Most of you have probably used a chat option on a business website. Maybe you’ve even considered using chat on your own site. ConnectFirst recently posted an article on why you NEED to have live chat. A summary of that article is below:
You Need Live Chat
The phone may still be the most used (and, sadly for contact centers, the most expensive) contact channel in customer care, but customer demand for web chat has grown significantly. In 2013, Forrester reported a 24% rise in chat usage over the previous three years. And according research by solutions provider BoldChat, after using live chat for the first time, more than two-thirds of consumers actively look for websites that offer chat as a contact option.
Many contact centers are answering the call: a recent study conducted by ContactBabel revealed that 43% of US contact centers now offer web chat as a customer contact channel, compared to only 15% of centers five years ago.
Of course, just because many contact centers now handle chat doesn’t necessarily mean they’re handling it well. To make sure that your agents handle chat interactions well, consider adapting the following best (or at least very good) practices:
Invest in an Advanced Chat Solution
While it’s certainly possible to get by using a basic chat tool, “getting by” just doesn’t cut it in the Age of Customer Experience. Most contact centers that rock the chat scene have in place a sophisticated chat solution (sometimes as part of a complex multichannel management system) that plays a big part in them consistently achieving ambitious objectives for service level, C-Sat, first-contact resolution and sales.
Some of the key features and capabilities to look for in a chat solution include:
- Intelligent routing that quickly gets the customer to the best available agent
- Immediate agent access to customer account and complete history – as well as the use of rules-based screen pops – to help agents provide highly personalized service
- A comprehensive and customizable knowledge base that can be filled (and easily updated) with FAQs, response templates and web links – all of which help chat agents to be much more agile
- Web collaboration tools (or at least the ability to integrate such tools) that enable chat agents to direct customers to specific web pages, and help them complete online forms
- An abandoned shopping cart notification feature that alerts chat agents whenever a customer, well, abandons their shopping cart, thus giving the agent a chance to charm the customer back into buying mode with a timely proactive chat
Forecast and Schedule for the Chat Channel
Research has shown that only about half of contact centers offering chat as a contact option take the time to formally forecast and schedule for that those interactions. Not good. Forecasting workload and scheduling agents accordingly is just as important with chat as it is with phone calls, as both are “real-time” contact channels.
Failure to develop sound workforce management (WFM) practices around chat will often result in not having enough chat agents on hand, leading to customer ire (and defection) and agent burnout (and turnover). It also leads to customers abandoning their chat attempt to call the contact center, thus increasing operational costs.
Hire and Train for Chat Success
Just because most young people in today’s labor pool have a smartphone as an appendage and who could text before they could talk doesn’t mean you can put just any young adult in the chat seat in your contact center. Your center needs to be able to attract and obtain candidates who have strong written communication skills and plenty of web savvy. A solid e-cruiting program – where you post job openings on online career sites and via social media (and ask interested candidates to respond in writing) – can help a lot in this regard. So can the use of employee referrals, as your existing chat agents know who has what it takes to succeed in the chat channel. It’s also a good idea to invest in a good pre-hire applicant assessment solution – one that’s designed with the multichannel agent in mind.
In addition to revamping your hiring approach, it’s important to train for chat excellence. Leading contact centers provide comprehensive training on such things as: chat performance objectives; preferred writing style/tone; how to use the varied tools that can enhance chat efficiency and consistency (e.g., response templates, knowledge bases, and web collaboration tools)
Measure Metrics that Matter
Contact center that rock the chat scene embrace metrics that promote a healthy balance between productivity and quality. Focusing solely on such metrics as Average Chat Handle Time or Number of Chats Handled places the customer experience and agents’ sanity at risk. While it’s okay to keep an eye on such straight productivity metrics for planning purposes and to identify training needs, more of an emphasis should be on such customer-centric metrics as:
- Chat Abandonment Rate – measured via the chat management solution
- Chat Quality – measured via evaluation of chat session transcripts
- Chat C-Sat – measured via post-contact surveys immediately following a chat session
- First-Contact Resolution – also measured via the post contact survey, combined with repeat contact tracking technology
By taking a kinder, more customer-centric approach to chat metrics, agents can relax a little and truly focus on taking care of the customer, which results in fewer mistakes and fewer repeat contacts – which means things like Average Chat Handle time and the like will end up falling in line anyway. So, in the end, customers are happy, costs are kept in check, and agents don’t become burnt out.
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