One of the most common questions I hear from clients who manage agents in a multichannel environment is, “Why can’t we just do it like our phone business?” It’s a great question and there are far more reasons why you shouldn’t run other channels such as chat, messaging or social media like your traditional phone business than why you should.
Here are 3 reasons I’d like to highlight:
- Agent skill sets can vary dramatically and while an agent may be a standout performer on the phones, that doesn’t always translate to other channels. Typing competency is more important in digital channels because not only may they need to process transactions on internal systems but also communicate in a timely manner with the customer. From a communication standpoint, the agent also needs to be able to deliver information in a more concise yet clear manner which is a little more important via messaging or social media where more and more customers are using mobile devices on the go.
- Operationally the data can be significantly more challenging to work with in alternate channels than the established phone channels as well. For example, in many cases, agents may have multiple customer interactions open at the same time. This concurrency along with customers being a bit slower to respond to questions in other mediums than the phones can lead to a longer average handle time (AHT) than the phone channel. By itself, a direct comparison of AHT may not look so good for non-voice channels, but this isn’t necessarily a problem. If I have a phone agent with a 10 minute AHT, that’s 6 customer contacts per labor hour. In comparison, a chat agent may have a 15 minute AHT, but they manage on average 2 concurrent chats at a time – that’s 4 customer contacts per hour x2 for concurrency for a total of 8.
- Sales expectations are another area where online and phone channels have some significant optical differences. The concurrency referenced above is a significant plus for online channels, however, the base conversion rates for the phones are almost always higher. The reason for this is when someone takes the time to pick up the phone and call you, they’re generally already in buying mode and the phone agents handling those calls tend to be more in an “order taker” mode. This would be similar to an online agent who only receives interactions from customers already in the shopping cart. The key difference with the online agents is that depending on how your entry points are set up, they may be supporting customer questions on product pages much more frequently. What this means for your agents is that they are engaged with customers who are still in shopping mode much more frequently who either may not yet be ready to buy or require significantly more effort on the agent’s part to even ask for the sale.
I hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions about managing agents in a multichannel environment, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d be happy to chat.