April 1, 2004, 12:00 AM

With customer service, good talkers aren’t always good writers

Retailers must make sure they are matching the right call center rep with the right response mechanism, call center consultants caution.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

 

Some online customers may love the immediacy of live chat customer service, but retailers must make sure they are matching the right call center rep with the right response mechanism, call center consultants caution. “Writing is very different from talking on the phone,” says Anne G. Nickerson, president of consultants Call Center Coach.

Because people put more faith in written word than spoken, especially in communications with companies, “Errors in written communications are magnified exponentially,” Nickerson says. Further, unless a rep engages in web-based support on a regular basis, the rep may not be as productive responding via chat or e-mail as on the phone. “You’ve really got to get your best people on the web,” Nickerson advises.

As a result, many contact centers assign reps to one area or the other. “Typically, the same agent does not handle calls, e-mail, and web chat,” says Jon Anton, director of research and founder of BenchmarkPortal and director of benchmark research at Purdue University’s Center for Customer-Driven Quality. “These are specialized skills.”

In addition to requiring different skills, the web changes how a call center operates in other ways, Nickerson cautions. For one thing, most call centers do not have enough experience in e-mail or live chat workload to know how to schedule staff properly. They know the ebb and flow of phone calls but not of web-based communication. “Many experience huge volume in the evening and even late in the evening after people get home from work or after the kids are in bed,” Nickerson says. “It’s a different volume from calls.”

 

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