Web users are increasingly familiar with an annoying phenomenon afflicting all manner of sites: you’re just browsing around, minding your own business and up pops a chat window asking if there’s anything “it” can do to help (Generally these helpful pop ups aren’t manned by a live agent, but are just a programmatic chat bot). Most times, it’s irritating and the answer is, “No thanks, just passing through.” It’s unfortunate, especially since the site owner is genuinely trying to be helpful, but the overuse and misapplication of an inherently intrusive technology like web chat ends up having the same effect as an animated pop-up ad: it’s an immediate turn off. Indeed, most users are so inured to these things as to ignore them entirely. Most chat invitations are also unhelpful because they’re out of context with what the user is trying to do. Forbes recently posted an article arguing the importance of intelligence behind your live web chat. A summary of that article is below:
The problem with an automatic, out-of-the-blue chat invite isn’t just that randomly appearing pop-ups are annoying, but are also more likely to be ignored. Remember, the ultimate business goal is higher chat acceptance rates, especially among visitors who are “hot leads” or good candidates for incremental sales. This is where context helps because the key to effective chat use is intelligence, using machine learning, omnichannel data collection and real-time predictive analytics to initiate contact when it’s most needed, provide relevant information based on prior activities and give chat agents background and a frame of reference based on a user’s history and profile.
Making Chat Intelligent Makes It More Useful and Profitable
By intelligent chat we mean using chat intelligently – we’re not talking about chat bots or artificial intelligence experiments that attempt to simulate a live human. Instead, these are live chat sessions, where chat is opportunistically and discreetly offered to the customer and agents come armed with a rich set of pertinent information prior to ever typing the first word; chats that are only established when it’s likely the customer actually needs some handholding or additional information and where chat can add incremental value, helping customers to do something that they are struggling to do by themselves. After all, if the customer is doing ok in self-service, why spend time and money to interrupt them? Intelligent live web chat focuses on helping those that need help or inclined to buy.
It’s also relevant to the context and user, personalized with data from a user’s prior omnichannel interactions, whether previous website visits, phone calls, mobile app usage or account activity. Indeed, intelligent chat exploits the same technology required to create an omnichannel customer experience: big data collection, aggregation and analysis across communication channels, predictive analytics with machine learning and adaptive algorithms that understand customer journeys across channels and real time response.
The key to making chat intelligent is analysis of a user’s web site journey; namely the path taken to, from and within the site. This includes search queries, navigational meanderings, client device type, downloaded files, possibly even geolocation, which are then correlated with data from other users and an individual’s own omnichannel case history built from prior interactions across different communication media such as voice or mobile.
Intelligent chat isn’t just less annoying to the user, indeed, like new forms of social media ads, there’s evidence users don’t filter them out and they’re effective, as customers often respond favorably and may actually enjoy those presented to the right audience in the proper context. The reasons social ads work are simple: they are relevant to the viewer (not everyone sees the same ones at the same time), non-disruptive and intuitive (appearing alongside or embedded in one’s regular news feed).
Intelligent chat provides the same benefits:
- Relevance to the user and current web journey
- Personalized across multiple dimensions, not just the present context, but also customer profile and prior interactions across channels (omnichannel)
- Intuitive (everyone knows how to use chat)
- Provides useful information from agents prepared to handle the user’s specific needs.
Making chat more relevant, useful and appealing to customers translates to higher engagement that yields important business benefits. Instead of being quickly dismissed as a pesky nuisance, intelligent chat sessions are more likely to be accepted and continued by users. Since chat agents are prepared with pertinent background information and context and offered when the customer needs assistance, chat sessions are more likely result in mutually constructive results, whether it’s successfully solving a problem, answering detailed product questions or converting browsers into buyers.
Intelligent chat also makes for more efficient and effective customer service and support; important since data repeatedly shows that satisfied customers are loyal customers. Research into consumer behavior finds that, most customers prefer the self-service approach to solving problems and service issues. Surveys show upwards of 60% to 72% start with the company’s website because it puts them in greater control of their time, while the vast resources on the Internet have trained more and more people to be proactive information seekers. Yet the data also shows most online self-service is mediocre at best, with only half of respondents in one survey satisfied with traditional website FAQ and help pages. Intelligent chat fills this void with an interactive, customized experience that leads to quicker problem resolution and less wasted time.
Support Agent Advantages
Applying predictive analytics and machine learning to chat initiation allows intelligent chat systems to connect the most qualified agents, with training and expertise in areas relevant to the situation at hand, with the right customers. In sum, intelligent chat is a great way to optimize agent productivity and effectiveness.
Summary and Recommendations
Intelligent chat is best integrated with other sales and support backend systems in support of omnichannel customer interactions on voice, mobile app, chat, direct text, websites and others. Done this way, it can draw upon the myriad ways customers choose to interact with business and allow seamless handoff from one communication channel to another. Thus, it’s best to evaluate intelligent chat software in context of other elements of an omnichannel sales and support software suite.
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