How outsourcing CX could unlock the four-day week

Dave Pattman, Customer Experience Managing Director for Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, discusses the challenges and opportunities presented by a 4-day work week…

I was recently approached to contribute some thoughts to an interesting article looking at how the 4-day week might affect the CX industry. And it got me thinking.

Here’s the background. There’s a program currently underway for the rest of 2022 which will see more than 3,000 workers at 70 UK companies working a four-day week with no loss of pay. It’s an experiment that we’re seeing elsewhere around the world right now too.

There are plenty of US-based companies (primarily in the tech space) for example which are also re-examining their employment models, whether that’s offering unlimited holiday or removing official work hours. Whether these moves become mainstream or not, how we work definitely seems to be changing, and it’s partly in response to demands from a workforce that is suffering, in some cases, from burnout.

So the question is, could the change to a four-day week apply to the CX industry? If you run a contact centre, how can you make this work? Can you even make it work? In a workspace where a fixed workload has to be delivered in a set amount of time, is it even possible to reduce the amount of time worked without negative impacts for your client?

Since I contributed to the article, I’ve been pondering its implications and asking myself this question: despite the many challenges, could it be that outsourcing is the key to unlocking the four-day week for the CX industry?

Let’s look at the challenges

Let’s kick off by examining some of the challenges our industry faces. The first problem to solve is how to manage your people in a 24/7 on-demand world. Clearly you can’t have a contact centre shut on a Friday, for example.

You could try and smooth demand by tapping into the customer management trend for technology and automation. As Artificial Intelligence continues to evolve, there is the potential for more of the volume of low-value calls to be handled in the future by AI and automation. If that means your contact centre ends up with a lower volume of higher-value calls, perhaps that means more options to schedule your people differently, e.g., four days on, two off.

The second challenge is around how widespread adoption of the 4-day week could affect consumer behaviour. If you’re one of those people who are now working to fit 5 days’ work into four days, your time during the working week will presumably be precious. So, we might see workers time-shift their ‘life admin’ – bills, housework, errands, the chores we all enjoy so much – to the extra day off. If that extra day off is a weekday however (which is most likely) then you’ve also got the added potential of it being a child-free day (if you’re a parent). As any parent knows, that’s a rare luxury. What are you going to want to do with it? Possibly not waste it doing the weekly shop. Back in the contact centre, it might be that this extra freedom shifts demand away from the traditional peaks in customer demand in early morning and lunchtime.

With that extra time to invest, could we actually see it change people’s attitudes towards brands? If people spend the time used for self-actualization (rather than simply binge-ing more Netflix), could this affect the kind of brands – and messages – to which they’re receptive? Are there new marketing propositions around the question of “What are you going to do with your day off?” It could affect the channel mix too if people suddenly having 50% more leisure time affects the way they communicate.

What about the opportunities?

It’s definitely a challenge to see how a 4-day week could work for contact centres. Is our world one that could enable a four-day week – and would that be a good thing? It’s something we should be considering, given the need to recruit and retain talent. If we could leverage the competitive advantage of outsourcing to make a 4-day week viable, it would help our industry attract the talent we need, and reward those who choose it.

So given what we know about the greater flexibility that outsourcing can offer – the greater flexibility, its use of part-time and full-time workers, its potential size and scale, the combination of onshore and offshore solutions – let’s think about how it could work.

Contact centre outsourcing agreements often use a commercial model which is based on a rate-per-productive hour. Under this model, the client is only charged for the time that an advisor is logged on as available to work on calls, chats or emails, plus an allowance for ‘shrinkage’, covering activities such as briefings and training.

Under the four-day week, an advisor’s salary would remain at 100%, but the number of productive hours available to bill to a client reduces by 20%. How to square the circle? There are two options: either increase the rate-per-productive-hour to the client – or change the commercial model.

The first option, to increase the productive hourly rate, would undoubtedly be met with resistance and some tough conversations between clients and their outsourcing partner. What is certain is that an outsourcer will not be able to absorb this additional cost themselves (and remain economically viable), where services are delivered onshore.

I’ve talked already about just some of the unintended consequences for the workforce that could be created by the move to a four-day week, and here we need to consider the same for the economy. There would almost certainly be greater offshoring for contact centre work, moving it to geographies where the four-day week is not a regulatory requirement, as a result of greater cost arbitrage between onshore and offshore delivery. Equally, it might drive an uptick in gig CX resource, as people choose to gig for brands they love in their new spare time.

The second option – to change the commercial model – offers greater scope to protect onshore contact centre jobs, if a 4-day week were to be introduced at scale. Shifting from input pricing (time) to output pricing (outcomes) means outsourcers could potentially remain economically viable, whilst creating greater value for their clients.

Focusing the outsourcing commercial model on value creation like this, could mean using measures like revenue per customer, servicing cost per customer, contacts per order, first contact resolution, and customer experience (NPS/CSat).

Strategically partnering for outcomes like this would incentivize outsourcers to optimize their use and adoption of digital self-service, automation and bot solutions for simple, high-volume contact reasons. At the same time, they would be incentivized to ensure that every human interaction is optimized for value creation (revenue, resolution, retention etc).

Removing the lower-value contacts (through self-service, automation and process improvement) would create the capacity to reinvest a portion of the savings into the employee value proposition for those advisors dealing with the most complex and valuable customer conversations. As a leading outsourcer, at Webhelp we’re ideally placed to partner with clients in this way, as we combine CX design, technology and analytics with high-quality service delivery.

So, if we can shift the industry mindset from one of procurement to partnership, perhaps the 4-day week could be a realistic opportunity to reward our people and make our industry more attractive to talent.

Visit Gobeyond Partners at

Visit Webhelp at

This article was published with permission of Webhelp.