The role of multichannel communications in contact centers has grown increasingly complex as consumer preferences continue to evolve. In fact, as early as 2013, 25% of consumers already utilized one to two channels when seeking customer care and 52% used three to four—a far cry from the simple switchboard days. Fast-forward to today and the percentages have grown, as have the number of total channels, including phone, email, text, chat, social media, and video. But while many celebrate the efficiency and flexibility modern communication brings to the fray, the ability to meet the needs of a multichannel world are not without its challenges.
Consider the following:
- 42% of social media users expect a response in 60 minutes or less.
- Contact Center first call resolution (FCR) rates average only 68% despite the improvements in communication.
- 64% of consumers expect to wait 1 minute or less to speak with an agent via live chat.
- 80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service, but only 8% of consumers agree.
- Contact channels other than phone, account for more than 30% of customer service engagements.
- 67% of consumers prefer self-service over speaking to a live representative.
While businesses are expected to make more communication channels available to meet the varying preferences of today’s consumers, expectations regarding the quality and speed of those services have drastically increased as well. It is no longer sufficient to simply offer different channel options but rather expected that each will perform at equally high levels and interchangeably. In short, if 2014 firmly established the importance of adopting a multichannel communication platform, 2015 and beyond will tackle the difficult task of how to leverage and monetize the benefits.
So where does one begin?
Create a Unified Communication Strategy: If one were to accept a company’s contact center as the most representative aspect of its communication initiatives, the role of multichannel is clearly inconsistent across organizations. Case in point, per a recent survey by Call Center IQ, Executive Report on the Future of the Contact Center, many businesses still struggle with determining the most appropriate department to which to assign their contact center with 47% falling under Customer Service, 26% under Operations, 12% under C-Level business units, 10% under Marketing, and the remaining 5% under IT. The fact remains, that as multichannel continues to gain popularity and adoption, its role will affect all aspects of a company and yet many currently lack a unified strategy or “communication czar”. As such, the success of any multichannel program will rely not only on the software and solution used to provide the various communication channels but will be especially contingent on the business creating and implementing a company wide approach to how it will utilize them.
Integrate Your Business: Of course, a unified communication strategy is of very little use if client-facing representatives lack access to the data and information needed to address client needs. In fact, 40% of customers expect representatives to already know about prior attempts to resolve an issue before an interaction begins, and yet 60% of low first call resolutions are due to the inherent inability to access relevant data on an as-needed basis. Factor in the added complication of enterprises averaging 9.6 different software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications by the end of 2014 and the problem clearly becomes an issue of managing internal department communications to satisfy the needs of the external. In short, the success of any multichannel platform is contingent on the unification of the numerous data-points and applications a company is subject to and uses (CRM, WFM, WFO, Ticketing, Billing, etc.) to allow for a complete 360-degree view of the customer in question. Without it, a business has the platform but lacks the information to make effective use of it.
Train Your Team to be Successful: The success of any strategy will always be subject to the individuals executing it. And assuming a business has an integrated multichannel strategy, the remaining piece of the puzzle lies in the training and consistent oversight of the reps (both sales and support) representing the brand on a daily basis. In fact, 60% of all repeat calls are process or training driven and 41% of employees will leave an organization with poor training scores, both big items when you consider the contact center industry continues to average low FCR rates and averages annual turnover rates as high as 50%. So while consumers may demand businesses offer multichannel, the true key to success is doing so while delivering a truly superior customer experience by virtue of having the most experienced and trained reps.
The age of multichannel is already here. But while many companies have already accepted the importance of offering customers their communication preferences of choice, the fact remains many have yet to realize the full potential a well-run multichannel platform can offer. The trick is to have more than just the channel – you need a plan.
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