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The Omnichannel Contact Center: Q&A with Liz Osborn [Part 2]

In June 2015 Susan Hash of Contact Center Pipeline conducted a Q&A interview with our very own Liz Osborn. The topic? All things omnichannel. Last week we published the first part of the interview, covering top omnichannel challenges, how to get started, prioritizing contact channels, and what to measure. You can read part one here. In this week's post Liz covers omnichannel performance monitoring, impacts on customer service staff, necessary resources for implementation, and one final piece of advice. With more than 20 years in the technology industry, Liz is an expert in enterprise software and networking. She has deep knowledge of the cloud contact center, sales, marketing and customer service markets including expertise in predictive analytics, social engagement, and customer experience. Find Liz on Twitter @lizobiker


WHICH ELEMENTS OF THE QA PROCESS WILL NEED TO BE REEVALUATED TO MONITOR PERFORMANCE ACROSS CHANNELS?

LIZ OSBORN:

The first choice is whether to go with a best-of-breed QA approach for the individual channel or a QA platform that's all-in-one and supports all of the channels. Many of the QA packages that are on the market today are just now adding multiple-channel support, so you will need to revise your scorecards and your criteria. For instance, how well do your agents capture the right tone for any particular social media channel? Or how well do they communicate via live chat, and can they do it quickly while handling multiple chats at one time?

You need to be able to measure and compare the consistency across all the channels, as well. You can do this by looking at your metrics, your KPIs and the scoring across the channels. Make sure that the technology you use supports all of the channels so that you can drill down per channel, per team, per agent, and slice and dice it a variety of ways.

Finally, you have to look at things like text analytics and desktop analytics. Of course, in a traditional contact center, you have to record everything. So now you have to look at screen recordings, which take up a lot of bandwidth and a lot more storage. You have to think about how long you need to keep those recordings, and whether you're going to record 100% of the transactions. For instance, one of our customers records 100% of the calls and 20% of the text interactions right now. You'll need to consider all of that.

HOW WILL AN OMNICHANNEL APPROACH IMPACT CUSTOMER SERVICE STAFF IN TERMS OF THEIR ROLE, SKILL SETS, TRAINING?

LIZ OSBORN:

An omnichannel approach adds more complexity to the agent's job. One trend that we've been seeing in the industry for a while is the increasing customer preference for self-service. Over the next few years, the percentage of phone calls as overall interactions will start to drop, but the complexity of those interactions will increase---and now we're adding all of these other channels on top of the agents.

We recently conducted a survey with ICMI on agent performance and how it impacts the customer experience ("Agent Apathy: The Root Cause of Poor Customer Service"). We found that the average agent has to access five different applications in order to handle one interaction. As you can imagine, it can take quite a bit of time for most agents just to track down the information that they need to be able to solve an issue.

What contact centers have to start rethinking is how to provide agents with the tools to simplify their jobs. We believe that it creates a ripple-effect. In our survey,100%of the contact center leaders that we talked to---over 400---said that the agents' involvement, morale and engagement has the biggest impact on the customer experience---and yet around 72% said that they are actually blocking agents from providing an excellent experience because they don't give them the tools and the systems that they need. We have to solve that. Agents are the front line. They're responsible for representing all of these channels and the entire company, and we need to make their jobs easier.

WHAT TYPES OF INTERNAL RESOURCES AND SKILLS ARE NEEDED TO IMPLEMENT AN OMNICHANNEL STRATEGY?

LIZ OSBORN:

Contact centers that are moving to an omnichannel strategy have to rethink their entire recruiting, hiring and training processes. When I was a contact center manager, back in the days before multichannel, I always interviewed candidates over the phone because I wanted to hear how they presented themselves on the phone. I would apply that same principle to text channels. Conduct a live chat interview with a job candidate to see how well they're able to think on their feet, write and respond quickly, and how they answer social posts.

Training will also require a different approach. Seek out high-quality interactions that have the tone, consistency and quality of service that you want to represent in your text interactions for social posts and live chats. Use those to train staff on how to respond and to give them guidance. As we know, it's much more difficult to get the right tone in text than it is with voice.

According to our recent survey, 48% of contact centers now have super agents or universal agents handling cross-channel interactions. And 75% of contact center leaders said that they were planning on expanding that and moving to a universal model---I think it's inevitable. You may not have agents handling every channel. It may be a subset of channels. But we have customers that are using cross-channel interactions as an incentive for their top-performers.They find that agents are much more motivated and productive during the day if they can alternate among voice, email and chat, rather than just handling one channel constantly.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR COMPANY LEADERS TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT DEVELOPING AN OMNICHANNEL STRATEGY?

LIZ OSBORN:

First, this is absolutely inevitable. Don't fight it. You need to figure out how to do it. Second, it affects your bottom line. You've got to do it in order to become competitive. You need to be looking at how you can make this happen, because your competitors are.

There is a great study by Watermark Consulting ("The 2014 Customer Experience ROI Study") that compared seven years of stock performance for customer experience leaders versus laggards. They found that the leaders increased their stock price by 77% while, for laggards, it declined by 2.5%. Forrester conducted a similar study. So the data bears it out---if you invest in this, it does affect your bottom line. You have to be able to present that business case to your executives.

  This Q&A was originally published in the Contact Center Pipeline Magazine June 2015 Issue.

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