Multiple channels are now commonplace in contact centers, changing the way we do business. The goal of a call center is no longer to handle one transaction on one channel, it’s to make sure that customers have a positive experience on every channel, even if that means transitioning from one mode of communication to another midstream.
This new reality is making the job of a Communicator more complex than ever before. As contact center leaders, it’s our job to support them, giving them every tool they need to make their jobs easier. The ability to juggle multiple channels won’t come naturally to everyone. However, putting more time and resources into agent preparedness will pay off in spades in the long run.
Three things you can focus on to help your Communicators become more “universal” agents—ones who handle multiple channels successfully—are training, technology and product knowledge.
Training: You know your Communicators best. Some are naturally suited to phone work, others are strong writers. Don’t take this as a sign that agents should do different things; separating agents by channel will only serve to splinter your customer service efforts even more. Instead, step up your training efforts to bring everyone up to a more equal ability level. If need be, consider routing calls to specific agents depending on their strengths. Training programs may need to be revamped to address the additional channels in use, and feedback on performance levels should be provided on a timely and frequent basis.
When it comes to hiring new Communicators, create an updated job description that reflects the reality of the position. Look for experience indicators that are relevant to the workplace. For example, Communicators who use social media in their personal lives are more likely to feel comfortable using it on the job. Also, the ability to multitask becomes even more important in a multichannel environment. Switching from one channel to another—even if it’s only two—requires quick thinking and a bit of juggling.
Technology: Much of the technology you probably have in-house already can be used to support the multichannel environment. An IVR system can route specific calls to certain Communicators, depending on their skill levels, as well as minimize the occurrence of low-priority calls with the callback feature. Be sure that plenty of self-service options are available on the website, and incorporate hyperlinks to self-help pages in social media and Web chat services.
Minimize the amount of time your Communicators spend logging into and out of different platforms by providing them with technology tools that make transitions between channels easy. Technology is also available that can provide Communicators with recommendations as to next steps when working with a customer. These recommendations can be revised regularly depending on your analysis of the types of inquiries being fielded and resolutions that worked—no matter the channel.
Knowledge of the product: In-depth knowledge of the brands and products represented will go far in giving Communicators the information they need to handle inquiries more quickly. It will also make it easier for them to navigate between channels during a customer interaction. One way to increase product knowledge is to set up a knowledge-base, a central place where agents can share information about the company and the product, including commonly asked questions and previous issue resolution steps. Rapid access to knowledge will make the channel-switching process more comfortable, and more fruitful.
Creating more universal agents may seem like a daunting prospect, but keep in mind that Communicators who work with multiple channels regularly are more likely to be engaged in their jobs, as opposed to those who don’t. I think you’ll find that a long-term multichannel strategy as it applies to your staff will not only be good for business, but good for your Communicators as well.