Risks & opportunities when blending chat with other channels

Below is an interesting extract taken from the WFManagement Telegram community group – if you have an interest in Workforce Management and are interested in joining the group here is link with further background and joining information WFManagement Telegram Group

I leave my thoughts at the end…..


What is your opinion about the risks/opportunities when blending chat with other channels? What are the limitations?

For me it is not recommended to blend chat with voice since both are live immediate channels and hence there will be challenges to meet the SLA for both voice and chat. However, chat can be blended with email and other back office activities where they have more TAT. (Turnaround time)

Typically it is something that I would never advocate. Voice and chat / socials / email are two different skill sets. Just because an agent is great on the phones does not necessarily mean that their spelling & grammer is also great. There is always the risk as well from a publicity perspective, if the incorrect statement is written in an email or a screenshot taken from chat or socials it could end up on the news or in the papers tomorrow. Pretty unlikely but never the less a risk even if minor.

Blending chat / socials / email is something I would consider, although personally I would still rather have separate teams for chat / socials, then email then voice. Just my preferred way of doing things, but something to consider for you.

I would tend to blend phone and mail instead of having a mix of social and phone as the language and ways of communicating are somewhat very different in my opinion. Would also add that written and voice use different parts of the human brain and require synapses pattern switching according some experiments that have measured this with brain scans. 

Whenever I have measured the combined productivity and quality of someone that is dedicated voice or written vs an agent that is constantly switching between the dedicated agent wins hands down. I do however believe there is sweet spot however where blending occurs via the schedule in blocks of 2hrs rather than constant switching. Also because it written/verbal skills use different parts of the brain (voice/written) you will also find some agents are better at one or other naturally the other.

I personally believe that a concurrency of call and chat would lead to a negative impact on CSat and AHT, in-turn reducing the NPS score… further leading to agent behaviour change towards the work.

I have had the same finding… but somewhat depends on how low you occupancy is in trade off. For example if you have a super low occupancy with a ton of availability what you lose in productivity and quality might be gained through blended approach efficiencies.

My View
Daniel Ord made some strong customer experience related arguments against channel blending in his article – The Risks of Channel Blending in the Contact Centre. He said “Quality and the customer experience – and all that goes with it like First Contact Resolution (FCR) – will suffer in this scenario. Try writing a clear and well-presented reply to a customer email while being interrupted any number of times by voice calls. Try jumping back and forth between a live chat (or three) and a voice call and ensure you handle them all well. 

Whilst our WFManagement telegram conversation focussed on chat blending with other channels, I think it is worth noting that I tend to agree with Daniel in as far as blending voice with other channels when occupancy is 80%+. However, as Daniel noted “when Occupancy rates are very low, it makes sense to switch attention to other work”. Even with the very best workforce management practices, it is not always possible to keep occupancy high, for example when traffic intensity per 15/30-minute interval is low – often the case when offering multi-lingual or multi-product customer support across 24/7 hrs of operation (HOOP). 

The same argument can also be applied to the Chat channel, breaking down silos and supporting blended agents is at the heart of success in a multichannel world. However, an additional complexity is that the chat channel is often deployed with agents handling concurrent chats at the same time. In this scenario, it does not make sense blending chat and voice for all the points made above. 

I do however see advantages blending chat, with other “written” channels such as email, SMS and social media. However, success in this space very much depends on having the right technology enablement. For example, a single ‘waiting room’ for all queued channels, a single ‘brain’ for all routing decisions, and having only one console/application that agents need to use.

Aside from the efficiency benefits this enablement brings, providing unique and varied work experiences can also help to keep agents interested and customer experience consistent no matter what channel your customer chooses to use. 

However, that said I would recommend taking a holistic review when thinking about deploying blending. For example, here are a couple of considerations that should also be included in any business case.

Voice, chat, email and social channels all require the use of different, soft skills, etiquette, and best practices. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that channel-blended agents will need additional training to be proficient and provide excellent customer experiences for every channel served, and this will increase upfront training costs.

It is well documented that multi-tasking makes people less productive and asking agents to switch from task to task has the same effect. So that increased efficiency we just talked about could be diluted or completely eradicated, with much depending upon the complexity of interaction/conversation. 

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