Today, we communicate with each other in complex and sophisticated ways. We interact with each other interchangeably; whether it’s in-person, on the phone, via email, or using instant messaging. This new wave of communication in our personal lives has set the bar for how customers want to be able to communicate with businesses, and has led to the advent of the multichannel contact centre.
The brands that can reduce the distance between themselves and the customer through genuine, meaningful and human interactions are the most successful.
The drive to create a multichannel contact centre environment means the focus is often on efficiency and speed. As a result, as companies move away from face-to-face interactions is the loss of their brand personality - something brands typically spend a massive amount of money developing.
For the modern contact centre, each channel and touchpoint needs to be supported by empowered and engaged agents.
A multichannel contact centre simply offers customers a range of channels to interact with a brand, but a truly great customer experience doesn’t come from being able to choose between social, email or phone as a mode of communication - it comes from a personal and human interaction with the brand.
This is a problem many call centres that want to elevate their service offering from multichannel to omnichannel are facing. Meaningful connections with customers are more important now than ever, but being able to really connect customers becomes more and more difficult as the channels become more digital, or further away from traditional interactions.
For example, face-to-face interactions in-store make it easy to create a rapport with a customer. Facial expressions, body language and the immediacy of the conversation play a big part in being able to read and respond to the customer. Understanding the impact of the needs of the customer and how and when they are resolved is simple.
A large majority of contact centre interactions take place over the phone. This creates more of a challenge but the aural aspect of the interaction still means agents can pick up on social cues and respond instantly to any issues the customer may have.
The problem is revealed as we start to examine the newer, digital channels. How is it possible to create a memorable experience over email, social, or web chat? The nature of these channels often create an emotional gap, which is a barrier to great customer experience. Whilst adequate and transactional service is very easily achieved over these channels, creating meaningful and novel experiences is incredibly difficult. This is why brilliant examples of brands interacting with their customers over social media often go viral - when it’s done well, it’s brilliant.
When governed improperly, the impersonality of these channels grant agents the opportunity to distance themselves from customer issues. Customer queries can be easily dodged or deflected, pushing contacts to other, more expensive channels. Not only does this defeat the purpose of multichannel, it increases the distance between you and your customer. It increases unnecessary noise, costs and drives you further from your mutual objective.
The challenge we face in turn begs the question: what can brands do to ensure interactions over digital channels are of the same quality as traditional ones?
The answer is to ensure agents are genuinely engaged in the multichannel contact centre. In a world where digital channels can feed repeat contacts and produce poor experiences, we have to break down those barriers by making sure call centre staff are engaged, not optimised. Only then are staff able to represent your brand personality across all channels.
Uniformity and control are beneficial to the contact centre, but a degree of freedom allows agents to exemplify your brand values. Without freedom of movement it is difficult to convey the brand persona, meaning the experience is easily resigned to a cold and scripted process, rather than a responsive human interaction.
Efficiency, quality, people management and customer insight ought to be brought together to create a holistic approach to engaging and motivating agents.
Using gamification designed for the contact centre is a great way to keep your agents focused on multiple outcomes; encouraging them to deliver a valuable human experience with efficiency, no matter what the channel, and representing the brand personality.
An approach to quality that focuses on what’s valuable to the customer as well as what’s valuable to your business is imperative. This means agents are empowered to deal with any issues in a way that creates proximity between the customer and your brand, whilst maintaining a low cost of operations.
In digital channels, agents also need to represent your brand by understanding your customer base, the best way to achieve this is through customer feedback. When collecting customer feedback after contacts, leverage the human element by showcasing the agents behind the interactions in your surveys - put a face to a name. The more customers can see or feel the person behind the interaction, the more they’re likely to have a positive experience.
Digital channels are relatively new beasts to the call centre industry, but the challenge in mastering them also presents us with a great opportunity. Those who can bring multiple channels together to deliver memorable, personal and positive experiences with workforce engagement are the ones who will reap the benefits, rather than cold, remote and sterile transactions.