Have you ever…
Been on your phone shopping for something, had a question — relieved that the company offers chat — only to quickly become exasperated because the agent takes forever to respond to your parts of the conversation? Or, worse, find out they are not really trained in the products their company is selling?
Received an email promoting a sale and responded back with a question, only to find out that your reply is “undeliverable” or the company takes forever to get back you?
You are not alone.
Whether it’s chat or our old buddy email, ecommerce in general is often shockingly tone deaf when it comes to different online sales scenarios that are becoming a critical part of a digital channels deployment strategy.
Certainly, deploying software for online sales correctly is step one. But another important step that many etailers and online businesses miss is taking a close look at a few of the organizational issues that might be getting in the way of them executing a successful digital commerce practice.
Here are some key Do’s and Don’t for any online business that wants to see sales success.
Don’t Neglect Training Needs
Having drawn out conversations over chat or email that ping pong back and forth over the course of many iterations are inarguably inefficient and costly. Agent training is the X factor in this case. Digital channels (i.e. chat and email management) have their roots in customer service. If you enable these channels for sales situations as part of your ecommerce strategy, but fail to provide adequate training for agents, you are destined for inefficient and ineffective digital interaction.
The companies that get it right are giving their digital agents the same amount of sales training that they invest into in-store sales associates – making them product and brand experts. This allows them to answer the questions the right way in the first response, thereby minimizing the back and forth. Besides, with both email and chat, an associate is able to maximize productivity by having multiple conversations at once.
Do Route Digital Conversations based on Skill
This is an area that companies who are relatively experienced with digital channels still don’t put enough organization and effort into and that is a recipe for seeing your sales and productivity die a slow death. One of the great benefits of encouraging customers to interact with you via chat and email is that agents can handle multiple interactions at once, which is exactly what you want to do to maximize both sales impact and productivity.
Unfortunately, a lot of this newfound productivity can be undone when reps handle multiple types of chat and email interactions simultaneously. It is very common that as an agent builds up his or her experience, he or she will take on more of a “jack-of-all-trades” role: handling sales, service, and anything in between engagements, simultaneously. And they do all this simply because they have the accumulated brand, product, and tribal knowledge to do so. This is a trap. Different types of customer inquiries require different mindsets and have different workflows.
- Sales Interactions: often these are short: customers want to clarify product information, get advice in terms of picking a product or service, clarify shipping, and return policies.
- Service Interactions: These can also be short, but in many cases they can be longer interactions that require customer purchase history research, in-depth technical discussions, escalations, and coordination with 3rd parties.
If reps handle both types of interactions at the same time, performance of both may suffer. You may find that your agents can’t have as many chats on the sales side. And, concurrency (handling more than one simultaneous interaction) just doesn’t work for your business or brand. Sales interactions won’t get that speedy, highly responsive attention that they require because the rep may also be bogged down in an in depth technical discussion. Service interactions can get longer and may not be as efficient as the agent is distracted with sales chats. Routing based on skill can therefore allow:
- A higher level of interaction concurrency especially when dealing with short, quick, sales interactions where responsiveness is key.
- Quicker resolution of service related incidents (service folks should have their own queue perhaps with a lower number of concurrent interactions).
- Streamlined training for agents. You may may be able to get agents ramped-up and able to take interactions faster if they only need to be competent within a single skillset.
And as for those valuable jack-all-trade agents who’ve seen it all? They may be tier-two agents to whom other interactions are escalated. Another good idea may be to place them into one skill at a time and move them around to others as volumes in different skills shift. But be wary of letting them take-on multiple skills at once, when a high level of concurrency is important.
Now that you’re on your way to maximizing your sales impact with skills-based routing, let’s get to our “Cherry-on-top” subject that brings this altogether.
Do Blend Agents across Channels for the Ultimate Digital Engagement Win
Do not blend phone and chat, or phone and email agents as phone skill sets are very different from typing skill sets, and there just isn’t a compelling ROI to support that kind of blending. Rather, maximize sales and productivity by blending the typing skill sets of chat and email agents. Unlike the previous two topics, this one has software solution implications in addition to the operational ones.
Two things, besides software, that this best practice requires is to have a very active supervisor who is aware of the ebb and flow of chat and email traffic throughout the day, as well as the ability to have agents that are crossed trained on both typing skills: email and chat.
Chat volume in particular has peaks and valleys throughout the course of a day, and despite our best efforts when it comes to scheduling, there are going to be times when at least some of your chat agents are sitting idle waiting for a chat to come in — unless of course your digital channels solution has the ability to seamlessly blend both chat and email. If it does, then you will know that you can have your system push emails to those agents that do not have live chats going. It’s a simple thing that has beautiful outcome: maximum utilization per head, which leads to maximum sales impact.
Never Lose Sight of the Important Role Supervisors Play
Supervisors have always played an important role, and it isn’t any different when it comes to digital engagement. They will just need to be able to pay attention to the volumes as chats ramp back up to a peak, because if everyone is dealing with peak chats, then emails are not going to get answered. At this point the supervisor will need to step in and move groups of agents – perhaps those coming onto or leaving a shift to focus on email so that responses can be managed within the appropriate service level. In short, blend when chat volumes are lower, and dedicate some agents to email when chat reaches sustained peaks.
In the end, getting the biggest sales bang for your digital engagement buck is all about giving your customers access to their (not your) preferred digital channel and when they want it, and then, delivering those interactions to the right agent so that the proper response can be given as fast as possible and with the fewest agents idle.
Brian Strauss is Vice President of Worldwide Field Engineering at Moxie