In an omnichannel world, customers interact with agents in a variety of ways. Whether through a call or chat, customers expect the same level of customer service and support. Before there were multi-channel options, a contact center hired agents that specialized in answering or making calls. Employees were trained in the same way with the same scripts and required a similar skill set. Now, with more customers choosing to interact via chat, contact centers need to reimagine how to structure, and train, their agents to provide the best service across platforms.
So what is the best way to think about structuring your omnichannel teams in your contact center?
How Should You Structure Omnichannel Teams in the Contact Center?
Consider the difference in service execution across channels
The types of questions agents are fielding through chat and voice are likely similar, meaning the types of content training won’t necessarily differ. However, the execution of service is different. This means the skills you’re looking for in each type of agent starts to diverge.
Voice agents interact one-to-one with customers – they can only field one call at a time – and require agents to use speech and verbal cues to interact. Chat is a different beast. Agents are often handling several chats at once, and need to be strong written communicators and multitaskers.
Based on these distinctions, it would seem easiest to hire two separate teams completely dedicated to either voice or chat and trained in only those skills. However, this is not actually your most efficient option.
Consider a scenario of two completely separate teams: It’s a busy day in the contact center. Call and chat agents have answered a steady stream of customers. Suddenly, halfway through the day, the chat queue is 10 customers long, while the call agents are sitting idly by. If you have two separate teams only trained to handle their specific types of interactions, customers sit waiting in long queues, while call agents sit, inefficiently waiting for their next calls.
How do you solve this? The logical answer would be to find multi-skilled agents that excel in both voice and chat communication. However, this is challenging given the unique skill sets required to be successful, and requires a significant amount of additional training.
You can run your contact center with either of the scenarios already mentioned, but there’s a better way. You can find a middle ground between these two ends of the spectrum to create a highly efficient omnichannel contact center.
Go hybrid and introduce both voice and chat specific teams, as well as agents trained in the nuances and specifics of both channels. When you only train agents for one specific channel you’ll have calls or chats queuing up depending on how you’ve allocated agent resources, adding to hold times and negatively impacting the customer experience. How do you strike a balance?
|Voice Skills||Digital Channel Skils|
|1:1 focus||1:Many Focus|
|Requires patience, calm demeanor, and superior verbal communication||Requires attention to detail, multitasking, and superior written communication skills|
You can build a hybrid model of omnichannel-proficient agents in your contact center. You should still hire core voice and chat agents—that is, agents who specialize in 1:1 voice calls or written conversations. To cross-train and move toward a hybrid staffing structure, you then select a percentage of each of those types of agents and train them in the other communication methods. This means that of, say, 15 voice agents, seven of them will also be trained in chat and SMS, and of another 10 chat agents, 5 are skilled in voice communication.
Building your contact center this way does not mean that those voice agents who are double-skilled in chat switch to chat every single time they don’t have a call. It does mean, however, that if your contact center finds itself in our earlier scenario—a long queue in chat and low volume of voice calls—you have agents trained and ready to jump in.
Once you’ve selected your group of double-skilled agents, you still need to determine how and when an agent moves from their core skill to their second skill. Read on.
Designate and Prioritize Agents
Give your agents a priority designation. For example, your chat agents will receive top priority for chat. A voice agent will receive top priority for calls. A chat agent also trained in voice will get the next priority level for voice. This ensures that if they’re available, and there’s a queue in chat, they’ll be able to fill in and provide the excellent customer service your clients expect with a level of continuity across that will distinguish your brand.
Then, consider implementing a conversational front-end IVR that allows you to distribute incoming calls and chats based on predefined criteria gathered upfront before connection to save on agent handle times. Be sure to choose an IVR that can route the engagement, regardless of format, to the appropriate agent..It is also important to consider an IVR that functions in the cloud to accommodate remote agents.
Once you’ve structured your team in a hybrid model and configured your IVR to recognize the specified criteria, you can use the data captured from the IVR to further refine your blended team model. You’ll be in a position to answer questions like:
- Are the agents selected to be double-skilled performing at the level your customers expect?
- Are your double-skilled voice agents excelling on chat?
This data can help you refine and develop more efficient workflows while working to upskill agents and provide greater career opportunities.