Hosted Contact Center Featured Article

Multichannel Contact Center Success Starts with Staffing

August 11, 2014

By Steve Anderson,
Contributing TMCnet Writer

These days, customers want options when it comes to contacting a business, whether to ask questions, place orders or seek resolution of issues. More specifically, customers don't want a simple phone line that only works from 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday; customers are often working during that time and can't get away anyway. But it's not just phones, either; customers want to turn to websites, use email, send text messages, and hit social media to talk about issues with a business, and that means the astute business needs a multichannel contact center to meet all those needs. But, how does one get the most out of such a system? It starts, as so many others do, with staffing.

Essentially, there are two basic premises a contact center can use when it comes to staffing: one, it can just hire agents and post same on the various channels, or two, it can hire agents specific to each channel in the contact center. While the idea of a “super-agent”—as such agents are called who can handle all the channels in a contact center with equal capability—may seem outlandish, such an idea is being put to use in several different fields, and with positive effect.

Positec, a tool manufacturer who put the super-agent concept to work, recently made a presentation on this topic at the IQPC (News - Alert) Call Center Week event, and revealed that agents who can work with multiple channels tend to be happier and get burnt out less, and from there are more productive and sell more with less turnover as well, likely owing to the variety the task takes on. But there's a lot of effort that goes into such an approach, with such agents having to take on phones, emails and live chats all going on at once. This makes finding the right agent particularly important, one who is both motivated and goal-driven while also a driven people-pleaser, as Positec's vice president of direct response, Rhonda Tate, puts it.

How to find such people? It can be difficult, Tate notes, but offers some suggestions. First, ask the potential agent if said agent has a “theme song.” Someone who gets fired up by, for example, Leslie Gore's “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” might be a driven people-pleaser, but might blanch at having to compete against others. Meanwhile, Motorhead's “The Game” worked well for Triple H as an intimidating, competitive theme song, but how many people want to ask Triple H why there's an unexpected charge on a bill?

Further, check the agent's grammar; that can be a measure of creativity and rapid adaptation to spot the difference between your and you're in a sentence. Plus, while it can be difficult to do properly—not to mention legally—consider demographics. A mature agent, for example, may not be able to adapt to the rapid keyboarding required to handle text message and live chat systems. But a younger, less experienced agent may not have the product knowledge required.

There are plenty of options when it comes to finding the right agents, and those “super-agents” can be the best finds of all. Versatile, competitive, yet still eager to please, such agents hit all the right notes, particularly in a contact center environment, which is the company's biggest face-forward operation, the kind of system that can make a business a success, or ultimately destroy it. Having the right people in play can be difficult, but getting—and keeping—such people can make a business a powerhouse.

Edited by Maurice Nagle