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What do agents need to be successful in the multichannel contact center?

The biggest challenge in customer service today isn’t how to deal with interactions across an ever-increasing number of channels. Instead, the real issue is how these increased channels have changed the nature of interactions.

Through social media, review sites, online communities and price comparisons, customers are more informed than ever before. In fact, they are often more informed than the staff that are serving them – yet quite rightly still expect consistent and high levels of service and responsiveness.

According to a recent Ovum international study of 8,000 people, the majority of consumers are now using three or more channels to communicate with organizations, with 52% of consumers using three to four communication channels, and 22% using five or more.  Customers are genuinely calling the shots and without a doubt, the major challenge when implementing multi-channel  customer service is to ensure that your agents are equipped with the skills and competencies required for the communications channels they need to deal with.

However, it is worth noting that not all agents are ideal or for a demanding multi-channel role.  In any given day, they may need to be a consultative problem-solver one minute and a market analyst the next.  In the same interaction, they need to deploy psychology skills to understand and empathise with a customer’s responses, and project management skills to negotiate and then drive through a solution with the wider business.  And all this while mastering the technology associated with each communications channel.

Here are 7 tips that can help make sure that you get the agent/multi-channel balancing act right:

1. Given the complexities of the multi-channel customer service, don’t simply put your best phone agents or ones with self-professed chat skills in a multichannel environment.  Understand the required skills and competencies and vet carefully.  

2. Don’t expect your agents to deal with too many multi-channel contacts (number and types) at once.  Most industry experts believe that too many contact channels can be too confusing for most agents to handle while maintaining high levels of effectiveness and quality.

3. Each different communication channel demands its own service level, so it’s important to remember that it remains exceedingly important to deliver a positive, consistent, brand aligned customer experience – particularly as your customers are very likely to use more than one.

4. Simplify things for the agents.  Agents should not have to access multiple systems to support the customer - it's time consuming and detrimental to customer satisfaction and their own job satisfaction. 

5. Empower agents by providing access, systems training, and by giving them all requisite skills and knowledge (through training and/or access to materials) to do their job properly - whatever the task, whatever the channel.

6. As digital technology blurs the boundaries between formal and informal and individual and collaborative learning, you should embrace new ways to develop skills by making training more relevant – and current.  For example, use social media tools that facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing and gamification to bring scenarios to life and inject a spirit of competitiveness – and make sure you deliver this in exciting new ways (i.e. mobile).

7. Finally, it’s really important to remember that your focus should be a continuous journey.  Regularly analyse conversations across all channels to ensure that the skills and competencies you think you need are indeed driving the right positive outcomes for each and every channel.

The landscape is changing rapidly and those that adapt the quickest will survive and thrive.  Good luck!


More Resources

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  • Whitepaper: Overcoming Productivity & Efficiency Challenges in the Multichannel Contact Center
  • Research Report: Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center: Leveraging the Emerging Channels
  • Virtual Training: An Agent's Role in Contact Center Success