Live from NCOF: Web Orders and Phone Orders in the Contact Center

Orlando, FL—Multichannel merchants are reporting that Internet sales account for as much as two-thirds of their overall business. Last year alone online consumer spending increased 24%, to $82.3 billion from $66.5 billion in 2004. This shift, while good for overall business, is putting pressure on contact centers, said Joseph “Tocky” Lawrence, vice president of Richmond, VA-based operations consultancy F. Curtis Barry and Co., during his Tuesday session, “Managing The Balancing Act: Internet Orders and Phone Orders in the Contact Center.”

For example, the standard 80/20 rule—answering 80% of calls in 20 seconds—is becoming the “70/20” rule, with only 70% of calls being answered in 20 seconds. Thirty seconds to handle calls is becoming acceptable, Lawrence said, as many merchants see their level of telephonic orders decline.

But just because more customers are shopping online doesn’t mean they still don’t need to talk with someone on occasion—for additional product or delivery information, for example. This has led some merchants to turn to universal agents: customer service representatives who can handle a variety of contact points, such as answering phones, responding to e-mails, and participating in live chat.

It’s all too easy to overload these universal agents, however. Lawrence warned against having an agent handle live chat and answer phones at the same time, to avoid burnout. It’s better to have one agent perform two or three chat sessions simultaneously than to juggle multiple channels at the same time.