Can one agent handle telephone, e-mail, and chat inquries? And is that even a good idea? That depends on the communication skills you evaluated your agents on prior to hiring them and/or any additional training you have provided them since. Verbal and written communication skills are two distinct competencies, and being well-versed in one doesn’t necessarily guarantee success in the other. If you evaluated your prospective employees in both areas prior to hiring them, review these initial hiring records to determine your staff’s level of proficiency. If you are screening and hiring policies evaluated only one element, now’s the time to step back and evaluate your expectations and needs. You can begin the evaluation process by updating your job description and aligning the appropriate competencies and processes to ensure optimal results. Remember, you are changing your expectations of the agents already working with you, and you will need to develop a transition plan for agents that don’t want to handle multiple access channels. Our studies show that some agents preferred the “real time” component and pace of a phone call vs. the delayed communication of e-mail. Not only is skill a factor, but also managers should take preferences into consideration. With targeted training and the right tools (e.g., e-mail templates for commonly asked questions, a knowledge database, transaction monitoring, contact routing), the majority of your agents should be able to support both functions. Whether this is the most efficient means of resource allocation for your contact center is another question altogether.
Kathryn Jackson is founder of Ocean City, NJ-based contact center consultancy Response Design Corp.