Emerging Customer Service Channels and Contact Center Technology


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It’s no secret that more and more customers are choosing to bypass the telephone channel to begin a customer service interaction with a brand. It’s a fact of “customer service life” that companies can’t ignore anymore. This blog post takes a look at integrating emerging channels into your existing contact center technology mix. (Warning: We’re going to get down in the weeds here, talking about ticketing systems and ACD queue management. It’s not for everyone.)

Emerging Customer Service Channels

For simple, straightforward customer service needs, Email, Chat, SMS, and Social Media are the channels of choice for many customers. For example, rather than dial up customer service, customers of telecom companies are increasingly turning to Twitter to inquire about service interruptions for up-to-date information. For the customer and the service provider, customer service interactions on social media are much more efficient than using the voice channel (assuming the medium is effectively integrated with the technical set up of the contact center).

It’s a different story for complex, unique customer service needs. In this scenario, customers usually prefer the voice channel because it’s an easier way to explain the situation. The “all-channel” approach is great for customers because they have more options to resolve an issue. However, in the contact center world, where everything is tracked and recorded, it’s very difficult to measure these non-traditional interactions.

For instance, on Twitter, you need some form of a social media monitoring and engagement tool (such as Radian 6) to capture tweets, and scale the agent workforce to respond to the growing volume of customers. With the tweet captured, you want to weave the interaction into your existing contact center operations and technology infrastructure. In the contact center outsourcing world this means converting a tweet to an email notification is required for the agent to begin resolving the issue. Email is a discreet message; it gets sent, email is received, email is replied to, and the original sender determines whether the issue has been resolved. The handling of the contact event, in essence, results in the email becoming the proxy by which to interact with customers.

Maybe you’re looking into supporting customers via SMS messaging. The SMS message is just a series of phrases of text, creating “a customer service interaction.” In our world, SMS messages are treated similar to a web chat which can also be considered a non-traditional method of communication. SMS and Email are message-based communications, whereas a phone call is connection based (think Average Handling Time). Again, the underlying theme is weaving the new media interaction into a manageable framework by which the agent (and the center) can resolve and measure the interaction.

Leveraging Existing Contact Center Technology

Nearly all contact centers have an Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) that tracks and measures interactions. In the case of the tweet and other non-traditional interactions, an email goes into the ACD queue for the agent to react to. The ACD tracks the interaction as an event (i.e. email sent). The ACD is going to track the actions that happened, not the content of the interaction. The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system will provide a log of specific information about each interaction point, providing a higher resolution of what is “happening” with the customer interaction. This is of critical importance for agents to look up contact history for future customer interactions.

With non-traditional customer interactions, instead of inventing a whole new way to treat social media and new channels, the predominate method is to convert the interaction into a traditional channel, such as email or chat.

Gravitating too far from traditional contact center metrics and the contact center technology infrastructure that’s already in place can further complicate the management of the contact center. Metrics in the CC typically measure transactional KPIs (i.e. How many English Calls did we handle today? How long was the average handle time?).

Companies are making decisions on how to make the contact center technology work with these non-traditional channels as customers are increasingly adopting them to interact with customer service teams. Are you going to build these integrations internally? Are you going to purchase an “off-the-shelf” solution? Maybe, you’re interested in outsourcing some or all of it. In that case, we should talk!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

John Doane
John heads up Blue Ocean's IT Division. He is also responsible for the overall technology planning and implementation for Blue Ocean's three contact centers. John has over fifteen years experience in the technology sector and is recognized as an industry expert and change agent with respect to Customer Service Center implementation and performance optimization.


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