Call Centers That Switch between Multiple Channels Enhance Customer Experiences
By Steve Newell
Changing trends to the contact center arena is a response to changes in consumer behavior and not solely the result of changing business strategies. Today’s customers are increasingly savvier about using various digital channels for their day-to-day communication.
Consider the following everyday scenarios where people use multiple channels to communicate:
- Dad calls his son on his cell. It rings and goes to voicemail. He sends a quick text and gets a reply text immediately.
- Mom WhatsApps her daughter on vacation overseas. The daughter responds to Mom and then initiates a FaceTime session, both successfully navigating around long-distance tariffs.
- Dad texts Mom about weekend plans, and they go back and forth discussing various options, sending web pages, and reading reviews. Finally, Dad simply calls Mom to finalize plans.
In each case, these individuals are seamlessly surfing between communication channels, even within the same engagement. So why is it that analysts have determined contact center traffic is still 80 percent voice and email, while only 20 percent of traffic flows through all the other channels (social media, video, chat, Facebook Messenger, etc.) combined?
Surely customers are able and eager to move beyond simply voice and email. Call centers and agents that are able to surf multiple channels alongside their customers and offer “one call, one agent” resolution will truly enhance their customers’ journeys.
Why Do I Need to Provide and Staff Multiple Channels?
Let’s look at those three common scenarios more closely to see how offering many different channels can empower your customers and enhance their experience with your team.
When Dad calls his son, the son doesn’t answer, but when Dad texts him, he texts right back. The son is saying, “I don’t want to talk. I want to control this conversation.” As exasperating as that might be for Dad, it’s important to realize that the son is going to comprise the bulk of your customers in the future, and that is how they want to engage.
Though voice calls aren’t at risk of going extinct anytime soon, millennials—who make up an overwhelmingly vast percentage of the mobile phone market—prefer not to have to speak on the phone. To be more exact, they would rather text. According to OpenMarket (May 5, 2016), when given the choice between being able only to text versus call on their mobile phone, a whopping 75 percent of millennials chose texting over talking.
Our goal is to make it easier for our customers to connect with us how and when they want, and chat offers a familiar and comfortable option.
Mom WhatsApps her daughter, and they end up switching channels to have a video call. Why? It is strategic: “I don’t want to pay for an overseas call, especially on a cell phone,” but it’s also emotional. Mom misses her daughter and wants more than a voice connection. She wants to see her. In your contact center, there will be times when the people you serve will want the connection that a video call provides. Video is great when you don’t want to travel, such as for telehealth, or when a picture just won’t do, such as video of car damage after an accident.
“Video chat provides customers with a richer sense of presence, personalized experience helped by coordination of communication and the support of emotional expression, and the real-time sharing of content,” stated Brian Manusama, research director at Gartner.
It is telling when global business leaders recognize that adding the video component to their services is necessary to provide a more meaningful and personal customer experience.
In the third scenario, Mom and Dad exchange text messages and website addresses, but in the end, they need to talk to get final resolution. It is empowering for a client to fully control their engagement by surfing a website (no agent engagement), asking questions on the webchat portal (partial agent engagement), and finally picking up the phone to speak with the same live agent to get questions answered and complete the transaction (full agent engagement). There will always be a significant role for voice in the contact center, and combining voice with other channels increases its effectiveness and improves the customer experience.
What Kind of Technology Will I Need?
Contact centers will need the ability to cover all the main communication channels (voice, video, webchat, text, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and so forth) because conversations will increasingly move from one channel to another as the engagement deepens. It is also important to be able to view all these channels inside a single portal so the agent can surf from one channel to another seamlessly, just as the customer does.
Can a Single Agent Handle All These Channels?
With a single view of all these channels, yes. Clients get frustrated when they are handed from agent to agent, having to explain and re-explain their situation to different people, all the while wondering if each channel transition loses significant details. Offering a “one call, one agent” resolution provides an excellent experience for your customers.
Clearly, the way we communicate with each other is evolving rapidly, and all these new, additional channels offer great opportunities to enhance the customer experience. Our challenge is to combine thoughtful planning, intelligent technology, and constant training to deliver exceptional service for our customers.
Steve Newell is a telecommunications veteran of over twenty years, including eleven years in the telephone answering service software field. He currently serves as regional sales director for Cirrus Response, a premier developer of contact center solutions specializing in omnichannel, AI, and translation software.