Jan Kühn is the Head of Business Services at INOVO, a leading contact centre solutions provider.
JOHANNESBURG - Everything can be completely fine with your brand, until suddenly, it’s not. 

Whether the fluctuation is caused by human error (a poor social media update going viral) or by system downtime, you need to spring into action. There are some management approaches that can be built into your customer experience strategy to avoid reputational damage in the long term.

10 channels, 10 risks

At the heart of risk-prevention is bridging departmental silos and integrating your customer contact channels. The average business has between seven and nine interaction or service channels – voice, email, social media, online, chat, in-store and more – and, too often, these are not being operated in concert with one another and across business units. Besides the potential loss of data that exists around customer and business intelligence, it becomes harder to track where problem areas are and to resolve them if they’re not integrated.

Let’s say you have outsourced your social media to a marketing department or a third-party marketing agency, they may not be equipped to deal with a challenge such as system downtime in the contact centre environment. A deluge of complaints is not adequately resolved with “we are aware of the problem” messaging. Similarly, should customers have queries about their accounts or products, the social media team may not have access to the resources needed to interact with the customer and answer the question effectively.

Channel integration

The optimal environment is to centralise channel communication with an integrated approach that allows team members access to the right information across systems. Adopting a fragmented approach to customer engagement and channel management is what can lead to a breakdown in the customer experience and ultimately very dissatisfied customers.

Before this can be done, it’s necessary to look at a few elements: people and processes and then tools, software and integrated business.

People and processes

When service levels suddenly dip, supporting software, hardware and technology is often the first to bear the brunt of the blame. However, the source of the fluctuation may be closer to home and within the control of the business –  the supporting people and processes.
Call length and volume: if interactions take longer than usual or volumes spike (in the case of a service going down or as a result of a promotion/sale), service levels may take the strain. Training must be ongoing and interdepartmental communication is essential to prepare agents in the contact centre for multiple eventualities that can impact call duration and volumes of calls and service levels.

Effective data usage: Staffing and scheduling can be optimised with workforce management and call forecasting to indicate how many agents will need to be available at certain times of the day/week. Manual predictions are not as effective as the use of data to reveal patterns in call demands and volumes. Other factors such as poor schedule adherence (e.g. unscheduled/long breaks) could also have an impact on the number of agents available at any given time to answer calls, resulting in a dip in service levels.

Management

Is your team using your solutions correctly? Have they received adequate training to monitor the right metrics? Should staff leave the company or get promoted, are handovers being done to ensure continuity?

Tools, software and integrated business

Streamlined business tools and systems allow for more fruitful activity, since agents won’t have to search for information across applications or spend too much time updating details or transferring calls to colleagues. Your customers will welcome having agents available.

When agents finish calls, they may need to perform associated admin: updating the database, completing paperwork, sending emails or be in discussion with colleagues: you can check to see if there’s room to make after-call responsibilities more efficient.

There are many permutations, so it’s not possible to discuss all of these here, but monitoring and measuring at every turn allows you to spot anomalies and sort them out rather than letting challenges impact on your ability to deliver great service and manage your brand reputation effectively.

Jan Kühn is the Head of Business Services at INOVO, a leading contact centre solutions provider.

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE