So your customers want to talk to you. How are you going to let them? While the majority of customer interactions are still handled over the telephone, it's important to be flexible and sensitive to what your customers need. The business that fails to allow customers to interact using THE CUSTOMER'S preferred method is going to miss opportunities, fall behind the competition, or even worse.
In addition to live-agent help over a telephone, customers often expect options for e-mail, web chat, fax, and "snail mail". Many customers even prefer to help themselves through a website, rudimentary touch-tone (DTMF) self-help, or more sophisticated speech-recognition phone applications. Businesses are also trying to identify risks and opportunities recently exposed through the proliferation of social media sites.
It's a fascinating and ever-changing world we live in. Businesses need to adapt to the needs of their customers. The swiftest have the opportunity to stand out from their peers. The successful business HAS to be in tune with its customers. There are many channels that businesses can open to their customers … but channels take time and cost money. As a result, you have to choose them wisely. It very well may NOT be necessary to try making every channel available. If it doesn't add value to the customer, don't bother.
Once you've decided how YOUR customers want to interact with you, the task is to figure out how to make that happen. The multi-channel contact center is a great way to go. The contact center typically has the right CRM or corporate systems necessary to provide customers with the information they need, but it takes work to get agents trained on other channels. An agent that's great on the phone may be terrible on e-mail. An agent with a strong accent that's difficult to understand may have excellent spelling and grammar for text chat. The "ideally efficient" agent may be able to support all skills for all channels, but in reality it's often necessary to determine appropriate specialization.
More to come on the multi-channel contact center… It's a big, broad topic!