Member Q&A: Sun Basket's Brett Frazer on Embracing the Gig Economy

By Emily Cowan posted 01-10-2019 12:00 AM

Amid record-low unemployment and rapidly evolving attitudes toward work, more brands are looking to gig workers to fill traditionally full-time roles. How is this emerging trend impacting customer experience? We asked community member @Brett Frazer, Head of Customer Service at Sun Basket, to share his personal experience hiring gig workers, outline some key points to consider, and explain why CX leaders should incorporate gig workers into their operational strategies sooner rather than later.

Execs In The Know: The cultural shift from long-term employment to project-based or freelance work has hit pretty much every sector, yet many brands appear reluctant to put gig workers on the front lines of customer experience. Why do you think brands should embrace the gig economy as part of their talent sourcing strategy?

Brett Frazer: By 2020, 40-50% of U.S. workers will be freelancers (Forbes, June 28, 2018), and this is not just a U.S. phenomenon: an survey of 21,000 freelance workers across 170 countries published this month found that North America has the lowest percent of the world's “gig workers” - Europe (35.5%), Asia (28%), Latin America (29.2%), Africa (10.1%), North America (4.1%). This means that if brands do not begin embracing the gig economy as a part of their talent sourcing strategy, they will find it increasingly more difficult to attract talent regardless where they source their work.

EITK: When we talk about “gig workers” in a CX context, who are we describing? What skillsets do they have, and what are they looking for in a prospective employer?

Brett: While in general a “gig worker” can be anybody, from a CX perspective the best focus is on your existing customers and employees. These are the people who already have a loyalty/affinity for your products, and therefore an experience and knowledge foundation that you can build your training and enablement around. Because of the loyalty/affinity to your brand already exists, they generally are looking to make sure you are as successful as possible, and are more open to alternative compensation options than just cash including product credits, loyalty points, access to early beta programs and even contributing their compensation to company philanthropic causes.

EITK: How did you first become interested in hiring gig workers?

Brett: Early in the setup of Sun Basket support my CEO and I discussed the potential of utilizing loyal customers to help solve other customers issues. Our operations were a little too basic at the time to be able to integrate this; however when we were able to get our processes a little more mature, and our systems to the level that we could integrate with the platforms that companies managing these services, it became a natural addition to our talent pool.

EITK: What CX roles do gig workers fill within your organization, and what has been your experience so far?

Brett: We have our Sun Basket experts, as we refer to them, helping other customers with questions about our offerings, managing their account, and basic issues for delivery and ingredient issues. Overall the experience with the experts themselves has been good, they are quick to respond and can personalize their responses with their experiences. The opportunities come with integrating our systems with our suppliers to make sure a) we are pushing them questions that they have a high chance of being able to resolve, and b) that we can quickly integrate any issues they need to escalate back into our queues so that those customers don’t have a delay in their service. 

EITK: What do you think are the key differences between managing a permanent workforce vs. a gig workforce – if any? Is it necessary to develop new processes and guidelines for customer engagement or is it simply a matter of proper training?

Brett: I think the biggest fear I have heard from other leaders in the space is the apparent loss of control, especially when it comes to meeting service levels. For this I highly recommend partnering with a company that specializes in managing “gig workers” -  there are a number of them in the US and across Europe. These companies have set up the processes for managing these workers (just in the same way we are used to outsourcing to brick-and-mortar companies), they have also developed models to help you identify the number of gig workers you would need to attract to handle volume.

There are definitely some new processes and guidelines you will develop to make this successful, especially with identifying what types of customer questions you would want to be handled by your gig workers, and how to connect your systems to allow this to happen. Then developing the key training and knowledge base to enable them to be as successful as you would your on-premise teams.

EITK: What’s your advice for brands seeking to attract gig workers to their ranks? What are the main points to consider?

Brett: As mentioned above, I highly recommend focusing on your existing loyal customers and workers outside your existing customer service organization as the primary recruitment point for your gig workforce. Each of you will have a picture of what a loyal customer looks like to you and will hopefully have thousands of them that you can tap into. Expect to invite 20 people for every person you need. The main points to consider include: what types of issues do I want them to handle, what channels do I want to cover, what level of access into customer information do they need, what compensation options will be attractive to them.

EITK: What are you most looking forward to discussing with peers about gig?

Brett: I am really looking forward to understanding and discussing what concerns or fears others have about embracing this emerging and important talent pool.


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