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How Do You Know Which Agents Are Right For Which Channels?

Today, it’s no longer a question of whether companies should provide multi-channel customer support. Whatever industry you’re in, meeting your customer in his preferred channel – live phone conversations, web chat, instant messaging, direct mail, email – are not just perks, but competitive requirements to keep your customers happy, and allow your business to stay successful.

The challenge is not as simple as putting warm bodies in agent seats and providing them with a computer, phone, and head set. The ability to deliver outstanding customer experience requires that each of those individuals you choose to interact with your customers on behalf of your brand need to possess certain traits. The way they listen, the way they speak, the way they write and their ability to follow a process depending on the type of interaction will all have an impact on the quality of customer service you provide.

As a cost consideration, many enterprises attempt to develop their agents to become fluent in multiple channels. After all, an agent who can support different channels means less staff is required and productivity is maximized. But not all customer service agents exhibit the required abilities to satisfactorily support all channels. Some of your talents may have extremely good verbal skills, while others have a strong command of the written word. It will be to your advantage if you re-evaluate your agent’s skill sets before developing them to manage several communication channels.

So what skills are needed for which channels?

Voice channel. Even with the many different options to reach customer service, majority of customers still prefer to speak with a live person. When selecting from your pool of talents to handle inbound and outbound calls, you will want to choose someone who is articulate, who speaks clearly, who listens attentively and whose sincerity can be sensed through the phone line. Additionally, this person has good questioning and listening skills as well as a calm demeanor to handle irate customers.  

Live chat support. The demographic for customers who prefer chat is varied. This group is made up of younger people who'd rather be typing than talking live. Also included in this group are those who may be intimidated by the idea of talking to someone whose accent may be hard to understand or who may be shy about their own English proficiency. You may want to assign agents who type fast with minimal or zero typo errors, and uses standard grammar and language. In other words, no colloquialisms that can be misunderstood by a non-native English speaker. Like live agents, you’ll want someone who is sympathetic and can convey that in writing.

Email support. Customers who email their request for assistance are probably not in as much a hurry as those who call or chat. Nevertheless, these customers still expect a response within one business day. A good candidate to handle this channel is one is diligent about making sure emails are monitored and attended to in the order they’re received. Writing skill is paramount in this role so you want someone who can provide written response in a clear and concise manner. In addition, this agent must also be adept at correctly comprehending the customer’s message and respond accordingly.

By now, businesses should be past the debate of the pros and cons of offering multi-channel customer support. Customers are getting tech-savvy and are increasingly turning to various emerging technologies to reach you. The discussion has progressed from asking whether they can afford not to offer multiple channels (the answer is no if you want to stay competitive), to asking whether to cross train agents to become jack-of-all trades versus specializing in one support medium. Only you and your team can decide which path to take.

At the end of the day, it boils down to developing competent agents who are subject matter experts committed to serving your customers.

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