Digital Customer Service Is More Than Just A Channel

Digital Customer Service Is More Than Just A Channel

contact center digital service channels preferredWe talk about the digital customer service revolution – a lot. We talk about how GenZ and Millennials greatly prefer to interact on digital interactions channels… how mobile apps and online chat are among the channels with the highest Net Promoter Score (NPS)… and how most organizations have digital as one of their top priorities for the coming year.

So if you’ve been following along, you now know that in order to stay competitive, the question is no longer “if” you will integrate digital channels into your contact center, but “when.”

Here, though, I’d also like to talk about the “how” of implementing new digital service channels, because how you implement -- and whether or not you take time to consider all the downstream impacts of digital in the contact center -- can make or break the customer experience. According to the 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark, 92% of consumers are currently unhappy with organizations’ ability to deliver a seamless journey across channels. This means that although customers want to communicate on digital channels, most organizations aren’t doing a good job of delivering service across those channels.

consumers unhappy with seamless journey across channelsThis could have something to do with the technology used to actually deliver digital service – maybe the experiences are siloed for customers on different channels, or it’s not easy to move from one channel to another within one interaction, etc. But the often overlooked culprits of these poor digital service experiences are outdated workforce engagement software and processes in the contact center. That’s because while contact centers want to deliver great customer service on digital channels, the reality is that digital customer service is about more than just the channels themselves. The people – aka your agents – involved have a huge impact on whether customers are going to be delighted or disappointed with your digital customer experience.

Quality management considerations for digital service channels

“This call is being recorded for quality and training purposes” – but what about this chat? Or email? Or social direct message? If a contact center didn’t have a quality program to evaluate and improve their service delivery on voice interactions, we would think they were nuts. But for some reason on digital channels, many contact centers think they get a quality hall pass.

A 2017 ICMI contact center quality study found that while many organizations are using digital service channels like email, chat, SMS, and social media to communicate with their customers,call center channels used vs evaluated many of them don’t have a QM process for those channels. That leaves a negative quality gap. If you’re only conducting quality on voice channels, you are missing so many touchpoints that may be resulting in a negative customer experience – but you don’t even know! This directly contributes to that 92% of customers who are dissatisfied with current digital service delivery and puts your customer retention at risk.

only 36 percent of agents are prepared to handle all supported channelsBut the sad reality is that not only do you fail your customers by not conducting quality on these channels – you also fail your agents. Ventana Research found that only 36% of agents are prepared to  handle all supported channels. This means that even though these might be the channels your agents  need the most feedback and help on – they aren’t getting it.  We often assume that a strong agent is strong across all channels. But just because an agent is scoring well in voice evaluations doesn’t mean they articulate well in written channels. On digital channels, you don’t only have to think about tone, but also spelling and grammar – and we all know bad grammar and spelling can give customers a bad perception of the professionalism of your company. (PS - that was a joke, I know how to spell – even though my spell checker might say otherwise -- but wouldn’t you think less of NICE inContact if that’s how I wrote it to you in an email? My point exactly.)

If you’re not providing quality feedback to your agents and they are unprepared to handle digital channels, you don’t just damage your brand image, you also damage your agent engagement. Agents don’t like feeling unprepared, and coaching and improvement is key to agent engagement. So if you’re not developing them, the domino effect begins… poor agent engagement leads to poor service for your customers and higher turnover, which contributes to understaffing which leads to even worse service… and you know the rest of the story.

Now, some contact centers just “haven’t gotten around” to creating a quality process for their digital channels, but many more are just hindered by their current quality management software and processes. Many quality platforms don’t even provide a mechanism to evaluate digital channels. Others make the process manual and cumbersome, requiring digital transcript imports, API calls from external ACD systems, and more. Or even worse, some contact centers aren’t using any quality management software today, and starting to evaluate digital channels would mean gaining access to agents’ email boxes through HR and handpicking interactions to review, or riding along with agents while they complete chat interactions. If this sounds like your contact center, then you need to explore implementing a quality management platform to make quality improvements more attainable and boost your digital service.

When you do evaluate, ensure the quality management software you select has the following capabilities:

  • One admin experience and interface for all CC apps. The best quality management software is unified within a single omnichannel customer experience platform. This means that all customer interactions across all channels are routed through the ACD which lives within the same administrative environment as all workforce engagement capabilities – including quality management. So no matter the channel, the data is there and you’re able to evaluate it.
  • Screen recording for all digital channels. To really understand the customer experience and effectively coach on digital interactions you need to see both the transcript and the agent’s screen. Why? Many digital interactions are asynchronous and deferrable – they can start and stop depending on the customer’s response times and customers don’t expect responses as quickly as on voice. As such, agents are usually handling more than one digital interaction at a time. Screen recording lets you coach to both the words being exchanged between the agent and the customer, while also coaching on process, timeliness of response, multitasking, etc.
  • Quality planner that supports digital channels. You should also ensure your quality management software has omnichannel quality planning capabilities so you can granularly define by channel what types of interactions you want routed for evaluation. And the routing piece here is important. Your evaluators should not have to go hunting in the system for digital interactions to evaluate. Nobody has time for that. The quality planner should automatically identify the interactions meeting your criteria and serve it to your evaluators on a silver platter.
  • Digital self-evaluations for agents. Have you ever reread an email you wrote when you were in a rush and cringed at your word choice or spelling mistakes? Experiencing that really opens your eyes and leads you to be more attentive in your future written exchanges – well, at least for a while until you’re in a rush again. Agent self-evaluations on digital channels serve the same purpose. It puts them in the evaluator’s shoes and forces them to identify for themselves how they need to improve on each channel.

Workforce management considerations for digital service channels

What do forecasts and schedules have to do with digital channels? Staffing is staffing, right? Wrong! Implementing digital channels has tremendous impacts on your forecasting and scheduling but these are often overlooked by contact centers. A common mistake is to roll out new channels, and only then realize that you need to staff differently to support them. But good news is - you don’t have to make that mistake too.

As we mentioned, many digital interactions are asynchronous (or deferrable, the two terms are interchangeable) with frequent starts and stops within the same customer interaction and often very long delays. For example, a customer might send a Facebook message, then board a flight for three hours and go dark, and then resurface once they land and expect to pick up the conversation right where they left off. So forecasting handle time can be more challenging than on live voice interactions.

Add this to the fact that each agent can handle a unique combination of different channels, at different volumes, and the communication and volume trends for each individual channel differ. Did you catch all that?  Let me re-state because it’s overwhelming even for the those intimately involved in digital transformation.  That was scheduling your people for (1) MANY different channels, (2) varying volumes across those channels, (3) elevation between channels, and, yes, (3) varying trends for preferences and volumes across the days of the week and across the different geographic regions you support. 

Luckily, today’s workforce management software simplifies right-staffing in a true omnichannel environment down to a couple steps. When evaluating workforce management software, make sure it’s digital-proof and has the following capabilities:

  • One admin experience and interface for all CC apps. Sound familiar? That’s because this was also one of the top things to look for during your QM software evaluation. The best customer experience platforms also unify workforce management. Since all customer interactions across all channels are routed through an ACD that lives under the same roof as the forecasting engine, you ensure that no matter the channel, the data is there and you’re able to forecast for it. Say goodbye to duplicating agent setup and messy data feeds, and say hello to creating users one time in one system and forecasting in minutes.
  • Staffing plan that lets you specify number of simultaneous interactions per channel. You need to be able to define channel capacity for interactions that occur at the same time. For example, for each channel type you support – both real-time and deferrable or asynchronous interactions – you need to be able to define how many interactions an agent can handle at a time. For example, perhaps your agents are capable of handing 3 SMS texts at a time, but 4 social media interactions at a time. This is important for the forecasting engine to take into account to get an accurate staffing plan.call center simultaneous handling
  • Staffing plan that lets you define service targets per channel. To create your staffing plan, the forecaster needs to know what your service goals are for each channel. Because certain channels require different response times, you need to make sure you can define the service targets uniquely for real-time Interactions versus those asynchronous contacts that can be handled later. For real-time channels, traditional contact center KPIs like Service Level and Wait Time (or Average Speed of Answer) are relevant – but not really for asynchronous interactions. For example, setting a traditional SLA of answering 80% of voice contacts in 30 seconds or less is reasonable, but answering 80% of deferred digital interactions in 30 seconds or less is not even possible. It could take longer than 30 seconds to just read what the message says, and 80% sets you up for some angry, confused customers since there are no abandons with deferrable work. That’s why digital-proof WFM software provides the ability to define how many business hours – not minutes or seconds - it should take to handle all deferred contacts, and whether or not they must be resolved within the same work day.
  • AI forecasting to remove the guesswork. The best workforce management software uses sophisticated AI technology and a myriad of patented algorithms that automatically consider your individual KPI goals for each channel type, while also automatically factoring in which agents are skilled with each channel type, and at what volumes. Additionally, the best WFM software will further simplify things by eliminating the need to specify the exact forecasting algorithm that should be applied by automatically picking the best algorithm to fit your forecast’s time period and data set. Erlang C, Box-Jenkins ARMIA, exponential smoothing – NO PROBLEM! I don’t even have to know what those mean!

When you hear digital, think workforce engagement

As you can see, when you’re implementing new channels, you need to not only analyze which target to best meet your customer’s needs, but you also need to look long and hard at your quality management and workforce management software to ensure it will live up to a digital stress test. Luckily, NICE inContact CXone has all your needs covered, from 30+ channels, to digital-ready workforce management and quality management, all under one hood with one seamless experience. That way you can spent less time worrying how to execute your digital transformation, and more time wowing your customers and engaging your agents. For more information about CXone Digital-first Omnichannel, check out this demo video.