How can you still provide a valuable customer experience out of hours?

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Companies want to be able to support their customers, and provide a valuable customer experience. That’s a given, of course! On the other hand (especially if the company isn’t a multi-national), they’ll have hours of operation that they’re open for. When the company isn’t open, they’ll want to ensure that customers will know this, and not be routed to customer support when it’s not available.

There are several different ways of handling this, depending on how exactly the system/s have been implemented. Let’s take a look at some of these.

Omnichannel Native Web Chat

One of the channels available through Omnichannel is the webchat. I’ve covered some of the ways you can do this here.

When setting up a chat channel directly from within Omnichannel, you can leverage the inbuilt settings for Operating Hours:

By using this, you’re able to set up different day & time combinations, along with the timezone that’s it’s applicable for (I’d suggest to use appropriate names and/or descriptions to easily identify them, of course!):

It’s not even a blanket setting (ie that you set up one record for this, that governs all communication channels). You’re able to set up multiple Operating Hour records, and can then point each chat instance to a specific one. To do this, go to (or create) the Chat record, open the Design tab within the record, and select the Operating Hour record you’re wanting to associate to the chat:

Now, when this has been applied, the chat widget button will only be displayed on the webpage/s where it’s deployed to during the specified Operating Hours. Great!

Power Virtual Agent

There will be scenarios where you’ll be implementing a Power Virtual Agent in the first instance, rather than using the Omnichannel chat itself. Reasons for this include the ability to have automated responses to issues, allow users to self-service their enquires, and other.

Having taken a look, the configuration for escalating a PVA conversation into an Omnichannel queue is actually quite simple and basic. Unfortunately, there doesn’t (at the time of writing) seem to be any way of picking up the Omnichannel Operating Hours that are set up within the system, nor any method to specify these in any other way for the PVA itself. Hopefully this will change at some point!

Azure Chat Bot

I’ve also taken a look at Azure Chatbots, as these are another way in which companies will enable customers. Once again, there’s no way to have an Azure Chatbot respect/pick-up Omnichannel Operating Hours. I would hope that this will be functionality that comes in the future.

However (unlike Power Virtual Agents), it should be possible to write code within the chatbot (using the Microsoft Bot Framework) to indeed take these into account.

Other channels

There are of course other channels such as Facebook, SMS, and the Wave 1 2020 items (Twitter etc). With all of these, there are likely to be different methods in getting the Operating Hours set up, along with things like auto-responses (eg ‘The office is now closed, please contact us again between 09:00 & 17:30 Monday through Friday to speak with an agent’) to give the best experience.

By EY Kalman, Solutions Architect at ANS.