Send Your Agents Back to School for New Channels

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back to schoolIt goes without saying; if you intend to deploy new channels in your contact center, you have to provision the required tools and functionality in your contact center solution while considering the impact of this on your most valuable resource – your agents.

Even with the most intuitive interface on earth, and the best skilled and motivated agents in existence, your agents will need training when deploying new channels. All channels are not created equal – just because your agent is a champion handling phone calls does not necessarily mean they are equally stellar when sending an email, handling a chat, responding to a text or interacting via social media.

Here are the top 5 things to keep in mind when you decide to send your agents “back to school” to deploy new channels:

  1. Make sure you determine which channels “make sense” in your environment before deciding on what to deploy. Obvious examples: if your customers are mainly baby boomers, then 60% of them still use the phone for contact center interactions. On the other hand, if the majority of your clientele is Gen Y, understand that more than one-third of them use the social media channel (compared to below 5% of the baby boomers). Take a look at our research on the topic here.
  2. As discussed above, not all agents are created equal. As a rule of thumb, agents that use the channel in question themselves will be more proficient. However, beware of #3!
  3. Even agents that are very proficient with a channel will need to learn how to consistently represent your company and values. The fact that they personally use SMS (a channel generally considered less formal than email, for example) does not mean that they should adorn business texts copiously with J and emoticons; unless that is the image your company wants to portray. Train your agents how to properly represent your brand. Templates for email interactions or chat can expedite handling and keep the tone appropriate and consistent.
  4. For channels where agents are expected to handle multiple concurrent interactions, such as chat, for example, consider scaling up slowly. By starting with just one or two chat contacts at a time, you allow the agent to familiarize themselves with the new channel and interface. They can learn how to deliver quality interactions first, then up the quantity by handling more concurrent contacts.
  5. Plan for the ramp up. Use your routing engine with skills and proficiency levels to route media according to your strategy. There are two approaches, both have their merits:
  • Establish a limited number of very well trained agents to handle as many of the new interactions as possible – creating specialists. This can be very effective if you have flexible and motivated agents – some will actually see this as an opportunity to broaden their horizon.
  • Start with all agents handling a smaller number of contacts each, then ramp up as they become more proficient – creating generalists.

Which approach is more suitable for your environment will depend on your agents, your expected volumes in the new channel, time frame and a number of other variables.

So, Labor Day weekend has passed and everyone is back into full work mode. Therefore, now is just the right time to consider adding new media to your contact center!