Combining CRMs with Voice and Chat Support into a Single Pane of Glass

With customer service representatives increasingly cross-trained in call and chat handling, why should they have to work in two tools where a single tool would do?
Project Overview
With the ascendency of chat-based support and the ubiquity of phone-based support, customer service representatives (CSRs) have increasingly been cross-trained to handle customer interactions through both voice of chat. Maintaining separate user access, security, product release schedules, and code bases just stopped making sense. So I was tasked with overseeing the design and development of a new tool which would combine both channels into a single user interface—all while integrating with our new CRM platform.
Project Details
  • Timeline: May2019 through March 2020
  • My Role: Design and Dev Manager
  • Related Topics: Chat, Voice, Call Centers, Agent Tools, CRM
  • Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Understanding the User Story

The Context

Fiserv bought First Data in 2019, combining 2 companies of nearly equal size—totaling over 44,000 employees. A year later, the clash of internal forces and program consolidation efforts had only just started to ebb. The call went up for our call center technology group to develop a single pane of glass through which any one of thousands of CSRs could service customers—B2C or B2B. The Workspace platform was born, and it was quickly determined it should support both voice (phone) and chat support channels.

Up until that point, chat had been handled through a number of 3rd party plugins, and voice has been run through a menagerie of (largely deprecated) internal softphone tools. With the Workspace platform, plans were in place to develop a suite of agent tools to support each channel separately (with email, social media, and other channels planned for future rollout).

The most promising of the pre-existing softphone tools—built to work on the Genesys Voice Platform.

Among other things, this meant that teams which had previously only supported one channel were now being asked to take on additional tools in order to offer omni-channel support. On the upside, they were getting shiny, new tools. On the downside, they would have even more to manage—two steps forward, one step back. Call center leadership asked the question: why can’t we have 1 tool that does it all?

The Need

The user needs to seamlessly support customer interactions through voice and chat that require moving quickly between multiple distinct CRM modules in order to perform research, validate details, log information, and initiate processes.

The Problem

The problem is threefold...

  • Turnaround is as high for CSRs as retail or any other industry with high customer interaction. The more tools there are for new hires to learn, the steeper the on ramp gets for them.
  • The prospect of enhancing and maintaining of applications gets more difficult as the development team has their focus split between more and more applications.
  • We are asking CSRs to utilize more applications than ever before to communicate, authenticate, investigate, record, and resolve customer interactions. Typically, they would accomplish this through a miracle of personal organization or (more likely) very poorly—logged into half a dozen tools and reference libraries, trying not to get lost in a sea of windows and tabs, and copying and pasting hundreds of details and notes every day.

The Path Forward

The solution is to enable users to manage all live customer interactions through a singular, thoughtful interface flexible enough to accommodate a variety of use cases—connected into a single configuration layer for access, security, preferences, and reporting.

Less is more...when it comes to how many tools you have to use.
Understanding the Priorities

Fiserv has been building multiple CRM modules on the Workspace platform. While they adhere to our design system, they were designed for different stakeholders, and with different use cases in mind. Workspace, the single pane of glass that united them, would serve as a common launch pad for these modules and client interaction command center at the same time. Workspace needed to feel almost transparent when CSRs were working in the CRM modules, but it was essential that shifting back to call or chat controls be completely seamless.

It also needed to virtually eliminate the need for most other desktop applications a CSR would typically run—streamlining the CSR’s desktop activity to avoid confusion or delay while they searched for the right tab, panel, or window.

Finally, we had to account for all use cases supported by the current tools so that CSRs could continue to service customers to standard. Two steps forward, no more steps back.

An early design establishing the "frame" layout, and featuring collapsible controls for voice interactions.
The Right Question is Halfway to the Answer
Design Approach

In order to allow workspace to recede into the background, we designed Workspace to appear as a “frame” around the CRM modules. To streamline this frame, it became necessary to pull the call and chat controls into a separate control window which would have its own tab in the Windows taskbar. In order to make it seamless to step back out of the individual CRM modules and retake control of a specific customer interaction, we incorporated a kind of taskbar of our own across the top of the frame—with each interaction represented by a small tab.

We spent significant time performing remote and in-person contextual interviews with CSRs who used existing softphone applications and chat applications to understand everything they were trying to accomplish with these tools:

A rudimentary wireframe design for voice interactions.
  • We discovered that the existing softphone apps required users take several disparate steps to transfer calls to another team or contact. So, we built the “Transfer Wizard” feature.
  • We identified a single, company-wide standard for both levels of customer authentication that made it possible to perform this task within the call controls rather than needing to build this into the CRM modules.
  • Users also showed us several tasks that were simple, highly repetitive, and time consuming—perfect candidates for us to streamline or even automate.
The control window with an active voice interaction.

I led internal design reviews every few days, and did some of the design myself. I led weekly design reviews with a panoply of stakeholders, program managers, trainers, and users. We presented prototype walkthroughs to engender confidence and help foster consensus among the many voices and perspectives represented. We stayed focused on an MVP, and off the long term product roadmap. This approach took longer than project leaders had scheduled, but it was justified by its effectiveness. We continued to build momentum as a larger group, and we had far fewer disagreements to mediate during reviews than we often do for even smaller scoped projects.

The success of our weekly design reviews with stakeholders underscored the importance of asking the right questions; truly understanding the problems users encounter and the thought processes they use to solve them.

Our team learned a lot during this design phase—especially some of our less experienced designers. The success of our weekly design reviews with stakeholders underscored the importance of asking the right questions; truly understanding the problems users encounter and the thought processes they use to solve them.

The control window with an active chat interaction.
Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication
Rollout & Results

Workspace went into pilot with voice and chat support simultaneously in May of 2020, along with the first of our new CRM modules. Within an hour of go-live, CSRs were taking a steady volume of voice interactions and the first chat interactions many teams had handled were starting to come in without a hitch.

Managers are able to monitor and re-assign chat interactions in real time.

In weeks, the CSR training groups reported that new hires indicated highly positive sentiment when learning the tool. Handle time and “after call work” time have dropped significantly. Capacity and throughput have increased. Call center operations have been able to realize significant cost savings with fewer resources required to keep up with volume. Where once there was a maze of under-baked and disparate solutions, now stands a thoughtful, unified toolset.

Where once there was a maze of under-baked and disparate solutions, now stands a thoughtful, unified toolset.

My team continued boarding agents across the company—providing customized logic, preferences, and management solutions. Today, nearly 5,000CSRs support an average of 3.3 million voice and chat customer interactions every month directly through this application.

CSRs are able to perform "warm transfers" in chat interactions as well as with voice.

As we worked with stakeholders to plan the product roadmap, priorities include more in-depth behavior tracking for CSR managers, supporting more interaction channels (like email and social media platforms), and bringing further automation to CSR workflows.

CSRs who have chat interactions transferred to them by our chatbot are given context through chat history.