Bringing Digital Channels into the Contact Center and Beyond

The contact center is currently being transformed in fundamental ways, driven mainly by the evolution of cloud-based technologies and the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) -driven applications. There is a lot of innovation that enables businesses and customers to engage more directly than ever before, allowing call centers to modernize their operations.

One of the most important upgrades will be the ability to add digital channels. Traditional channels such as telephony and email will continue to be widely used, but many customers, especially digital natives are gravitating more to digital channels like messaging, SMS, social media and conversational AI.

We’ve discussed the importance of digital channels in this previous blog post. Building on this foundation, contact center leaders must take a strategic approach for bringing digital channels into the overall mix for agents. Here are three key considerations for moving forward.

Learn more about Upstream Works’ digital solutions here.

Align the Entire Business on the CX Strategy

One of the biggest drivers of change coming from the top-down is making the entire organization more customer-centric. This has always been the focus of the call center, but to become truly customer-centric, the rest of the company must follow the same ideology. Ideally, this holistic approach means that customers have a good experience at every touchpoint, whether it’s with call center agents, sales specialists for outbound marketing campaigns, or dealing with a payment issue with accounting.

All of these points of contact can use various forms of digital channels. They may use different channels than the contact center, or they may use them in different ways. But digital channels are now integral parts of the Customer Experience (CX) landscape.

As such, when contact center leaders are considering which digital channels to adopt and how to adopt them, these decisions should not be made in a vacuum. A holistic approach to CX means that all business units should be aligned when deploying new tools for customer engagement. The contact center should leverage lessons learned from other business units that have adopted digital channels and vice versa and the process should be streamlined with all the business units planning together.

Understand the Impact on Agents
Each communication channel has distinct advantages, but they will only be realized if handled properly. For example, it’s important to know which agents work best when speaking to customers versus agents who are more skilled at text-based channels.

Digital channels are generally characterized by rapid, informal, short-form messaging that is often text-based. The skillset required for digital channels is different than with is needed for telephony, where agents can pick up more emotional cues. With digital channels – especially social media – agents will be using a mix of words, phrases, acronyms and emojis, often with various attachments. This lexicon is different than traditional channels and contact center agents will often multitask, engaging with several customers concurrently.

For this reason, many contact centers have dedicated agents who only use digital channels. Contact center leaders understand how these new channels can impact the agent experience and recognize that it’s not realistic to expect all agents will be ready for this. When weighed against the cost and time required to upskill current agents, it may be better to add agents who already have that skill set.

Understand the Impact on CX
Digital channels are an important factor of CX because it allows brands to meet their customers where they are. If they’re not coming into your store, you’ve got to engage with your customers on the platforms they use the most, whether that’s your website, Instagram feed, or a smartphone application.

Having agents who are adept at using digital channels will become a must-have, but it’s also important to realize that customers won’t just be using these channels for customer service. They’ll be using these same channels to engage with your sales department, as well as with marketing, billing, and shipping.

In terms of a holistic approach to CX, digital channels provide a common thread to ensure all customer touchpoints are aligned. While the contact center’s focus must remain on addressing customer inquiries, it needs to be managed in the broader context of being one of many customer touchpoints. A truly singular CX requires consistent messaging, language, and branding across all touchpoints.