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Integrating and Balancing Chat into Your Customer Care Program

Live chat – if it’s not already supported in your contact center, it will be soon.

Your customers are technically savvy, on the go, and comfortable communicating in all kinds of channels. By making it easy for customers to do business and offering them a quick way to get answers to their questions, new channels like live chat can be a huge asset for companies.

But these new channels have different work and traffic flows and must often be handled by agents with specific skill sets. And because of the quick nature of chat, customers expect their inquiries to be handled fast, making it another high priority channel to manage.

Is your contact center ready for live chat? Are your agents? How do you effectively forecast and staff this new channel while maintaining service levels and keeping customers satisfied?

The Chat Factor

Most consumers have wireless devices in front of them almost 24 hours a day, making it just as easy to chat as to call in and talk to a live agent when they have a question. In fact, in some cases, chat can be even faster than the phone because they don’t have to wait on hold. With chat, customers can multi-task, continuing to work while waiting for support.

On the agent’s end, these chat sessions also allow agents to multi-task and handle more than one customer inquiry, due to lag time in between interactions.

At the same time, managing another customer channel requires some extra attention. First, agents must be trained to handle chat interactions while maintaining the same customer service levels expected with phone or e-mail. And because chat may have different peaks and valleys, it – like any other channel – must be adequately staffed with the right number of skilled agents to maintain service levels at all times.

A New Type of Agent

Chat must be monitored like other channels, but does it also require a different type of agent? Generally, with some additional training, agents who handle inbound calls and e-mail are also able to handle chat interactions.

E-mail interactions are typically slower than chat and provide agents more time to respond. Because of this, e-mail is often an easier channel to send off-shore, for example, because agents can cut and paste templates in their response.

Chat, on the other hand, is harder to move off-shore because agents must be able to quickly respond in the customer’s native language. This typically requires agents closer to the skill-level of those who answer calls.

Balancing for Chat

Early adopters of chat often dedicated a workforce exclusively to the channel, but now there are opportunities to skip this step and blend chat into the actual incoming call center rather than beginning with separate workforces. Because the nature of live chat is still dialogue, just over the computer, the opportunity exists for agents who handle incoming calls to increase their skill set to support the chat channel as well. With a combined workforce trained for multiple channels, you can apply agents to demand as needed.

The truth is, no matter how well you forecast, there will always be situations where there are too many agents in one channel and not enough in another. In order to be effective, organizations must have technology in place that can automatically balance workload and resources across all channels in real time.

Intraday management technology creates a real-time frontline workforce that can adjust immediately and consistently to unforeseen conditions. When volume in one channel spikes, agents can then be automatically moved from one channel to another to cover peaks and valleys in volume.

If agents are not skilled to handle a specific channel – such as chat – they can be trained during natural downtimes and re-skilled so that they are able to float between service channels.

Always prepared. Always productive. Never caught off-guard. With intraday management, agents are able to deliver a superior customer experience that is immune to unexpected disruptions and peaks in volume, regardless of the channel.

Many contact centers already leverage intraday management technology to create agents who are as much as 20 percent more productive, improving the overall performance of the frontline workforce without increasing headcount.

Not only are agents with broader skill sets capable of handling more than one service channel which is good for business – but these multi-skilled agents enjoy the variety of handling multiple channels, which keeps them engaged and helps with overall retention. Allowing technology to manage the staffing and properly integrate chat into the contact center helps create a frontline workforce that provides excellence in customer service and helps the contact center to be always prepared, productive and never caught off-guard.

About Intradiem

Intradiem, formerly Knowlagent, is the leader in intraday management solutions for multi-channel contact centers. Intradiem’s customers achieve an invincible customer experience with a real-time workforce.  Intradiem’s solutions automate manual processes such as intraday task management, intraday staffing, reskilling, channel balancing, and real-time alerts to ensure front-line workforces are poised to react to whatever the market throws their way. More than 450,000 contact center, field service, retail, bank branch, and back office employees around the world use Intradiem’s solution every day. For more information, call 888-566-9457 or visit www.intradiem.com.