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How to Help Your Contact Center Team Handle Omnichannel Expectations

screensEvery day when I wake up, I have a decision to make: Do I check my unread texts, my flooded email inbox, or my Slack messages, first?

You’d think that while I sleep, my notifications do, too, but no. Come morning, I’m tasked with juggling multiple channels and different conversations, while trying not to slip into overwhelm before my first cup of coffee.

These days, we’re inundated with ways to communicate, and in an omnichannel world it’s tough t keep up.

However, keeping up is critical to your customer experience. Research shows 91% of people prefer brands with omnichannel service. Not only that, but 40% of customers won’t even do business with a company if they can’t use their preferred channel to communicate.

Companies attempt to cater to demanding customers. You train a handful of agents on chat, another handful on email, and dedicate the rest to fielding calls. Then staffing your contact center gets complicated. When one of your agents takes PTO or can’t make a shift, who picks up the slack? Your agents who field calls don’t know how to handle Twitter. Your live chat team has strict SLAs to adhere to and can’t balance long phone calls. Suddenly, customers are stuck in a wasteland of unread messages.

So, what’s the solution?

How can you make omnichannel customer service more manageable for your team? And, how can you train your agents on all of the channels, instead of one, so you can keep pace with customer demand?

Here are three ways to ease the omnichannel burden for your agents, so they don’t slip into overwhelm:

Simplify the agent desktop.

Your agents can be outstanding at chatting with customers online and answering every phone call in their queue, but if they’re overwhelmed by a disjointed experience, your customer experience suffers.

Gartner found the average agent uses close to 9 different desktop tools just to do their most basic tasks at work. Companies cling to multichannel tools disguised as omnichannel, and they end up creating more work for their service teams.

Help your agents deliver better omnichannel service by simplifying the agent desktop. Don’t tack on a bunch of new channels unless you have the systems and integrations in place to connect workflows for your team.

Train for consistency across channels.

Executing your omnichannel strategy takes tons of intention and careful training.

To start, think about the big-picture customer experience you want to deliver. Think about the experiences you love with other brands, and those that have sent you into the arms of competitors.

Identify what made your favorite customer experiences so great. Did you make a purchase online, track it through an app, then reach out via email for support? Or, did you call in for help and get a friendly agent on the line? What made each one memorable? Dissect your own omnichannel experiences as a customer to set a framework for your contact center’s service.

Once you have the big picture in view, create a set of standards for handling every interaction.

Gladly’s 2020 CX Report found three core elements customers want your agents to know during interactions:

  • Who they are (name, location info)
  • What they’ve already talked about (previous conversations)
  • What they’ve purchased

Your standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each channel should include these three components, so agents address the core needs of your customers during every conversation.

Next up, create service-level agreements (SLAs) SLAs for every channel. Be sure to account for the differences in high to low-impact cases, here, too. The time to respond to a tweet looks much different than an email, a chat, or a phone call. Getting specific and setting the right expectations for your agents makes handling a variety of channels less intimidating.

With channel-specific SLAs in place, your agents can better prioritize and balance asynchronous communication, like email, with real-time channels, like chat.

Provide specific and actionable feedback on agent interactions.

Next up, get specific with your team. While training starts with setting goals and expectations, its real impact lives in the details.

Use agent development tools like scorecards, call recordings, and transcriptions to coach your team. And as you coach, diversify the interactions you review. If you only share feedback on phone calls, your agents miss out on upskilling in chat.

Give in-line feedback on interactions from emails to phone calls. Use transcriptions to point out specific moments where an agent can change their prose in chat, shift their tone in phone calls, or use different language in an email.

Then, give actionable feedback to improve.

Create sample scripts to help your agents master each channel. And, coach on techniques like mirroring and empathy, too. If a customer chats in with a super direct request, she’s probably looking to get straight to the point without all the niceties. Asking your “get to the point customers” superfluous questions will only make for a bad experience, so recognizing these cues is crucial.

Don’t shy away from feedback. Each piece of advice will help agents navigate new channels and ease tension and frustration, no matter how your customers choose to communicate.