Karnail Jita, Solutions Consultant
Just because something is technically possible, doesn’t mean you should implement it – right?
Take the case of contact center agents. If they’re on a call with a customer, they invariably cannot take another call at the same time because the disruptive nature of calls dictates that all other activity must be parked and resumed only when the call is complete. But, if the agent is on a Web Chat session, or working on an Email, they can be interrupted to take either a call, another Chat session or Email. That’s valuable time recovered simply while waiting for the customer to respond.
Multitasking Contact Center Agents
This multi tasking scenario is becoming increasingly common in many organizations; some have even coined phrases like Universal Agent, or Super Agent for those agents able to multi task between Voice calls, Chat, Email, etc. Ironically, technology is the blocker because to support multi-tasking customer interactions, the agent desktop must provide an array of customer information to support the agent which means having many, many application windows open. Inevitably, the desktop becomes a chaotic one because some of these desktop business applications are mainframe green screen based and inherently difficult to use; some are thick client Windows-based and also challenging to use, and some are simply required for the Voice, Chat and Email systems.
Despite the chaotic desktop, if recent surveys are to be believed, call volumes are declining, so the load on contact centers should be diminishing. Research concluded that web Chat will surpass the phone to become the top channel of choice; social media and video will lag behind, and Email is predicted to be the least popular channel – not sure I’m convinced things will happen in quite this way. Research also says that SMS text-based interaction with the contact center is growing rapidly, predicted to account for around 67% of inbound requests by 2020. Really? I can’t believe this either. What I can believe is that Chat use will continue to grow, and Email will continue to be used when customers have lower priority questions.
Omnichannel Contact Center Solutions
As customers continue to move away from phones, call duration is going up which is symptomatic of the complexity that has emerged in contact centers as a direct result of customers making more use of Chat and self service options like Visual IVR, web self service and mobile apps. The trend means customers use the phone more when the question is too complex for self service. Paradoxically, that leads us full circle back to the chaotic desktop which in turn arose partly as organizations strive to get more productivity from agents multi tasking by handling multiple interaction types in what the industry is calling, Omnichannel. The phrase may be new, but the customer experience is well-known because customers have for some time wanted to reach contact centers in a variety of ways: phone, chat, email, social, SMS text etc. As a result, contact centers increasingly support omnichannel to make it easier for customers to do business with them, and now we’re seeing Omnichannel Agents able to work on multiple channels.
A note of caution: firstly, implementing omnichannel requires investment in technology solutions that aggregate data from desktop applications into single views and also integrating Voice, Chat, and Email capabilities which are most often supplied by different vendors, into a single Omnichannel view. It will come as no surprise that some organizations have tried and failed, or procrastinate because they see that attempting this is like stepping off a cliff without a parachute.
Secondly, Omnichannel works better with experienced agents. Recently trained agents need more time to become familiar with systems and processes before they can harness the power of an Omnichannel setup.
If done suitably however, the end result is capable of taking the chaos on the agents desktop and simplifying it down into a single intuitive application with one click access to the information required for 80% of the contact center top call types; and that includes customer profile, billing, payments, contact history, products, tickets, etc. To be truly effective, Omnichannel queues must be able to feed into the desktop so the agent can accept incoming Voice, Chat, or Email interactions. Moreover, the desktop must permit them to painlessly switch between all their ongoing Voice, Chat, or Email interactions. Only then can omnichannel realize optimizing agent utilization, and ramping up productivity to enable challenging initiatives like the Universal or Super Agent.