ICMI: Best Practices in Multichannel Management

ICMI decided to evaluate today’s leading call centers to help uncover how they meet and exceed customers’ multichannel expectations and demands. Here are some of the things they found superior call centers have in common.

They empower online customers via a range of dynamic self-support options. Companies leading the e-support revolution are experts at helping customers help themselves. They have implemented self-support tools that enable customers to quickly find answers and information while dramatically reducing the number of routine requests that call center agents must field.

They use email management tools to help respond to all email inquiries efficiently and with quality. Even with effective self-service options in place, many customers still prefer – or sometimes need – to contact an agent in the call center. This is most commonly done via email. To effectively handle such transactions, top e-support providers use specialized email management systems that automatically and evenly distribute customer email inquiries among the center’s agents.

Call centers typically use the system’s auto-reply feature to confirm that the message has been received and to let the customer know the expected turnaround time for a full response (the best e-support providers respond to each email in less than 24 hours). This dramatically reduces the number of “just wanted to be sure” messages and/or phone calls from concerned customers.

To handle all email inquiries quickly and accurately, agents in the best e-support environments use – but don’t abuse – response suggestions provided by the email management system. Staff aretrained not to simply cut and paste canned responses, but rather to take relevant pieces and add to them to ensure that each customer receives personalized service.

They have mastered the art of online workforce management. Top call centers work hard to ensure that the right number of e-support agents are in the right place at the right times. These call centers have learned how to accurately forecast online customer contact volume and schedule the appropriate number of staff to meet the center’s service level/response time objectives.

They understand and practice the principles of CRM. Top e-support providers effectively use their web sites to capture customer data and use that formation to provide highly personalized service during future transactions. Details about account histories, product and service preferences, past service problems, etc., are stored in powerful databases and enable call centers to create customized Web pages for individual customers.
Top call centers use data gleaned online not only to enhance web self-service, but also email, live web-based support and traditional phone transactions. Agents in these companies’ call centers receive relevant response suggestions and view other key screenpops right at their desktops to help them provide personalized service to all current customers, regardless of how the customer has chosen to contact the call center.

They continually measure online customer satisfaction and act on the findings. Leading multichannel call centers not only monitor how the center handles online customers, they ask those customers for their opinions. This is typically done by emailing survey “invitations” to customers following email/chat transactions and online visits. Customers can click on the link in the email to view and complete the brief questionnaire.

Some call centers take a slightly more ambitious approach to measuring customer satisfaction – via surveys that pop up on the customer’s computer screen following a self-support or chat session. Regardless of how they solicit online customer feedback, the best call centers carefully analyze the information and suggestions they receive and make strategic changes to improve Web-based services. These companies often use datamining tools to help identify trends and pinpoint problem areas, and usually have an individual or team in place whose primary responsibility is customer satisfaction measurement and evaluation.

(Source: International Customer Mangagement Institute – ICMI)

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