Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When Call Centers Become Contact Centers - the Impact on Workforce Management

social Media in contact center workforce management
While the “call center” designation is likely to stick around for a while, agent interaction via telephone is now just one component of customer communication. Today, the public may reach out via email, online chat or social media. All of these additional channels are ultimately beneficial, but many call centers are just beginning to grasp the impact they will have - from a customer engagement perspective, but also from a workforce management perspective.

Email/Live Chat
Written exchanges of information, whether via email or text chat, have become commonplace. However, these channels work best with simple questions and conflict resolutions where a few sentences from both participants will suffice. Once the point has been reached where the number of exchanged messages tops 5-10, it might be advisable to switch to a telephone conversation.

With online chat, it may take longer to complete a customer interaction, simply because it takes longer to type a message than to say it. However, online chat agents can manage up to five sessions simultaneously, which will impact productivity and scheduling. If five proves too many (measure response times to each customer to determine this), three ongoing sessions might be a more practical limit.

When it comes to workforce management scheduling, you will want chat agents with proven written skills. While the Internet has done no shortage of damage to the disciplines of spelling, grammar and punctuation, it is vital that any written communication from your company to customers is free of such errors.

Social Media
A Facebook page and a Twitter account are great ways for companies to announce new products and specials and exchange ideas with customers. They are less effective for such traditional call center functions as handling orders and returns or resolving disputes. However, this too is changing rapidly.

If the call center is to take the lead on establishing and maintaining a company’s social media presence, adequate resources must be made available to do so, to make certain pages are updated, questions are answered, and ongoing communications are having a positive impact on branding and customer loyalty.

That starts with creating and scheduling a social media team based on experience and training. Agents should not just be familiar with these outlets, but be well versed on the company’s social media strategy and best practices.

And, as with email and online chat, choose agents and experts with written communication skills, and when a problem arises try to route that customer back to a call-in situation where it might be easier to resolve the situation verbally.

Each of these new communication channels should get included into your overall forecasting, scheduling and staffing planning process.