There are a few things you’d know intuitively when it comes to managing a contact center. A study by Accenture’s Global Consumer Pulse Research found that 91% of customers get annoyed if they have to call repeatedly to find a solution for the same problem, while 89% are frustrated by having to repeat their problem to multiple customer support agents. But then again, you don’t really need to refer to a study to unearth the insight this data offers, do you?
On the other hand, there are stats and data that help you take strategic decisions for your contact center. According to a study by the International Customer Management Institute, 74% of customers use three or more channels to access customer support. The study goes on to say that voice still remains the preferred channel with 68% of respondents saying it allows for the most thorough answer and 48% feeling that voice yields the fastest response time.
When put together, these stats paint a very insightful picture. Today, being multichannel is table stakes for running a contact center. However, these channels cannot offer a fragmented experience where one channel is not integrated with the other. The contact center has to be or should strive to be omnichannel, providing a consistent experience across all avenues of communication. At the same time, it has to cater to the preference of the customers and provide channels they are most comfortable with too.
For example, retailers who sell through brick and mortar stores as well as eCommerce portals need to ensure that their contact center can seamlessly handle customer queries across their physical and virtual stores. At the same time, the business should also provide a choice of touchpoints to their customers — be it phone support, social media, email or chat — over which they can get a unified experience as a customer of the brand, rather than being treated differently for shopping from the website or the store, or being treated as a new customer for every new purchase.
Let’s say that you are running a travel agency. You have your own team of support agents crewing your contact center. Yet, even with a great staffing strategy, it is immensely difficult for your agents to personally answer every single customer query. This is where self-service portals come into the picture. They bring down the dependency on live agents for answering frequently asked queries. Apart from preventing agent burnout and reducing missed calls, they help you cut down on customer service costs and serve new demographics that are more comfortable with online solutions and self-serve too. In the case of your (hypothetical) travel agency, self-service portals can be used by your customers to find answers that do not need a specialist’s involvement — flight routes, standard cancellation procedures, flight status, and so on.
However, while adopting self-service solutions, you should not alienate your audience who rely on your phone channel or call center. Self-service is not limited to internet-based solutions. Our customer, AlfKa, developed a detailed answering system using Freshcaller’s IVR System. AlfKa is an online education platform and Freshcaller is primarily used by their administrative staff for answering queries related to their course offerings. In order to make sure that more customers or callers can access information faster, AlfKa programmed all their FAQs into a phone tree which can be easily navigated by their callers.
Pro tip: Make sure that all the information across your self-service options is consistent across channels. Always provide the option to switch to another channel of your customer’s preference. For example, AlfKa’s phone tree for their FAQs also provides the option to talk to a live agent.
Like we discussed before, having to repeat your problems to multiple people is universally annoying. This is where the omnichannel experience comes into play again — a robust omnichannel-ready customer support system would minimize the inconvenience associated with talking to multiple agents. Going back to the travel agency scenario, let’s say one of your customers is trying to get a slightly tricky refund processed. She has already spoken to multiple support agents in the travel agency. Every time she calls she gets connected to a new agent. However, with a helpdesk system there is a continuous record maintained of all her interactions with the support team. So, even if she connects with a new agent over email, chat or phone, all this agent needs to do is to refer to her ticket history and have a contextual conversation.
Pro tip: You can also ensure to take notes using the call notes feature on Freshcaller. Doing so, you can communicate the context to another agent when you are transferring a call. It also makes it possible to view all tickets and call notes in the same window for one consolidated customer profile, contributing towards smoother communication with the customer in the future over other channels too.
Live chat brings together the best of email and phone. Customers can textually communicate with you like they normally do over emails as well as receive instant responses which is the hallmark of phone support. However, when the agents who run your chat are not online, offering a callback would be a great option. For example, a customer initiated a chat with you on your website outside business hours. You or your chatbot can offer to ping them back. However, it is not necessary that the customer will be online to read your messages, unless they have your app or website open on their devices. In such cases, the best course of action is to offer a callback and reach out to the customer when your call center is open.
Pro tip: You can use chat and SMS, or even email, to share OTPs and other critical information that needs to be made handy to customer when they are on a call with you. At this point, you should also note that each of these mediums has the baggage of expected response times. Similar to phone, customers expect an instant response through chat. Emails have a margin of anywhere between 24 to 48 hours. SMS are generally treated as one-way communication.
If you have an outbound call center operated by a sales team, then integrating your phone channel with a CRM will make your sales reps’ lives much easier as well as help them have more informed conversations with your prospects. Beginning with gauging a prospect’s interest in your products from their tone over a call to closing a deal through persuasive conversations, phone and CRM makes a powerful combination.
CRM software traditionally have email and chat platforms integrated with them. Together with the phone channel, you can give a taste of the omnichannel experience even before a prospect becomes the customer of your organization. More importantly, you can also analyze how many emails or calls it took to convert a customer, and what channels works best at which stage of the sales funnel, all in one place. An integrated CRM system can also be a powerful training tool for your sales reps — call recordings, notes and even email threads can help you assess and train your team for different sales scenarios.
Pro tip: Make sure you maintain a record of past purchases and purchase-related phone calls in your CRM so that you can provide customized experiences should your customer choose to spend more with you.
If you are not currently providing an omnichannel experience, your organization might be appearing quite multipartite to your customers. So, work out what works the best without your customers and push the limits of every channel (now you know that self-service portals are not just limited to the web). Most importantly, eliminate the silos within your contact center and make sure everyone is singing the same tune.