Blending Phone and Chat channels together

When Service Cloud Voice launched a couple of years ago it was a game-changing opportunity in so many ways.

There were a lot of problems that it solves for, particularly on the User experience and swivel chairing between the Phone system and the Agent Desktop, but an interesting one was that companies could now use one tool, Omni Channel, to receive all of their Phone Calls, Chats, Messages, and Cases in one place, potentially with one agent.

Traditional Contact Centers often look the same, a big Phone team with one set of tools, a Chat team with another, and a third group handling the Cases. It’s not uncommon for us as end customers to talk to a company on Web Chat and be told “we don’t have access to do that, please call the phone team” or “we only answer the phones between 9-5, please go to Chat to speak to somebody”.

But now I get a message every week from a company looking to do something different. Maybe it’s a smaller business with inconsistent volumes of Calls/Chats, or a multi-national with teams in a dozen languages struggling to double staff every specialism. Lots of reasons why people are trying this out.

It’s an interesting opportunity, but comes with challenges, so I thought I’d type up some thoughts.

Note: This post is focused on the Chat/Messaging and Phone use-case.
I typed up a previous post on having agents handle Cases alongside Phone or Chat with a new feature Interruptible Capacity which has just now gone to GA in Winter!

Key things to do

Starting with the basics, if we want to set our team up for success, there are some key tools that Service Cloud has built to make things easier. A few tips on the big ones you want to look at doing.

  1. Agent Experience
    • Create blended Presence Statuses
      • Add both the Messaging and Voice channels to a status, and now agents will be able to go online for both
    • Turn on Respect Agent Capacity
      • The Phone routing engine may not know that the Agent is busy working on something else,
    • Build a consistent Agent experience for the Messaging Session and Voice Call
      • A key way to ensure that agents don’t need to be trained twice on new features, and that customers get a consistent level of service, is to define the same or similar page layout for both channels. In Service Cloud most agent features, including Screen Pop, Contact Linking, Next Best Action, and others, are available in the same way for both channels.
  2. Supervisor Experience
    • Queue mapping and management
      • This lets supervisors manage the queue membership for all channels in one place, Omni Supervisor, without needing to switch back and forth between systems (a common reason for needing a separate phone and chat supervisor)
    • Omni Flows
      • A key benefit of this is that all queue volume data for calls and chats come into one tool, again letting a single supervisor manage all of the queues
    • Monitor and Flag Raise
      • Lastly, monitor the Calls and Chats inside Omni supervisor, and build the Flag Supervisor Alerts in one place for both channels

Success! Now you’re ready to get Agents started!!!!!

But what are the challenges?

Routing, Routing, Routing.

With most versions of Service Cloud Voice there are two routing engines in play, the Phone vendor for the calls, and Salesforce for everything else. This causes a few challenges that need thought through carefully.

1. Capacity Management

One of the big challenges is that one channel can end up blocking the other one, so that either your phone or chat solution stops accepting new inbound requests, as all agents are busy. Most often in Salesforce, this is caused by agents being able to handle multiple chats at once, but only one phone call.

Take a scenario with 10 agents who can all handle 2 chats each. 10 Chats come in and everybody gets one chat each. Then a Phone call comes in and nobody is free for it.

The contact center is only 50% utilised but the call can’t go anywhere.

If volumes are low enough then this isn’t that big of a problem, but if the queues for both are full then you can end up with Chats blocking the Phone Calls.

2. Agent History

When an Agent is on a Chat or a Case in Salesforce, the Telephony system doesn’t know about it. That can lead to a situation where the phone routing engine doesn’t know who most recently was busy when assigning the next call to them. At higher volumes this tends not to matter because everybody is busy, but when there aren’t many calls or chats coming in we can end up with one agent handling a chat and then a call, while the other agent doesn’t get anything.

Potential Solutions

Sub-groups of teams

One trick for success is to keep sub-teams within the group, so that the Chats stack on some agents, leaving others free to take the phone calls. This can be done using Additional Skills in Salesforce routing, and similar concepts in the Contact Center vendor for the Phone queues. It helps make sure that agents consistently receive the same type of work, while all being available for both.

By creating a simple ‘Chat’ skill we can set this up that inbound Chats look for that first before falling back to the wider group 5 seconds later, thus ensuring that agent capacity will get fully utilised.

External Routing

Some BYOT partners offer the ability to route Salesforce Chats in their system. This comes with a lot of complexity in and of itself. so not to be taken on lightly, but it can be an approach that lets us have a single priority list between the two channels.

Future Considerations – Unified Routing

Some BYOT Voice partners are running POC’s now of unified routing, allowing customers to do the end to end routing of Phone calls using Omni-Channel, which should help significantly with the above challenges.

We’re actively looking for customers interested in trying that out, so please reach out if you’d like to learn more!