The first place I would start would be to do an assessment of your agents and determine which agents have the skills necessary to handle different or multiple types of contacts. The skills required to handle each contact type are different. Here is a brief summary.
Voice Calls - The agent must have a pleasant voice and be able to communicate well. They need to have excellent listening skills. Remember, on a call an agent must listen, listen some more, talk, listen and listen again. You get the idea.
Emails - The agent must be able to write well and must either be a competent speller or be forced to use the spell checker. The company must also be willing to trust the agent to put things in writing and make written commitments on behalf of the company. Remember, with email, there is a document trail.
Text Chat - The agent must be a proficient typist. You cannot have agents chatting with customers if it takes the agent 5 minutes to type in 3 sentences. Depending on your customer demographics, your agents may need to be fluent in the abbreviations used in Instant Messaging, especially by teenagers. Make sure you provide clear guidelines for your agents on the use of Emoticons [ :-) ;-< ]. Also, the use of capitalization is significant. THIS IS NORMALLY INTERPRETED AS YELLING.
Web Co-Browsing - The skills required here are very dependant on how the web is used by your customers. If most of the co-browsing is performed in your company's web site, your agents need to be very knowledgeable about your site and where to find the appropriate information.
Now that you have assessed each agent and determined which skills they are strong in, you need to determine if you are going to require them to combine these skills. Are you going to require your agents to handle multiple contacts simultaneously? Will they be required to handle multiple different contacts at the same time? If so, you will need to provide significant training and role playing exercises so the agents can become comfortable in that environment.
As far as the technology side of this project is concerned, a different assessment is required. This time the assessment is of your network and communications infrastructure.
For example, if you're going to have several agents co-browsing the web with customers, you need to ensure sufficient network bandwidth for the agents. Especially if your website is hosted off-premise. If your agents use the Internet to reach your company website, they are competing with the rest of the world for Internet bandwidth.
Email is a different issue. If you are going to use email as a communications medium for customers, you will want to ensure that if a customer attaches a 5MB file to an email, your email server will accept that email and not rejected it.
Managing voice contacts through your e-contact center opens the door to nearly limitless possibilities as far as how you manage your HR assets and where you can physically locate them. Most highly functional e-contact center solutions that manage voice do so by converting traditional telephone calls to IP packets that are transmitted over the data network. Naturally, you will need to assess what upgrades, if any, are necessary to handle VoIP within your contact center.
I hope this gives you some ideas or at least provides some areas for you to investigate. Good Luck!
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This was first published in October 2001