The Hybrid Customer Contact Center

The Hybrid Customer Contact Center

In the last post, I talked about the Big Buckets. One bucket holds transactional (self-service) events. One contains interactional (live-agent) events. And the third is home to the hybrids: events that are both transactional and interactional.

That third bucket—let’s call it the blended bucket—could soon be the biggest bucket as more and more companies adopt an omnichannel approach to customer service, and interactions commonly move from self to assisted service, and even back again.. Today, contact center leaders still have a tendency to create rules that mandate a different customer experience based on whether the interaction was self-service or involved a live agent. But the blended bucket should contain events, mixing both into single interactions, with access to the same knowledge base and contextual information.

Live agent contact is going to diminish, but it’s never going away. It’s time to start thinking about how to integrate self-service with live agent assistance so that the customer experience is seamless across all channels.

The Enduring Need for Live Agents

There are three primary reasons why live agents will always be a necessity.

  1. Complexity

Sometimes the customer need is too involved or requires special knowledge and skill, to be handled without live help. I might, for instance, be able to buy a laptop on my own, but I may not understand how to diversify my stock portfolio (though investment management companies have made great strides in self-service apps too). Sometimes the inquiry inherently has complications—explaining why an insurance claim was denied can involve answering a series of very specific and unstructured questions; here, knowledge bases can’t stand alone.

  1. Compliance

There are cases where law or policy prohibits a customer from doing something without agent participation. That may even mean that you must handle some matters in person (as is the case for many government agencies such as state DMVs and Social Security). Banks are another example. You can open an account, online or via mobile, without live agent participation, but many institutions require that you work with a representative when closing an account because of “hidden” fees or complicated processes.

  1. Customer

Procedures are simplified. Regulations shift and relax. But customers are constants—their need for the assurance, confidence, and comfort of live agent support will never go away. They may want the certainty that comes from a live agent telling them their flight status or helping them track down a check amount—or a range of actions that some customers just don’t want to do on their own.

Technology Today Supports the Blended Bucket

Here are three things that will make the blended bucket easy to fill and to fulfill.

  1. Focus your investment

As you continue to improve your contact center technology across the board, focus your investments on those areas where your industry and your own experience tell you where customers want to solve problems themselves and where live agent assistance is almost always required. Then adopt technology that provides an abstraction layer across these channels so that interactions are handled consistently and seamlessly from self-service to assisted service. Modern contact center solutions allow you to purchase and deploy the precise feature set that fits your customers’ blended service profiles.

  1. Move to the Cloud

One of the key reasons this type of blended approach is possible is because of the Cloud. With contact center applications and infrastructure moving more and more toward the service model, the ability to quickly deploy new functionality and features is an advantage of a Cloud-based offering.

  1. Embrace an Omnichannel Approach

That’s what will tie everything together—agent, customer and communication channels. Omnichannel technologies let you reach the customer across whichever channel—live or self-serve—is most appropriate for the task at hand. Someone buying a new insurance policy, for instance, can fill out the forms online, then connect through chat or telephone with an agent for verification and validation, and then move to a mobile app to make the payment. Omnichannel provides this fluidity, as well as the context and history, as customers move across and between self-service and live agent interactions.