How to use multi-channel contacts in a contact center effectively?

Until a few years back, customers used telephone as the most convenient medium to get in touch with call centers. But a lot has changed in recent years. Today, with advancements in technology every fraction of a second, customers are exploring new touch points to get in touch with contact centers. Customer today use different mediums such as voice, IVR, email, web chat etc to get in touch with their contact center agents. A growing number of researches show that there has been a significant difference in the way customers reach contact center agents:

  • The number of phone interactions have fallen 76.2% in 2007 to 71.6% 2011.
  • Contacts through emails have increased from 6.9% in 2007 to 10.2% in 2011.
  • Live chat interaction has increased from 1.2% in 2007 to 2.5% in 2012.
  • Inbound interaction through IVR has increased from 6.9% to 12.2% in 2011.

It is forecasted that by 2015 live chat interaction will account 5% of the total inbound interactions.

In order to satisfy this changing customer preferences, contact centers today are forced to undergo a transition from traditional call center to a multi-channel contact center. Contact centers are constantly focusing to integrate all contact channels in one platform to provide a greater customer experience while reducing cost and increasing revenue.

How to use multi-channel contacts effectively?

From a company’s perspective, deploying new multiple touch points in their contact center will benefit them in terms of better customer service and reducing costs. However, increasing number of channels will pose some challenges before them in terms of agent skill sets, scheduling, performance measurement and reporting. In order to overcome these challenges and use the multiple contact channels effectively there is a need of developing a better multi-channel contact center management strategy.  Some of the proven strategies in managing a multi-channel contact center are discussed below:

  1. Creating dedicated agent pools: Many companies create dedicated groups to handle each channel individually. This means one group will handle voice calls, another group handles email etc.
  2. Universal Queue:  Here the contacts are directed to the agents as they come. The agent may handle a voice call first, and then email contact, them a web chat in the order they have come.
  3. Skill-Block scheduling: In this method, the companies block their agents to focus on one contact channel for a given period of time and then shift to other types of contact channel for the next specific period.
  4. Determine service goals individually: The contact centers should determine service goals separately for each of the multiple touch points it is handling.
  5. Determine Average Handle Time for contacts: Determining average handle time for contacts from history will help the companies to create volume forecast. Volume forecasts will help the centers to achieve the service goals set.
  6. Build an effective Work Force Management System (WMS): A proper WMS will help the management with staff planning and creating right schedules for the agents to handle channels.
  7. Develop new metrics: The contact centers should develop new sets of metrics when they expand to include new multi- channel contacts in their operations. This will provide right insights and deep analysis for the management to make decisions.

Contact centers that integrate multi-channel contacts better will be able to provide greater customer experience on their preferred touch points. This will in turn help the business to increase revenue and reduce cost considerably.

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