How To Juggle With 4 Balls (And A Chainsaw) – Part 1

December, 2011

To keep the customer happy a contact center must manage voice, email, web chat, video, text (and others) successfully. Here we look at the technological challenges in delivering speed of response in a multi-channel contact center.

Success in the contact center is all about the customer experience. Meet (or exceed!) the customer’s expectations and all is well. Once upon a time, a bank that serviced both in-branch and phone interactions well had happy customers. Rather like juggling with 2 balls, it was relatively easy. These days, to keep the customer happy a contact center must manage voice, email, web chat, video, SMS (and others) successfully. Rather like juggling with 4 balls (and a chainsaw), this can be challenging. (Chainsaw? Read on.)

Customer expectations boil down to a combination of speed and quality of response, and each has its own technological challenges. In this blog, we look at speed of response. In the next, quality. Stay tuned.

Speed of Response – Tick, Tock

Customer expectations in terms of speed of response are quite different for each media channel. For instance:

  • web chat, voice, video – the customer expects an almost instant response, i.e. within seconds
  • SMS (text) – not quite instant, but still prompt (say within 1 min)
  • email – not instant (say within 1 hour)

So how do you maximise your chance of meeting these expectations? By automatic assignment of sessions to agents. We could call this ASD (Automatic Session Distribution – the multi-channel equivalent of ACD). For this, the system needs both presence information and centralised and unified queue management.

Presence Information – Are You Free?

In order to assign any session to an agent, the system must know if he is available to receive it. Trouble is, the answer isn’t just a simple yes or no. Each agent may have complex rules about how many of each media channel he can handle at once; for example, agent Jim, currently on a voice call, may not be available for an incoming web chat session, but agent Sarah, already dealing with two chat sessions, may be able to handle a third.

This is further complicated by skill level; not all agents who can email effectively are good at video chat, too.

Presence information is also essential for manual transfer; Jim, trying to transfer a web chat session, needs to know if Sarah can handle it, given the other sessions she is currently involved in.

Centralised Management – The Lone Juggler

In order to juggle media sessions between agents, the left hand must know what the right hand is doing. This requires a centralised and unified control center that knows the exact state of every agent and every queue at all times. Disparate systems held together with tape just won’t work.

Now, what happens if the level of activity on any queue exceeds the assigned agents’ ability to respond within the service level agreement (SLA)? Other agents should be automatically drafted in to help, and ideally they should be put back into the original queue when service levels allow.

This could also be done manually by a supervisor, who will need the presence info to determine who can go where. We will be looking at media queue blending in more detail in a future blog.

With all these facilities in place, a multi-media contact center should be able to keep all balls in the air successfully, delivering a fast response well within acceptable service levels.

So, which one is the chainsaw? Video, actually. This needs special handling, as we shall see next time, when we look at how contact center technology can enable quality of response.

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