Omnichannel Experience and Agent Blending

As companies embrace omnichannel operations to modernize their contact centers, the question of blending arises. Specifically, they ask if it’s reasonable to have agents handle more than one media. The answer is that it depends on what you mean by blending — and on why you want to blend.

This blog post lays out the options and questions to ask when deciding which techniques make sense for your organization.

Defining Blending

From my clients, I see four variants on the definition of blending.

  • Omnichannel agents: Handle different types of work during the day.
  • Multitasking agents: Typical models in this space are multiple simultaneous chats/messages or agents who select from a pool of emails/tasks.
  • Backup agents: Handle work that is behind, for example, back-office workers take phone calls during peak times.
  • Multimodal agents: Support conversations that use different channels simultaneously. Examples are when chat escalates to voice or when an email confirmation is sent during a messaging conversation.

Each type has different considerations. However, for many companies, all of these styles of blending exist in the contact center. Don’t panic, that’s OK. There often are multiple models because there are multiple reasons for blending.

Why Companies Blend

Blending can improve different measures. Considering what measure(s) you want to improve leads you to the different types of blending you want to implement. Here are common reasons.

  • Employee experience: work diversity
    • This driver applies to a culture or an employee population that enjoys having variety in their day — not all the same type of work, not all the same media. Even if you haven’t traditionally done this, it might be a way to improve employee engagement.
    • Blending style: omnichannel agents
  • Efficiency: more staff to route to
    • Contact centers are driven by the law of large numbers. Targeting a larger agent pool by including blended agents (e.g., all your chat and email agents together) versus simply using dedicated agents improves the speed of answer.
    • Blending style: omnichannel agents, backup agents
  • Efficiency: optimize staff occupancy
    • The laws of math mean that having enough staff available for low-volume work results in lower occupancy for that staff. Blending is a way to fill those gaps in time.
    • Blending style: omnichannel agents, multi-tasking agents
  • Customer experience: same agents regardless of channel
    • There are a couple ways to understand this driver. One is in the world of personal agents. For customers who have someone they directly work with, being able to have that relationship regardless of channel reinforces the association. Another perspective is where the knowledge required to do the work is the same regardless of the communication media. Therefore, the agent is selected for their skill in performing the task.
    • Blending style: omnichannel agents
  • Customer experience: multimodal conversations
    • Multimodal communication takes communication style one step further, allowing a customer to communicate in multiple ways without having to switch who they are talking with or having to repeat information. This is key to frictionless engagement.
    • Blending style: Multimodal agents

Your reasons will guide your models.

Omnichannel and Blending — Tying It Together

Blending your agents across media channels powers an omnichannel customer experience — and that’s what your customers want. Successful blending requires an infrastructure that supports omnichannel measurement, agent tools for easier operations, and a people strategy to identify, support and reward blended agents. Selecting your tools and your approach is based on how you want to blend, why you want to blend and how you’ll support your staff.

Stay tuned for techniques on how to implement blending in the modern contact. And to learn why building an omnichannel contact center is a good investment, read “Building the business case for an omnichannel contact center.”

*  Special thanks to my teammate Craig Wilson for his contributions on this topic.

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