In the press recently there was a story about Seattle-based financial tech firm Gravity Payments CEO and founder, Dan Price, who recently announced that over the course of the next 3 years he is going to increase the minimum his employees are paid to $70,000 (£46,000) per year.
The move came about after Mr Price read a 2010 paper by Princeton scholars, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, where they found that emotional well-being rises with income but ‘there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ~$75,000’.
Now, Gravity Payments currently has 120 staff with an average staff starting salary of between $35-37,000. That means that 70 staff will receive pay increases and around 30 of those will see their salary double. To pay for this, Mr. Price is going to use 80% of this years profits and take a 90% pay cut himself down to the $70,000 level until ‘our profit goes back up to where it was before we made this policy change.’
This is a really bold move by Mr. Price but he is confident that it will allow him to retain his staff for longer as well as drive increased well-being, motivation, satisfaction, productivity and innovation.
In addition, following the announcement the firm has already received 1,000s of new job applicants too. Funny that.
However, when I heard about this story it made me think about contact/call centre agents, many of whom are the front-line and public face of brands when it comes to customer service.
One of the biggest challenges that these firms face with these type of roles is high staff turnover. In call centres, in particular, sources estimate that staff turnover can average in the region of 24% per year. This presents a huge cost to the business not only in terms of recruitment costs but training, continuity, productivity and service quality costs too.
So, the Gravity Payments story got me to wondering……If the average contact centre agent in the UK earns around £18k ($27k) a year, which is below the UK national average of £26k ($40k) per year, what would be the effect of doubling or significantly increasing their wages?
Would staff turnover go down?
Would engagement go up?
Would customer satisfaction and overall customer experience go up?
What about contact centre up-sell, cross-sell, retention, quality and loyalty metrics?
I don’t know.
But, I do believe that thinking differently about our contact/call centre agents and how we reward and, therefore, ‘treat’ them will help us attract and retain the talent that we need to deliver the service and experience that we want.
In fact, could something like this help us prepare and move towards being able to build a contact centre that has the sort of skills that BT and Avaya talked about in their report: SuperAgent 2020: The Evolution of the Contact Centre where they stated that:
“The primary function of the Contact Centre will be largely complex problem solving because products and services are becoming more complicated and more customers are using web, social and mobile self-service to do the simple, transactional stuff. “
This type of 2020 scenario doesn’t seem to be the domain of employees that are paid, on average, 30% below the average UK salary.
Something drastic and significant needs to happen to contact centre agent salaries if firms want to attract, retain and deliver the customer service and customer experience that they aspire to.
This post was originally published on my Forbes column here.