ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


An Agent's View of the Multichannel Contact Center

This post originally appeared on the inContact blog on October 3, 2013.

Management had been talking about adding social media customer service for months. “Let’s set up our own Facebook page!” I overheard one of the supervisors declare. “We can put up pictures of the team, talk about stuff happening in the office, and really make it cool and personal! It’s about customer engagement!”

“No, no, no.” I heard another refute. “We need to start with Twitter. I did a search and our product is negatively mentioned in hashtags a lot. You know that is increasing our phone volume. We need to start with Twitter!”

“Are you out of your minds?” my own manager questioned. “We just launched online chat a month ago. We don’t have the time or the right people to set up yet another channel!”

“Can’t we just tag onto the Marketing brand?” a fourth asked. “They have all the accounts set up already and they are always asking us how to answer the hard questions anyway. They only have two people in their department, so the volume can’t be bad.”

“YEAH!” they all agreed. “Let’s take over social media from Marketing!”

The Quest for Social Media Domination

From then on it seemed like social media was all anyone talked about. As agents, we’d watch clusters of our management huddled together reviewing competitor sites. We’d hear them critique marketing’s responses to customers and talk about what they’d do differently. We’d hear them discuss direct messaging etiquette and best practices for responding to customer complaints. They researched response times, customer preferences, and other metrics.

And sure there were the naysayers. A few of the managers didn’t seem convinced that we could take on social media or that marketing would relinquish control. But still they pushed on.

Hey! What about Us? What about the Agent?

We on the other hand were too concerned with keeping up with the new volume from chat. We’d heard that the phone and email volume would go down as more customers started using chat, but that didn’t seem to be the case. Marketing had plastered the chat button everywhere on the website and rumors were swirling that the Product team was already thinking about building it into the mobile app that was launching next quarter.

Most days I had no idea what channel I was going to be supporting.  I’d be scheduled for phones, but then yanked out of queue if chat was too busy. And email just seemed to keep backing up. We were supposed to manually pull tickets in-between calls and chats, but that just became overwhelming. So I stopped checking the email inbox until my supervisor threatened to reprimand me. One day I was just so stressed about dealing with customers angry about sitting on hold too long or having gotten the wrong answer from a different team that I just didn’t come back from my break. I went home and called in sick for the next two shifts.

Making our Voices Heard

Then something weird happened. Right about the time we were set to take over social media support, HR sent out a survey. Our company usually did this once or twice a year, but this survey was different. It didn’t just ask how satisfied I was with my job; it asked about how committed I was to the business, our customers, and the company goals. It actually asked if I was looking for another job, and I honestly said yes.  It was almost like someone cared about how happy I was to be at work each day.

A week later during my one-on-one, my supervisor asked about my absences and my drop in utilization. I told him how hard it was to balance chat, email and phone all day long and that my schedule was a mess. “I get that we underestimated the volume when we added in chat,” he admitted. “We also know we’ve asked you guys to learn a lot of new applications and processes in a short amount of time. We could really use your help so that we do this better next time,” he said.

Two weeks later we were told that social support was going to roll out in stages and that Marketing was looking for volunteers to pilot a small team. My manager also invited me to participate in a focus group to talk about what didn’t go so well with the chat implementation and to think about ideas that could have made it better. I actually have some thoughts that I’d like to share. And just maybe I’ll volunteer for that pilot program as well.

The Multichannel Contact Center

In Q3 of this year, inContact and ICMI launched a survey entitled “The Agent’s Experience in the Multichannel World” where we looked at how contact centers were leveraging the agent – both internally to make decisions on technology, channels and analytics, and externally to meet the demands of the customer. In the report that accompanied the research we identified 12 key components of a multichannel roadmap. Above, six of them were addressed – 1) Transition to Agent Satisfaction (ASAT) and Agent Engagement (AE), 2) Link Experience and Engagement, 3) Understand Productivity and Efficiency Drivers, 4) Connect the Forecasting and Scheduling Dots, 5) Involve the Agent, and 6) Consider Channel Experimentation.

Next week we will look at the remaining six as we dive in to “The Methodology of a Multichannel Manager”.

As expected, the agent is vital to the success of the multichannel contact center and to the overall satisfaction of customers. 85% of the surveyed contact center leaders believe that happy agents make happy customers, and 65% have seen a connection between the agent’s engagement and a better customer experience. Another 66% have identified linkages between operational efficiency, agent engagement and agent satisfaction.

If you are interested in learning more, stay tuned for the upcoming release of “The Multichannel Agent: A 2014 Contact Center Roadmap, Research Report and Best Practices Guide.”