The call center has undergone a drastic transformation in the past decade. More and more, call centers are becoming customer contact centers, where customer service agents provide support over a variety of channels – phone, email, live chat, and social.
However, most contact centers have added each new channel separately, with a separate software solution for each separate channel. To make matters worse, CRM integration with these solutions can be inconsistent. Since the average consumer now routinely uses 3+ customer service channels, this requires agents to juggle multiple windows to get the information they need to resolve the customer’s issue.
Just how bad is this issue? According to SBR, “In one Rapid Ethnographic study of a call center, SBR found that agents migrated between an average of two computer screens and seven different windows during a single call!”.
It’s no surprise, then, that contact centers have started identifying multi-tasking as one of the key skills that they test for when hiring new contact center agents. Unfortunately, this approach overlooks the fact that requiring workers to rapidly switch between tasks is detrimental to productivity, contact center agent morale, and the ability of agents to provide the support customers need.
The research is in: multi-tasking reduces productivity and makes us less resilient
In a world where we all carry the internet in our pockets, distraction and multi-tasking have become the new normal. Unfortunately, research is quite conclusive that regardless of self-perception of skill with multi-tasking, humans are bad at task-switching; when people try to multi-task, they only end up making more mistakes. MIT neuroscientist and researcher Earl Miller explains: “When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so”.
In other words, switching tasks takes both time and mental effort. Increasing the frequency of switching, or the complexity of the tasks being juggled results in more time lost and mental resources spent. So while task-switching feels efficient, in reality it causes mistakes, exhausts workers, and wastes time. According to research, time lost to task-switching can amount to a staggering 40% loss of productivity! Task-switching is also inherently stressful, leading to higher levels of frustration, mental exhaustion, and overall feeling of time pressure – which are all detrimental to an agent’s ability to provide empathetic customer service.
The solution: eliminate the need for window-switching
The challenge of needing to provide omnichannel customer service isn’t going to go away; the customer service landscape is only going to grow more complex. In order to rise to the challenge, contact centers need to provide agents with a consolidated interface that ties all customer service channels into one platform with built-in CRM integration – so that every aspect of customer service can be handled through a single interface – eliminating task-switching delays and leading to increased productivity and improved agent morale.