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Customer Service, Buffet-Style

By David R. Butcher, Assitant Editor, Customer Inter@ction Solutions


We all prefer choices. We don't want to be backed in to having to do one thing over the other if we can choose to have it one of several ways; or better yet, more than one way chosen from several. We all have different tastes and preferences. Some people like potato chips with their sandwich, while others prefer French fries or onion rings. Some even prefer a mix of fries and rings. When we go to a diner, we want to pick which side order we get. That's also why buffets are so popular. We can pick from amongst a selection. We have a choice.

That's also the way in which customer service should be offered: via the customer's choice.

Some customers like their customer service dealings to take place over the phone, while others prefer communications via fax, e-mail or Web chat. Some people enjoy self-service over speaking directly with an agent. Multichannel services are becoming more prevalent in organizations' customer service offerings, as well as in contact center solution providers' products. This is for the customer's sake, for without the customer, what have you? This is especially the case for contact centers; who else will the contact centers be contacting?

When providing a multichannel environment for e-services or customer service, the approach must be process-centric, allowing to seamlessly automate and enable the customer service processes. The multiple service channels/media types must also offer a unified view for agents and agent groups, adding up to an organized and more satisfying overall customer experience. Internal collaboration is essential. Otherwise, the customer may have to repeat already-given information when switching to an agent handling a different channel. If agents in a center are separated by way of which channel they handle, the e-mail agent must know what information the customer gave to the phone agent, etc. With this come customer-data tracking, recording and retrieval. When a customer calls or e-mails an inquiry, the agent ' any agent ' must be able to immediately pull up any past interactions the customer has had with previous agents.

As the accompanying article offers as example, 'today's consumer nation still wants the telephone and fax machine to coexist with Web and e-mail contact options.' That means the on-the-interaction agent needs to be able to multitask his or her talents and tools. The agent must be able to handle Web chat, e-mail, fax and phone ' perhaps not all at once on one customer contact, but often one channel immediately after the other and so on. Blending and balancing agents across channels offers numerous positive potentialities, including optimal agent usage, which can raise productivity, resulting in better-quality service for customers; and freeing agents from the wearied boredom relative to handling a single channel, thus raising agents' job satisfaction and resulting in lower workforce turnover.

Offering customers the option ' the choice ' of several channels for assistance, and doing so in a blended and unified way via optimized processes and agents, can surely provide better customer experiences. Of course, taking your customer service to the multichannel environment in such a manner is your choice.

Now, let us move on to the buffet.

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