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Expert Angle: Managing Multi-Channels in a Modern Call Center

Today’s dynamic contact centers are facing new challenges, with new contact channels becoming more popular and customer expectations changing rapidly. Traditionally inbound contact centers have been asked during the recent tough economic times to become profit centers, to be more responsive to the changing client environment and to adopt new approaches and technology to meet these new demands.

The growth of social media, the change in the telecommunications landscape away from traditional land lines towards mobile services, the growth of mobile computing and the decline of desktop personal computers are all leading call centers to adopt and implement new multi-channel capabilities. Call centers today are evolving to handle not only traditional inbound voice calls but also inbound web chat, email interactions, proactive outbound communications and social media. Adding these new services can be daunting to any call center. A disciplined approach to adding the right services is essential to the success of the call center and its ability to remain a relevant and strategic arm of the business.

Call center analytics is a key component in understanding what types of services to offer and when to offer them. Understanding call drivers through interaction analytics will give a call center the starting point for developing a strategy to adapt to changing client needs. A technical support center that traditionally has long average handle times, and therefore long average hold times, could implement web chat as a solution, providing direct interaction with the caller’s device utilizing remote assistance and allowing a single agent to handle multiple inbound interactions at one time. This example illustrates how a center can be better equipped to handle volume demands without increasing costs. The question then becomes: “How does a call center choose which non-traditional interactions options to implement?”

There is no easy answer to this, other than to truly understand your customers. The best way to do so is to amass a deep knowledge of how they prefer to interact with you (and with your competitors) so you can provide them with a channel that you know to be optimal. The implementation of a strong analytical approach to each and every customer touch point is a requirement that call center managers must start wrapping their collective business intelligence around. Without a holistic view of customer activity across multiple channels, it is difficult to determine their needs and therefore which channel(s) would be most appropriate for meeting them. By developing a cross-sectional view of each client interaction with a company -- through existing customer service channels, social media, surveys or any other possible touch point -- businesses better able to choose a contact channel that is appropriate for their customers.

Once a call center has determined which channel provides the preferable personalized contact desired by their customers, it is crucial that properly trained agents deliver the right interaction with the proper strategic intent. Large call center agent pools have been the norm for many years because they provide an ‘economy of scale’ that lowers costs and increases access. The drawback to this approach is that it does not provide the personalized interaction that the caller is looking for. By understanding the call driver prior to its delivery to an agent, the call center may choose to route the call to an automated response or forward it to an agent who is potentially in a smaller pool but better equipped to handle the call in an efficient and effective manner.

Agent pool selection is done at the point of entry through traditional IVR selections made by the caller. However, if an added level of analytics is applied, channel selection can also be personalized. As an example, through traditional IVR selections and an analysis of how the customer has previously interacted with the call center, it may be possible to route a caller looking for technical support to a web chat in order to have his or her issue resolved quicker and in a more personalized manner. Conversely, by going back to the same analytics, the call center may use business intelligence to identify the customer as a repeat caller, and route the call to a specialized agent group that is better equipped to resolve the issue at hand. This level of interaction analytics and business intelligence has the potential to reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction by helping the call center to provide a more personalized and appropriate response to the caller’s needs. 

The implementation of new customer service channels is a proven way for call centers to remain relevant in today’s changing marketplace. To achieve successful selection and deployment of these new channels requires a clear view into the call drivers and customer responses, which can only be achieved through business intelligence and analytics. This holistic view of the customer allows the call center to choose not only which channels to implement in general, but which channel to utilize at the right time for the right caller with the right agent.