How to Optimize Your Multichannel Contact Center

In response to customer demand, you’ve built multichannel support into your contact center. While the technology available today likely got you there easily enough, best practices for optimizing your multichannel service strategy have probably not been as easy to pin down.

Perhaps you’ve experienced trouble trying to link channels for reporting purposes, or train customer care Communicators on different channels, or maintain consistent answers across channels. Yet, now that multichannel contact centers have become the norm, best practices for tackling such concerns are emerging—such as unifying disparate applications.

Each new channel, like social media or SMS messaging, adds complexity to the contact center. When the various applications operate in siloes, support suffers. To improve the customer experience with your business, the applications must be integrated to ease communication. This allows you to tap into all the relevant data pertaining to an interaction and deliver it to the Communicator in advance, enabling him or her to more efficiently and effectively address the customer’s needs.

When customer information—from purchase history to social media activity to demographics—is made available at the Communicator’s desktop, you will begin to see an improved customer experience in your contact center. Customers aren’t repeating themselves, for one thing, leading to not only decreased frustration, but decreased average handling time (AHT) and increased first contact resolution (FCR).

What’s more, Communicators with a central user interface for accessing applications don’t need to dig for information while customers wait, which makes them more productive than their counterparts without central systems. This will also decrease AHT and boost customer satisfaction. Furthermore, providing your Communicators with a range of channels and content types will help keep them engaged. Plus, multiskilled Communicators provide you with resource flexibility at peak times.

Another challenge of managing multiple channels of communication is achieving a single view of the customer, so that contact can be tracked across channels. With a connected cloud service and CRM integrations, customers can call, then live chat, then email … without re-explaining their issues.

Although contact center leaders should ensure consistency in service across channels, and have an overall—not channel-by-channel—vision for the contact center, opportunities for improving the customer experience also exist within individual channels. We provide a few tips for maximizing the potential of various channels below:

Chat: Protect quality and attention to detail by handling no more than three or four Web chats at a time. Encourage rapport by integrating identifiers into the chat so the Communicator knows who the customer is from the get-go. Also, post hyperlinks into Web chat to route customers to rich media or a self-help page, which will enable self-service and decrease AHT. Develop policies for closing chats when it seems a client is no longer responding.

Social media: Leverage the skills of Communicators who already use social media extensively in their personal lives. Tailor responses to the individual but also keep a lid on drawn-out conversations; Communicators should focus on delivering service and, then, exit the social platform. Your integrated communication system should include the automatic forwarding of tweets and other social media messages to email to ensure they are not missed.  This is especially important if they contain negative material that must be addressed quickly to avoid damaging your brand’s reputation.

Text: Develop guidelines for “text speak”; the casual lingo used by customers isn’t appropriate for most businesses.

Five Common Obstacles to Great Customer Service

Very often in life, the things we do wrong are just as important as the things we do right. If you’ve been struggling to improve your customer service and aren’t seeing the desired results, maybe it’s time to look at your customers’ overall experience—the good and the bad—and then focus on fixing what’s wrong.

Below is a list of five common service issues that your customers may be experiencing which could be working against your efforts to improve their satisfaction. Remove these barriers, and you just may find your customer service approval ratings at an all-time high.

  • Customers typically contact you two or more times to resolve an issue. If your first-contact resolution (FCR) number isn’t up to par, you’re making customers work too hard to get what they need. (You should be measuring FCR on multiple channels, if you have them.)

To remove this barrier: First, make sure your Communicators are trained and well-equipped to handle the needs of even the most complex customer queries. That includes being knowledgeable about the technology they use, the procedures for finding information, and the product itself. Make sure you have provided enough resources for them to get the job done, like a knowledge base or product information sheets. Second, review your operations processes. Intelligent call routing and IVR menu options should be delivering customers to the right person the first time around.

  • Customers can only contact you via one or two channels. It’s a challenge to provide great service on multiple channels, but limiting options for contact simply means you’re shifting the burden onto your customers.

To remove this barrier: Make people’s lives easier by giving them a number of contact channels that also naturally fit your corporate strategy. There’s no need to jump into every contact channel available. Find out where your customers are, and use that as a starting point.

  • Customers contact you directly to resolve most issues. It’s burdensome for both you and your customers if there are no obvious avenues for issue resolution other than to contact customer service. You know there are solutions available, but it seems that they don’t.

To remove this barrier: Provide ways for customers to solve their own problems, and help guide them to the right solution. If the website is the best way to update account information, let them know. If billing issues are better handled with a call, tell them that, too. Other information, like frequently asked questions, should be prominently placed on your website.

  • Numerous customers call about the same issues. If customer feedback consistently relates to similar issues, that’s a clear sign of a problem (even if it isn’t communicated as a complaint). Hopefully you’ve been tracking customer feedback; now it’s time to take action.

To remove this barrier: Act now to ensure that future customers no longer have to contend with this issue. Identify the cause of the problem and fix it. If it’s related to product design, inform your design team and work on a solution. Is it a communication issue? Discuss it with marketing and sales and craft a new message. Whatever it is, use this opportunity to turn customer feedback into actionable insights.

  • Customers have to navigate a complex Web-based “help center” or phone IVR system before they can speak with a Communicator. Much customer frustration stems from feeling “trapped” in IVR systems or having to click through too many unhelpful help options. Some customers may end up abandoning the effort altogether.

To remove this barrier: Though you might think all customers prefer to handle things themselves, many people still feel more comfortable speaking with a human (or require a person’s help to get the job done). Don’t make it difficult to reach a live Communicator. Make sure your website offers a clear contact number, and that your IVR system has an easy exit. Sometimes the sound of a live voice is all it takes for a customer to go from resentful to grateful.