Contact centers are finding themselves in an increasingly omnichannel world where there are many ways for customers to find assistance and resolve an issue.
From self-service to chatbots and email to social media, customers can choose the channel that works best for them, leading to better customer experience overall.
With these digital channels on the rise, it may seem like the agent doesn’t have a significant role in the omnichannel customer journey.
But agents are still crucial to customer experience. Here’s why.
First off, customers still want to talk to agents.
Unlike other channels, the voice channel requires a lot of investment—in both technology and human resources—to run smoothly.
Due to this, more and more contact centers have been adopting omnichannel customer service, recognizing that a multi-channel strategy can reduce costs by downsizing the voice channel and bringing in less expensive digital channels.
But is a digital-first strategy what customers want?
“Over the last several years, companies are pushing a digital-first strategy, saying that customers demand self-service, which is not necessarily true. There are customers who still want to pick up the phone.”
—Matt Beckwith, Director of Customer Service at FELLERS
Customers want to interact with agents. When given the option to select from multiple channels, many customers still choose to talk to an agent to resolve their problem, making agents critical to the omnichannel journey.
Plus, agents are especially important to customers when they become aggravated or confused by self-service or other channels. When frustrated with technology, customers just want to talk to someone who understands their problem—and who can get to the bottom of it quickly.
But customer preference is not the only reason why agents have a key role in the omnichannel journey.
Agents have the skills to solve complex customer issues.
Digital channels are powered by systems like artificial intelligence or robotic process automation, but these technologies are designed to complete specific tasks, not handle a variety of customer issues.
“AI’s capabilities are still defined as narrow intelligence. And this technology might not significantly or fundamentally improve over the next decade, so free-flowing conversation will remain beyond its capabilities.”
—Stephen Loynd, Founder of TrendzOwl
It’s going to require much more time and innovation to make AI broadly applicable to most customer problems. If contact centers use AI for more than what it’s currently capable of, they will see a drop in customer satisfaction and a loss of revenue.
So until technology becomes more advanced, you need agents to drive your revenue. When given the right training and tools, agents can resolve the most complicated issues by relying on higher reasoning and problem-solving skills. That makes them a crucial part of the omnichannel customer journey.
Agents can empathize with customers. Digital channels can’t.
There’s a very real need for agents in the omnichannel customer journey. And that’s because digital channels are years behind replicating the nuances and complexities of human conversation and emotion.
While technology can comprehend what it’s programmed to, it can’t converse naturally with customers or offer them genuine compassion.
Agents provide judgment, empathy, and emotional intelligence, all of which are necessary to properly understand and solve customer matters while preventing frustration, anger, and other negative emotions.
Customers want to feel heard and understood. And agents give them that.
“If you don’t have AI that can reason and empathize yet, you’re going to have to rely on a human being. Not just for the CX, but for the employee experience as well.”
—Stephen Loynd, Founder of TrendzOwl
How can we support agents as they navigate the omnichannel customer journey?
- Give agents background on each customer’s journeyWhen agents receive an issue, they need to be informed of the customer’s previous interactions with other channels to avoid repeating the same conversations and delaying a resolution.
Contact centers must develop a method that clearly provides agents with the right important information so they can swiftly take over and solve the matter.
- Prevent channel switching
It’s essential to guide customers to the best channel for their particular situation.If speaking to a live agent is the best course of action for a customer, then there’s no need to engage with them over email or chat. This only makes the agent’s job more difficult once they’re handed the problem.
Remove excess channel switching from the omnichannel journey to improve both agent and customer experience.
The agent’s role in the omnichannel customer journey is here to stay.
As the omnichannel customer journey evolves, agents will remain fundamental to achieving customer satisfaction.
So contact centers need to seamlessly integrate the agent’s role with their digital channels to see future success.
See how Vistio can help you optimize your agents.