Customers have a variety of ways in which they can communicate with businesses and organizations today, and it is no longer appropriate to handle all customer service requests via a telephone call center. All businesses and non-corporate customer-facing groups should be working towards creating a multi-channel contact center; but what does that mean in practice?
Assessing your call center and implementing change
Most legacy call centers will be adapted for dealing with incoming telephone calls in the most efficient manner. They will often be divided into distinct departments with protocols in place to manage the distribution of calls between them.
The modern multi-channel call center needs to function as a unit, with all departments following the same basic procedures and working towards the same KPIs. Business owners need to use a mixture of market research and existing data to decide on which communication channels will be provided. Then they need to source the appropriate technology for the routing of enquiries, recruit or retrain staff and define and standardize KPIs.
Sourcing call center technology
The choice of call center technology is crucial to the success of a business in the same way that the choice of tools and equipment is vital to a tradesperson. In the multi-channel call center, the platform chosen must clearly be able to route enquiries from multiple sources (telephone, email, fax, web chat, social media, SMS, etc.) to the relevant agent. However, there are other questions business owners will need to ask technology providers before making a decision, and these will vary depending on their business need. Some examples of pertinent questions are:
- Can the system recognize individual telephone numbers and relate them to customer data?
- Can calls be routed to an agent with the appropriate language or industry skills?
- Can previous call history be accessed easily?
- Can agent scripts be pre-populated automatically with the customer’s name?
- Can the provider assist with deployment and training?
- Will the provider provide ongoing support and ‘health checks’ to ensure the call center is optimized?
The multi-channel call center agent
The multi-channel call center requires a high caliber agent who can blend the traditional qualities of efficiency, communication and charisma with the flexibility and resourcefulness to source the information the customer is in need of. Agents should also be empowered to deal with the calls they are likely to face, minimizing the need for call transfers or callbacks.
Customer service agents should be assessed using a mixture of live call monitoring and analysis of historical calls to ensure performance is of a consistently high standard. This is why KPIs should be standardized across the whole call center so that agents can be compared with other agents more easily and the need for training or agent replacement identified.
With customers able to contact businesses at any time of the day and through multiple channels, the ability to respond promptly and completely to all communications will raise customer experience levels and help ensure long-term customer loyalty.