Published: May 27, 2014 | Comments
When it comes to how today’s customers want to communicate, there are lots of options. In addition to calling into the contact center, customers also have access to e-mail, self-service web portals, text, chat, social media, web inquiries, mobile applications and more.
Though these emerging channels are not commonplace in all contact centers yet, most have already embraced two or more, and the future is definitely multichannel. The challenge is how to effectively integrate all of these emerging channels into the contact center and support them – while ensuring a consistent customer experience.
The truth is, though technology and communication channels have changed, customers are still the same. They expect a high level of service and they want their issues handled fast, accurately, and on the first try.
Here are the top five challenges most contact centers face when transitioning to multichannel:
#1: Lack of insight across channels
One of the biggest challenges faced by contact centers as they incorporate multiple channels is a lack of insight into what is happening across all channels.
Providing consistent service is critical to the overall customer experience. But often, agents do not have insight into interactions that occur in other channels. If a customer calls in on Monday, for example, and then submits an inquiry through the website on Wednesday, does the agent handling web chat have insight into what occurred on the previous call? This becomes even more complicated when you include other channels such as physical branches and storefronts.
As new channels are incorporated into the center, agents must have visibility into customer interactions across all channels to ensure customers are receiving consistent, seamless service and that your brand is being well represented.
#2: Single channel vs. multichannel workforce
Most contact centers begin expanding by incorporating e-mail, which leads to the creation of a team of agents whose job it is to answer e-mail inquiries rather than an integrated, multi-channel workforce that can handle all kinds of interactions. This leads to silos in the workforce, making it more difficult to achieve consistency across all channels as well as creating inefficiencies.
At the same time, some channels are better suited to outsourcing than others. Web chat and e-mail, for example, are easier to outsource off-shore because agents are typically more skilled in written correspondence than on the phone, where language differences can be more profound. Though outsourcing some channels can be cost-effective, this creates separate labor pools, which can also be more difficult to manage.
As you add more channels, look a few steps down the road to think about managing these workforces. Is it more effective to cross-train agents to handle multiple channels? Are there some channels with more common skills and handle times than others? What do you hire for and what do you train for? How are your support roles like workforce management impacted?
#3: Load balancing
Shifting agents across channels is often a time consuming process that can result in a negative customer experience while managers look to fill seats and shift agents from channel to channel. Organizations need to quickly leverage those agents with the right skills to positively impact the customer experience in whatever channel the customer chooses to communicate.
Even though agents may be available to handle multiple channels, how do you ensure customers always have access to the most skilled agents? Manually updating agent skill associations based on training and performance metrics makes reskilling responsive to performance trends and upgraded skills but increases the workload for workforce management.
#4: No time for training
Creating skilled agents who have the knowledge and skills to seamlessly handle multiple channels, products and customers requires ongoing training and coaching, which means allocating more time for these activities.
And time spent in off-phone activities like training, coaching sessions and after call work means agents are off the floor, not helping customers. Additional agents must be brought in to cover for them, which is both inefficient and expensive.
In actuality, agents spend hours sitting at their desks, waiting for the next call (or text or e-mail) in natural, unproductive downtime that often comes in one to two minute increments. This adds up to around 11% of an agent’s workday, or five weeks of wasted time per agent, per year. Finding a way to use this downtime can extract value from otherwise unused time.
#5: Disparate technologies
Today’s contact centers have many technologies in place for everything from forecasting and scheduling to training, coaching and call distribution.
As new channels have emerged in the contact center, additional new technologies have been brought in ad hoc to handle them. Most are from different vendors and are not fully integrated, therefore requiring supervisors and workforce managers to perform manual processes to make them work together.
Though there are vendors out there that offer the whole package, they often require you to oust all of your existing systems, and for most organization, that’s not an immediate option.
Making multi-channel work
To make multi-channel work in the contact center without increasing manual processes and support costs, technology plays a part. Automating critical processes in the multi-channel contact center creates a real-time frontline workforce that can provide a consistent customer experience in any channel.
Intraday automation solutions integrate disparate technologies with business rules that automatically adjust, moving agents with the right skills across channels in response to volume. Other rules serve to aggregate natural downtimes in call volume and fill this otherwise unproductive time with prioritized off-phone activities. As agents complete training and certifications or show a need for improvement in a certain area, skill and queue associations are automatically updated so that customers are always talking to agents best equipped to serve them.
The result is a frontline workforce that is able to meet customer demand in real time and a better overall customer experience delivered consistently across all channels.
Intradiem, formerly Knowlagent, is the leader in intraday automation 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 frontline 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.