Posts Tagged ‘email’

Multichannel communication: email vs. chat vs. phone

Posted on: May 11th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

In today’s ever-changing world people can choose from many means of communication, depending on what is most convenient for them at the time. In the world of call centers, while telephone conversations, emails, and instant chat messages all meet the purpose of connecting a customer with a call center operator in order to receive professional support, different situations may require different types of communication.

Some people prefer the immediacy of a phone call conversation, others prefer the comfort of emails. There is no single channel that can meet the expectations of all your customers, but what can you do to keep in touch with your clients efficiently, but still stay focused and not open too many channels that only scatter your operational processes? Should you expand your communication channels and add a chat service to your phone and email support lines? Or maybe try to deal with more of those incoming email enquiries via phone conversations instead?

As there is no perfect solution to these questions, we offer here an overview of some of the benefits and disadvantages these communication channels possibilities bring, hoping this will in turn help you make the best choice for your call center. Read our article, and discover whether email, chat or phone is the best communication channel for your call center.

 

Email

Is email a communication channel of the past? Definitely not, as we already discussed it here. Without doubt, email is an essential mean of multichannel communication. The appeal of email is well known to both call centers and customers, and has been appreciated by both sides for years.

For customers, writing an email when they have time to properly focus on it, and reading the answer once they decide to do so themselves, gives them control over the tempo of the communication. However, it also increases the risk of miscommunication, and on the call center operators side the potential for misunderstanding the customer’s issue and/or questions. Here are some further advantages and disadvantages of email communication:

+   No immediate response required: for either the customer or the operator handling the incoming email queue. As there is usually an accepted SLA rule at each call center, this allows operators to take their time when answering, and customers to take their time when acknowledging a reply.

+   Keeping a copy of the communication: while call centers can record and keep copies of phone conversations, customers rarely have this opportunity and are breaching the law if they make unauthorised recordings. Emails, however, give both parties a written trace of the communication, which is particularly useful if there are disputes later on.

+   Convenience and time: while getting in touch with an operator and having a conversation over the phone is only possible during a call center’s opening times, email is not restricted by working hours. This can be especially useful if you have to take into account time differences between states and countries.

       Long queues and expectations: while it is true that operators do not necessarily have to answer emails immediately, this can lead to an accumulation of long email queues, which slow down operators work. And the longer a customer waits for an answer, the more thorough and exhaustive they expect the answer to be, in which case receiving a pre-created template or short, unclear message from the operator will not be happily received.

       No potential for clarifying questions: often an operator needs to ask clarifying questions in order to fully understand a customer’s issue, which is much harder when communicating via email. This may mean several messages are exchanged back and forth before the issue becomes clear, leading to an unsatisfied customer and a decrease in the operator’s First Contact Resolution KPI.

       Lack of empathy and emotion: we have all experience of how the written word cannot always clearly convey our emotions. This is why it is easy to misinterpret or overlook the frustration of a customer. If operators are not able to read a customer’s emotions between the lines, they can easily provide a reply that further damages the customer’s already fragile mood.

 

Chat

Chat is fast becoming the ’next big thing’ in multichannel communication, with instant messaging windows popping up on more and more company websites. It’s gaining wider popularity and as such more attention in the call center industry, especially since the younger generation and millennials seem to prefer texting so much more than actual conversations over the phone. Also, as we already talked about it in a previous blog post, when used properly, it can even help you boost your sales. So why is chat so popular?

+   Smaller queues, less waiting: instant messaging is not called instant for nothing, because, as opposed to email, it allows customers to get in touch with call center operators instantaneously and easily. Furthermore, in comparison to emails, chat allows operators to ask clarifying questions which help them understand the problem better and provide the needed support, thus helping to achieve a better First Contact Resolution KPI, and better customer satisfaction.

+   Proactivity and sales support: while calls and emails are usually reactive (meaning that operators respond to communication initiated by customers), chat can be used as a proactive means of communication. Customers browsing through a webpage can be contacted directly and offered both help in finding what they need, and information about other products or services and sales and promotional packages, thus helping to boost sales results.

+   Multitasking: chat allows operators to browse and look for supporting information while chatting with a customer, without the need to mute the line and leave the customer listening to hold music or an awkward silence. Furthermore, while an operator can only handle one phone call at a time, chat allows operators to handle up to an average of three chats at the same time, making it a very cost efficient solution.

       Written communication lacks emotion: just as with emails and written communication in general, one of the drawbacks with chat is the inability to clearly read people’s emotions. Unfortunately, even though chat is a more convenient way to communicate using writing, the danger of misreading a customer’s emotions is still applicable.

       Speed of writing: while it is true that instant messages are faster than emails, typing is still not as fast as a spoken conversation would be. While the customer receives a reply within moments, some people type slower than they speak, meaning that delays in replying are still possible, especially if chat traffic is heavy.

       The traps of scripting: a large number of customers reacts badly to scripted replies and message templates. While well-developed FAQ pages offer help for operators to find the right answer and information quickly, it can also be a trap. If agents start copying and pasting replies to customer questions without fully understanding the customer’s needs and updating the template answer to make it more personal, this can have a negative result on customer satisfaction.

 

Phone

As the foundation of call and call centers, telephones are probably still the most preferred and used way to contact customer care centres. They allow immediate contact and two-way communication, which is invaluable when trying to solve an issue effectively (read our pro tips on how to handle incoming calls in a professional way). However, a long time spent waiting in line for someone to take a customer’s call, complicated IVRs, or being put on hold one too many times can easily lead to customer frustration rather than the feeling of achievement.

+   Feelings and empathy: as mentioned above, it is hard to convey or read emotions in written communication. This is where phone support provides the greatest help for operators in both reading and handling customer’s emotions. Hearing the tone of voice, attitude and urgency in a customer’s voice can help an operator adjust to the customer’s emotional state and communication style.

+   Average Handling Time: people speak faster than they write. While it is true operators can handle more than one chat session at the same time, phone conversations can be handled quickly and easily, with the right scripts and FAQ platforms providing help. This allows agents to achieve very good results in their Average Talking Time KPI per call. Furthermore, phone calls are still the fastest way for customers to ask a question and receive the support they need.

+   One call, one immediate resolution: having a phone conversation provides the best possibility to discuss an issue thoroughly and to immediately provide/receive the needed support. It not only make it possible to ask clarifying questions, it also allows customers to follow step-by-step instructions from operators and give immediate feedback about the effectiveness of a solution, which means this is still the best way to achieve high First Contact Resolution KPI results.

       The Age of Millennials: while the phone is still one of the most preferred communication channels at the moment, this will most probably change in the near future. With young people today having constant access to mobile devices, and millennials seemingly preferring to type and text rather than call, phone calls’ popularity is quickly dropping among the younger generation.

       “Please hold the line”: a phrase that puts off a lot of people when speaking with a call center operator. While agents can look up information quickly in written text and then copy paste it in a chat window without asking for a customer to be patient, during a phone call the operator always needs to ask for the customer to wait until they find the needed information.

       Unreliable phone lines: even with today’s advanced technology, it is not unusual to experience problems in the telephone line or voice quality, not to mention the intrusion of background noise that can be experienced at either the customer’s or operator’s end.

 

These days, multichannel communication offers a number of possibilities, so no matter which communication channel you use, you will always be able to achieve the main task it is meant to serve – to connect a customer with a call center operator. But one size does not fit all when it comes to call center solutions. Picking the right type of communication channel is of the utmost importance for your call center, and requires careful thought.

In some cases, a call center can work perfectly by following the “less is more” principle and using only one or two channels. In other cases, however, the principle of “the more, the merrier” will be more appropriate, meaning more communication channels leading to happier customers. The decision of what’s right for you is still yours, but the good news is: whatever choice you make, the call center industry is ready for it.

Is email a communication channel of the past?

Posted on: June 7th, 2017 by viktorvarga No Comments

Technology today allows people to choose from a vast array of communication channels. We have more possibilities than ever before to express ourselves and communicate to others. So do we still need email?

A few years ago, we used telephones only to make calls and our personal computers to write emails, today’s smartphones and other state-of-the-art devices allow us to switch between multiple communication channels effortlessly and conveniently. Instant text and voice messages, chat, email, video calls, and social media give us the power to choose how we wish to communicate, depending on our mood, time of day, and the type of message we wish to share. This array of possibilities is also reflected in the business world, where, more often than not, customers are the ones who dictate how and when they want to interact with organisations. And, contrary to what you might think, many of them still prefer using email as their communication tool of choice.

Email is not dead!

Even though email is often thought of as less effective and popular than, for example, social media, it is still a communication channel that seems to be of great importance to many. In regard to the contact centre world, according to some of the latest research on the topic, approximately one third of people still prefer contacting customer service contact centres via email. While telephone support is often limited by practicalities such as working hours and how busy telephone lines are, email gives customers the opportunity to send an enquiry and come back to the reply at their own convenience. However, this can also have a negative result if the response to a customer email is below customer expectations, with the overall performance of the contact centre being perceived as poor, even if all other communication channels used by the centre work effectively. Because of this, and for many other reasons, it is worth putting a large amount of effort into providing seamless email support to your customers.

When is email the best choice?

While it is clear that phone calls are still the most effective means of communication for contact centres, there are cases in which email can provide better results, or even boost the efficiency of your contact centre. Here are a few situations when sending a written message is advantageous to a phone conversation:

  • Sales and offers: customers often get in touch with contact centres to request information about a product or service. While a phone call is the perfect way to answer a customer’s questions immediately, a follow-up email with a personalised offer after a conversation can be a great way to keep the customer’s focus on the product or service, and boost potential sales.
  • Detailed step-by-step information: every technical support agent knows it can take a long time to guide users through product or software enquiries over the phone. Sending step-by-step help in an email can save time and energy, and also allows customers the chance to refer back to these emails in the future, instead of calling again.
  • Attaching files and screenshots: timely and competent technical support often requires a screenshot or picture of the experienced issue. It is undeniable that email is still the most reliable and easiest way to attach a picture, screenshot or any other visual material that helps describe an issue.
  • Paper trail of communication: it is important for both contact centre agents (especially when dealing with complaint handling) and customers to keep a written trace of communications and exchanged information, both for future reference and proof of what was said.
  • Better quality of service: providing a perfect answer requires time, which, with a customer waiting at the other end of the line, is what you don’t always have during a phone call. In sensitive cases, email can be a better communication tool, as it gives enough time for careful phrasing. It is also useful if you need to provide clear and high-quality technical descriptions and information.

So, how can you improve your email communications?

No one is better aware than yourself of the elements that make up the knowledge and experience within your company, but knowledge in itself is not enough if not shared effectively and clearly with the people who need it. Even if you feel you already successfully handle communication with your customers, there is always something that can be improved and made even better. Here are three tips which we believe make an immediate, positive impact on email communications in your contact centre:

  • Keep track of contact and issue history: this allows agents to identify customers and know whether they have previously been in contact with other agents in the company regarding the same issue – offering a customer a solution that has already failed to help will not be very productive use of your agents’ time. A good software solution can also help agents see whether another colleague is already working on the issue, thus avoiding duplicate responses.
  • Acknowledgement emails: sending an automatic acknowledgement message reassures customers that they will subsequently receive prompt, high-quality service. It provides a personal touch to your communication, and makes a positive impression on customers, who feel they are being taken care of and focussed on.
  • SLA: deciding on strict SLA rules and keeping to them is of key importance to any contact centre dealing with incoming emails. It is important for customers to know how long it will normally take for an agent to answer their enquiry. This is something which can easily be integrated into the automated acknowledgement message mentioned above.

Old-fashioned as it may seem, email is still a communication channel with a lot of positive aspects, and it should not be ignored. Whether it is because customers don’t have the time or are not in the mood for a phone call, or because it is easier to send large amounts of factual information and files in a written communication, email will always be relevant to the contact centre communication mix. With a few easy tricks it can be turned to your advantage, and help you to not only meet your customers’ expectations, but also boost customer loyalty and interest in your products and services.

We will focus again on the importance of email in an article about KPIs to be published soon. Keep an eye out for it!

Contact-center solutions and innovation in the spotlight

Posted on: May 10th, 2017 by viktorvarga No Comments

Meet your VCC Live team at the XIII. Statewide Contact Center Conference in Sümeg, Hungary.

Great results are achieved when the biggest and most creative minds in any field gather together to exchange experience and inspiration. This is one of the main motivators behind the XIII. Statewide Contact Center Conference organised in Sümeg, Hungary between the 24th and 26th of May. Organised for the 13th time, this conference gives home to the biggest names in the field of customer care and contact center services, and grants the opportunity to exchange experience and showcase the latest trends in the business. As usual, the focus falls on innovation and the future of contact center solutions. VCC Live is looking forward to actively participating in this year’s conference not only as Diamond-Level Supporters together with OTP Mobil, but also with two presentations about our newest developments and innovative solutions.

In this year’s event VCC Live will hit the stage twice. Make sure you don’t miss Szabolcs Tóth’s presentation about the possibilities presented by VCC Live Pay, based on a case study on debt handling, and our joint presentation together with dr. Gáber Al-Absi Seif, representing SimplePay, about the holistic combination of contact-center and payment solutions. Stay tuned for further updates about our participation in this year’s conference and the topics we have prepared for you!

For further information about the XIII. Statewide Contact Center Conference and our participation visit the following webpage (or follow us on any of our social channels): http://www.piacesprofit.hu/2017-ugyfelszolgalati-konferencia/

We look forward to seeing you in Sümeg!

Contact center – multichannel communication in customer care – part 1

Posted on: September 2nd, 2015 by tszabi No Comments

The seamless communication between a company and its customer is the key for a successful business. In normal circumstances keeping contact with customers, solving problems and complaints are always a necessity. If the company takes time and money to provide quality customer communication, this investment returns in happy and satisfied customers – and, of course, in high profits.

Trends and challenges
According to experts, the content of our message scores only 20% in understanding, the way we deliver it, how we shape and transmit it gives the rest 80%. So it is utmost important the type of communication used in customer contact. A company should not only deliver the message to its customers, he also has to listen to them. Best is to proactively anticipate the arising customer questions or complaints.
Personal and written customer communication was a usual form of customer contact, but nowadays electronic communication is used more frequently. To shortly summarise past years trends, we highlight the following:

  • Mobile is first! — Due to past years technological developments mobile devices are the primary tools of official, business and everyday communication
  • Unified service processes — Customers expect single contact service during customer care, they don’t want to call different departments – process management delivers this seamless experience
  • Proactive customer contact – Is expected from customers, but companies discovered, that it is also beneficial to them to actively involve customers in their processes
  • Using feedback – Companies handled with care customer feedback in the past, but technological developments made easily to perfect customer care based on feedback
  • Spreading of SaaS — More and more organisations turn to software-as-a-service solutions
  • Strong demand for multichannel services – Although the voice remains the main communication channel, more and more people expect self-service channels, sms, chat or email. Usually a customer interaction started on one channel is continued or finished on another