Social and Mobile and Chat, Oh My!

Most of us are familiar with the scene from the classic film “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow are skipping nervously through the Spooky Forest while rhythmically chanting what they fear they might encounter there: “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

For many contact center managers and supervisors, the rapidly changing landscape of customer contact is just as scary as the Spooky Forest. The difference is that emerging channels – not wild animals – are what have these folks shaking in their boots.

“Social and mobile and chat, oh my!”

Your contact center isn’t in Kansas any more. (Okay, some of your contact centers might actually be in Kansas, but humor me here). Voice (phone and IVR) and email may still make up the majority of customer contacts, but social and mobile and chat (oh my!) interactions are each growing at a relatively rapid pace, and customer care organizations that try to run away from them will soon find that their customers are angrier than the Wicked Witch of the West and her crazy winged monkeys.

Granted, adding social, mobile and chat capabilities to your contact center can be daunting, but it needn’t send you screaming through the forest. Following are a few best practices for each of the aforementioned emerging channels to help you and your team get out of the woods.

Social

Develop your social customer care strategy.This includes determining how and under what conditions agents will engage with customers via social sites, and how you’ll use social customer insight and feedback to improve processes, products and customer service.

“Socialize” your agents. Even the most proficient Tweeters, Facebookers and bloggers among your agents still need to be trained and coached on YOUR CONTACT CENTER’S specific social customer care strategy and practices.

Use a potent tool to monitor the social landscape. Be sure to pick a solution that makes it easy for agents to “listen” to what customers (and potential customers) are saying across social sites, and that enables agents to provide prompt and proactive service as well as damage control.

Create your own engaging online community for customers. Such a community serve as an invaluable source of customer feedback and insight for the company. They also help reduce the number of routine customer calls, emails and chats that agents have to handle since customers can get many of their questions answered by community peers as well as by reading helpful tutorials and blogs provided proactively by the company.

Be “antisocial” at the right times. Have agents invite customers with big beefs and/or complex issues to interact via chat, email or phone so that the agent can resolve things in private (after acknowledging the complaint/issue publicly to show the social universe that your organization cares and is taking action).

Mobile

Design simple yet agile mobile self-service sites.A typical smartphone screen is less than 2.5” wide and less than 5” tall; those dimension can’t adequately accommodate the full version of your organization’s traditional website. To keep mobile customers from straining their eyes and suffering dizziness, it’s important to develop a minimalist mobile site that puts key tool and features (e.g., search bars, FAQs, ‘contact us’ icon) front and center and that is backed by an “engine” that ensures fast and effective customer support.     

Provide a text chat option via your mobile website. While a solid mobile site should increase the number of customers who partake in self-service, it’s still important to give customers a way to easily connect with a live agent via their mobile device. Sure, you could make them just call your 800 number, but many customers today prefer to text rather than talk, especially those who are trying to complete a transaction or solve an issue via a mobile self-service portal.    

Harness the power of proactive outbound SMS messaging. Outbound customer contact has come a long way, baby. Smart customer care organizations today use the mobile channel to deliver personalized announcements and alerts that benefit rather than bother customers. Examples include reminders about upcoming appointments or events, status updates on orders or reservations, and personalized notifications about products/services of probable interest (based on the customers unique preferences and past purchases/interactions).

Chat  

Use an advanced chat management system. Top customer care organizations invest in advanced chat solutions that come equipped with such features as: skills-based routing, access to complete customer history, dynamic “FAQs” and detailed response templates (to increase consistency and efficiency of agents’ responses); and web collaboration tools like form-sharing, et. al.

Factor chat into your workforce management (WFM) process. Forecasting workload and scheduling agents accordingly is just as important with chat as it is with phone calls, as both are “real-time” type channels. Failure to develop sound WFM practices around chat will result in either understaffing (causing agent burnout and angry customers) or overstaffing (causing high costs and angry execs).

Hire and train with chat in mind. As important as the right technology and processes are in handling chat, the most critical piece is the people tackling the text. Top contact centers have revamped their agent hiring practices to ensure the center attracts and selects applicants with exemplary written communication skills. These centers also provide comprehensive training on such things as chat performance objectives, appropriate use of templates and web collaboration tools, and how to handle multiple chat sessions without losing your mind or ruining customer relationships.

Monitor, Measure and Manage the Customer Experience

Certain best practices are common to all three of the aforementioned channels (and any other customer contact channel, for that matter). These include:

·         Quality monitoring – evaluating how well agents and applications perform and adhere to protocols during customer interactions;

·         C-Sat measurement – capturing customer sentiment (regarding their recent interaction) via post-contact surveys and interaction analytics;

·         Integration of all contact types – to give a 360-degree view of each customer, making it much easier for agents and the center to provide a stellar customer experience regardless of the channel chosen.

Embrace all the practices highlighted in this article, and instead of crying “Social and mobile and chat, oh my!,” you’ll be singing “Social and mobile and chat, oh YEAH!”

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About the author

Author of Full Contact: Contact Center Practices and Strategies that Make an Impact. He has written hundreds of feature articles, case studies, blog posts and research reports on contact center best practices trends and challenges. He is founder and principal of Off Center, which provides a variety of resources to educate, inspire and entertain contact center professionals. Levin is the former editor of ICMI’s pioneering publication Service Level Newsletter, as well as its highly regarded follow-up journal Call Center Management Review.

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