February 19, 2015
We’ve all heard about multichannel or omnichannel communication within contact centers. No matter what the buzzword is, it is undeniable that contact centers are expanding rapidly into new channels of communication. It isn’t just new channels though; organizations are also looking at adding new features to their contact centers. All of this is an attempt to meet customers where they want to interact to improve overall satisfaction. Whether you are just starting to look at adopting an omnichannel approach to communicating with customers or have already started down this path, here are some tools you should consider.
Contact Center Omnichannel Communications Tools
Today’s customers expect to engage via social channels. The whole idea of an omnichannel contact center is to meet the customer where they want, on the channel of their choice. Salesforce.com has found that customers who engage with companies on social media spend 20% to 40% more with that company.
While it is not realistic to be active on every possible channel, make an effort to understand where your customers are most likely to reach out. Aggregation software, such as Cisco SocialMiner, can help you monitor multiple channels and alert you when your brand is mentioned or when a customer makes direct contact.
Keep in mind, a poorly maintained social media profile is a direct reflection of your brand. Pick your channels carefully, and make sure you have a defined strategy for handling the specific channel.
Live chat has quickly become one of the preferred mediums for getting problems solved without ever picking up the phone. Because chat is a real-time communication tool, it is important to consider the same things that you would when planning for a voice contact center. What is the service level goal in a chat queue, and what will the hours of operation be? If you’re not planning on 24/7 service, make sure you have a way to remove the option from your website or alert the customer that chat is not currently being offered. Also, be sure your agents are comfortable with chat before introducing the idea of multiple chat sessions per agent. While chat is not as real-time as voice, customers can grow frustrated by long response times. In terms of omnichannel communications, live chat is vital to providing real-time response.
Many contact centers have a way of handling inbound email from customers, but not all are queuing emails to skilled agents and tracking service levels. An ICMI survey found that contact centers generally respond to emails within 24 hours. However, customers may not be happy with that. A 2014 survey by Toister Solutions found that 41% of customers expect a response in 4 hours or less. While a shared Outlook folder is technically a way to handle an email queue, modern solutions exist that allow you to keep track of your service levels and make sure you are exceeding customer expectations.
Not sounding overly robotic or corporate is also important when responding to emails. Use templates that keep the corporate message intact, but allow room for more casual-sounding agent responses. Building out your email strategy is an important component of incorporating omnichannel communications into your contact center.
Budgets exist in the real world. With that said, managers sometimes have to tolerate long hold times in queue. You can’t always handle 80% of calls within 20 seconds, but if you do have high hold times, you should not force your callers to wait in queue. Adding an automatic callback feature allows your customers to enter their callback number and let the system call them back when an agent is available. The threshold for when to offer a callback is not a science and varies by company, but by taking a look at your average hold times and seeing when customers start to abandon, you can determine when a callback from queue option may be appropriate. Most modern call center software will support a callback solution, including both Cisco Unified Contact Center Express and Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise. This is an essential component as part of a larger omnichannel communications strategy.
Self-service can take on multiple forms. Two specific models include Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Self Service where a caller dials into an application and is able to speak or key in data to get some information, and web services that allow customers to see information and complete specific tasks.
Common examples of IVR Self Service include retrieving information like account balances, recently posted payments, or tracking numbers. A self-service IVR can do more than just present information. Tasks like submitting a payment or generating a password reset in Active Directory can also be achieved.
On the web self-service side, many financial and insurance institutions have created web portals that allow customers to do a number of things which previously required a call or branch visit to accomplish. If your website offers the ability to easily solve a common problem, it may be worth announcing that to callers. Many callers will take the opportunity to help themselves and will be happier with the straightforward approach.
When looking at self-service, common and repeatable tasks that agents have to deal with should be identified. Because of security concerns, not everything is a candidate for self-service. The goal should be to free up agents to deal with calls that are not as easy to handle. Your customers will likely appreciate it as well – 40% of consumers prefer self-service to human contact!
There are other tools your contact center can use to improve customer service when you take an omnichannel approach to communication. Consider SMS texting (how about letting someone who is calling from a mobile number interact via SMS right now, rather than wait on hold?) and video interaction, either at a kiosk or via the web.
Interested in becoming omnichannel communications oriented? Mindsight can help. We’ve been building contact centers since 2004 with engineers that have a broad range of technical experiences. We can help you with something as simple as adding Cisco SocialMiner to your existing Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) system, or as complex as building an IVR so customers can help themselves and free up your agents for more complex interactions.
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