Modern contact centres can handle a range of different communication channels, however very few centres are enjoying the business benefits that this ability can deliver.
Customers want to be able to interact with a business in a variety of ways. Some want a voice call while others prefer to interact using email or text messages. Increasingly, chat sessions and social media are also becoming widely used. Any business that does not offer a range of options when it comes to communication risks losing its customers to one that does.
This omni-channel approach to contact centre operations has evolved over time. Many centres started with just voice call capabilities, but then added others as demand grew. It's a strategy that has tended to be achieved by adding additional systems to support each new channel.
The result, however, has been increasing technical complexity within many contact centres. Agents need to become familiar with multiple systems and different user interfaces, resulting in higher training requirements. The business is also faced with the additional costs associated with deploying and managing multiple systems.
Obtaining a coherent view of the customer also becomes a growing challenge. If someone starts an interaction with a voice call but then switches to email or a chat session, it can be difficult for an agent to see all the details that have been discussed. Customers can become frustrated when they need to repeat details or an agent cannot find the latest records.
Management reporting is another factor that becomes more complex when multiple communication channels are in use. Obtaining a clear view of exactly what’s happening to the customer experience, is essential for any business wanting to stay at the front of its game. This view needs to include reports from all channels and be available in both live and historical forms.
In most cases, different business departments within a company tend to own the different channel solutions through which customers interact. This can lead to the customer experience being a negative one as they are passed to different areas and find themselves having to re-explain their query or validate their credentials each time.
Creating the multimodal contact centre
The solution to these challenges is the creation of a true multimodal contact centre, achieved by having a single platform that can manage multiple modes of communication. Through a single interface, agents can then interact with customers using whichever channel they prefer to use.
This multimodal approach also allows the details relating to each customer to be held in a single location. So, if someone calls about an earlier email and then follows up with a text message, the agent has all the relevant details readily to hand.
For customers, a multimodal approach will result in better service and higher levels of satisfaction. They won’t have to explain prior interactions and will have their queries answered much more quickly.
For agents, it removes the need to be trained in multiple systems and lifts productivity. They can quickly shift between channels as customer demands change. Where possible, they can also multitask on a single screen.
As well as happier customers and more productive staff, a business will benefit from a multimodal contact centre through reduced costs. Rather than having to maintain multiple different back-end systems, all can be replaced with a single platform that supports all channels.
The approach also reduces the number of licences that need to be purchased for the multiple software packages that are likely to be in use across the centre. This can significantly lower operational costs while also removing the associated management and monitoring administrative overhead.
If the new multimodal platform is cloud based, further benefits can be achieved. Instead of having to manage on-premise servers and applications, this responsibility can be handed over to an external service provider. This, in turn, allows the business IT team to focus on more value-added activities rather than spending their time simply 'keeping the lights on'.
A multimodal contact centre ensures a business is best placed to take advantage of the numerous communications channels now being used by customers. It ensures the business can meet their requirements each and every time.
By Tim Hood, Operations Manager, QPC
This article was prepared by a guest blogger and the opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the opinions of Fifth Quadrant.