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  • July 1, 2014
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

The 4 Key Customer Service Omnichannel Considerations

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and let them design the interaction around the channels they want to use."

Beyond that, experts recommend that companies not wait for the industry to adopt a standard interface that will allow all of their multivendor technologies to work together out of the box.

"Standards discussions have pretty much quieted down," Staples says.

And that's not likely to change. "Standards are tough because there's nothing that's universal," Verint's Ziv states. "It's even more difficult with so much unstructured data out there."

That's why companies need to take a full inventory of all their equipment, software, hardware, and data to determine what they can keep, what they should replace, and what they need to add.

3. Employee Engagement

It's also important to assess the skill sets of all the agents working in the contact center. There are bound to be some agents who are not good at some of the channels or unwilling to work those channels, advises Melissa Kovacevic, a contact center and retail consultant and skills coach based in Charleston, SC. "It's going to be a balancing act. The manager has to know his people and their openness and willingness to learn and change," she says.

For example, there are likely to be people—most likely older agents—who might not feel comfortable with the fast pace and lack of structure associated with live chat and social media, she says. Others might excel at written communications but be uncomfortable talking with people over the phone.

Kovacevic points out that roughly 15 percent of the contact center agent pool will be most comfortable on the phone and email, but that doesn't mean that they should be phased out if and when other channels are added. "If you want to be truly customer-focused, you want your best agents doing the best jobs on the channels where they feel most comfortable. You do not have to have everyone doing everything."

Perhaps a better approach would be to have a core group of multitaskers combined with a few channel specialists, she adds.

Undoubtedly, younger agents, particularly Millennials, are more likely to be among the multitaskers, but even older employees have proven themselves able to transition to the new channels. "The skill set of the agents is the least of our challenges," ResponseTek's Hasan states. "Most agents can handle chat, email, Web, and social. If agents are given the right tools and information, they are quite adaptable."

Kovacevic agrees, noting that "just because an agent isn't logged into Facebook, it doesn't mean she can't know what a customer did there if she has the right tools."

Stockford contends that the industry trend seems to be going "down the path to separate-but-equal teams of agents assigned to 

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