Getting the right mix of integrated technology is key to efficient, multichannel customer service throughout peak periods.
Peak periods can be incredibly disruptive, especially those resulting from unexpected crisis situations. Whether it's negative publicity around energy pricing or the severe weather that hit the UK last winter, it's impossible to fully predict the impact such events will have on the contact centre.
According to the Association of British Insurers, bad weather between December 2013 and February 2014 generated a massive 18,700 flood claims and 448,300 storm claims. For claims handlers and customer service representatives, this meant a barrage of calls and emails.
Yet it is not just unexpected events that can wreak havoc – successful sales and marketing campaigns and seasonal events will all prompt people to place orders and get in touch with questions or complaints, sometimes all at once. Failing to respond promptly to customers and get a fast resolution to any complaints or queries can lead to wide scale dissatisfaction, turning what should be a positive experience into a negative one.
Add to this challenge the fact that, with the increased use of mobile devices and smartphones, along with the explosion in social media, email and webchat, more queries and calls are coming in on all channels that need to be dealt with quickly and efficiently to meet customer expectations and help avoid negative customer feedback.
No matter what the channel of access, a positive customer experience is vital. Which is why consistency is key in the way comments, queries or complaints are dealt with.
While the old adage that 'a ringing phone must be answered' remains true, in the age of the multichannel consumer, it's also essential to respond promptly to a Tweet or Facebook post. This will help ensure a customer feels listened to and valued. Likewise, it can prevent a complaint turning into a wave of negative feeling online that culminates in more work for the contact centre and marketing department.
Ignoring interactions simply isn't an option – even if the contact centre is maxed out, customers still expect the same level of service no matter which channel they are using.
This is why, whether anticipated or otherwise, a properly integrated multichannel strategy is becoming more and more crucial in helping agents to manage the challenge of dealing with peak periods, as well as transforming the way customer engagement is handled overall.
Cohesion is key to a successful approach. Rather than supporting agents, the combination of different stand-alone technology applications can add complexity, cost and risk of failure. That is why, when the pressure is mounting, an integrated, contact management solution will really come into its own in helping agents to cope with queries across all channels.
Smart contact centre technology can ensure that all channels are managed properly and customers are not ignored – however they choose to interact. To ensure this new technology is used to best effect, a flexible pool of multi-skilled agents should also be developed, with their work coordinated by effective workforce management tools that can use historic data to predict likely peaks in traffic.
When the contact centre is experiencing periods of high demand, speed of response is key. Rather than prolonging interactions by asking customers the same questions again and again, when a new call comes in, intelligent software gets to work right away. Callers are prioritised in order of need and relevant information is recorded at the start of each interaction.
The information captured while the caller is in the queue can be transferred, either by screen pop-up or whisper transfer (an audio message) when the call is routed directly to the agent with the relevant skills. This is especially important as callers consistently say that having to repeat their inquiry details several times is one of the main factors in a negative experience.
The customer does not need to know that the person they are communicating with is working remotely, for example, or that they have been queue-jumped. All that matters is they get to the right person to deal with their request. If demand is very high and there are no free agents, rather than wasting the customer's time by keeping them on hold, smart technology can call them back as soon as a representative is available.
Transforming customer engagement
The longer a company takes to allow customers access to the contact channel they wish to use, the more likely it is that brand reputation will be negatively impacted. Rather than making a drama out of a crisis, when the heat is on in the contact centre, putting integrated solutions at the heart of the operation gives organisations the tools they need to cope with huge increases in traffic on all channels.
Using a unified queue that automatically prioritises calls and integrates new channels such as webchat and social media within the contact centre puts agents in a stronger position to achieve positive outcomes. Rather than creating panic, calls are prioritised during peak periods and interactions via other channels are managed much more effectively, culminating in happier customers.
By Richard Farrell, CTO at Netcall.