Having a chat
Published on: October 21, 2011
While it has been around for many years, live web chat is definitely an underused channel by companies. Despite the fact that more and more people are using chat channels such as instant messaging or Skype, companies have shied away from deploying it, particularly for customer service.
Mainly this is down to the perceived cost of chat, as it requires a real agent to answer questions online. There are also worries that pop-up chat windows will be seen as invasive by customers simply browsing a site. Finally, there has been confusion between automated chatbots and avatars, pre-programmed with answers, and live chat which has put companies off deployment.
However the tide is now turning back to live chat. Indeed, as Forrester Research analyst Chip Gliedman has said "Smart organisations are evaluating the merits of adding chat and other interactive functions to their websites to better engage the customer and potentially increase sales."
So what makes live chat so compelling today, particularly when it comes to customer service?:
The traditional idea of web chat as an expensive channel is no longer valid. Systems have evolved so that agents can handle multiple chats at the same time – making it a cheaper channel than one-to-one methods like the phone. Chat also delivers strong conversion rates, with results showing that customers who chat convert 15% to 20% of the time, roughly triple the rate of email.
Simple to deploy Advanced live chat systems are totally browser based, meaning neither customers or agents need to install plugins on the machines, even when co-browsing a web page.
Full view of the customer Agents involved in a live chat can now see the customer history and details, such as which pages they’ve looked at and any customer service questions they’ve asked. This arms them with information to help solve any issues – before the customer leaves the site or is forced to call the contact centre. And the results of chat sessions are automatically included in overall customer service metrics, enabling you to measure their effectiveness as part of the wider contact centre.
Proactive/Reactive As well as chat initiated by the customer, sessions can be set to be triggered by particular events – whether simply a stalled checkout page or more complex actions. Chat can be used to push direct links to areas on a website to customers or the agent can take control of the user’s mouse to show what they need to do. Altogether much quicker and easier than spending 5 minutes explaining over the phone where to click.
Consistent answers While agents can still use free text chat, more and more implementations rely on a consistent knowledgebase of pre-recorded answers that can be automatically suggested to the agent. Built as part of an integrated, multichannel knowledgebase this drives consistency and integrates chat with other customer service channels, meaning customers are getting the same response however they raise a query.
So, live chat has definitely evolved into a cost-effective and timely channel that needs to be considered by everyone looking at their multichannel customer service strategy.
Categories: Analysts, Chat, Contact Center, Customer Service, Multichannel Customer Service