is coming in on that particular topic. That’s really fascinating today.

So, become a student. And then at the same time, find a sponsor, find somebody that can help you along the way and to guide you. I think about my career to this point and there have been times where somebody has put their arm around me and said, “You need to turn left. I know you think you need to turn right, but you need to turn left and you need to listen to me.” And when I did that, it worked out, right? So find a sponsor, find somebody that you don’t go and just throw all your problems at them. But you talk with them about strategic things that relate to you and they will help you. That’s how I look at this point in my career, it’s about helping others succeed because I’m paying it forward for the things that have been done for me over the years.

I love that you said that. Nate Brown was on this podcast. He is a leader in this space and one of the first things he says, even in his bio is he’s a lifelong learner and I think that’s such good advice. I take it. Keep hungry.

Humble and hungry.

Yeah. I love that. I think that’s a great way to end. Keep hungry, keep learning.

Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you here today. You’re awesome.

Terry, you’re awesome. Thanks so much.

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