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Readying the Contact Center for Web Chat

February 26, 2014

By Tracey E. Schelmetic,
TMCnet Contributor

While the telephone still remains the channel of choice for most American customers, it’s certainly not the only channel being used. In fact, customers are increasingly using multiple channels for a single transaction. Contact centers have had to prepare for the omnichannel revolution by ensuring that they build universal queues that allow agents to handle phone calls, email, Web-based contact, mobile apps, social media and more all in the same way, ensuring a unified customer experience.

In the U.S., Web chat is becoming the second most popular channel through which to seek customer service. As a result, companies are making Web chat a prominent part of their customer contact mix. It’s a channel that benefits both customer and company: Customer like it because it’s fast, eliminates the need for holding on the telephone and can make exchanging things like long account numbers easier. Companies like it because it’s more efficient: The average contact center worker can handle multiple chats at the same time, a scenario that’s impossible with a telephone call. In addition, if a company is using offshore representatives, it eliminates the foreign accent problem. Because of these benefits, it’s estimated that about 43 percent of U.S. contact centers now offer chat.

Training agents to become effective in chat, however, is a necessity for any company trying to build up its presence in this arena. The truth is that agents who are great on the telephone may not be good with chat. They may not be good typists or spellers, for example.

Klaas van der Leest, UK Managing Director of contact center solutions provider Intelecom, recently offered some tips on readying contact center workers to handle chat. For starters, he says, it’s important to pick the right people for the job.

“Assess the suitability of your agents to handle contacts not just by their product knowledge and service skills but also by their written skills,” said van der Leest. “Provide additional skills training as required.”

When you have agents who are well versed with chat, ready to begin interacting with customers, make sure they understand the rules and limitations of the channel. While it’s generally considered to be an informal method of communication, agents must understand that this is no reason to drop professionalism.

“While the nature of web chat means that a less formal language style can be used, it is important that agents write in a professional manner,” says van der Leest. “Bad grammar and spelling reflects very badly on an organization, and can be easily avoided by automated spell checking.”

Finally, it’s critical that organizations remember that chat sessions may contain sensitive customer information, so these communications must be carried out in a way that protects this information, storing the chat records securely.

Smart companies will spot check chats, and monitor them for quality in the same way they do telephone calls. For while chat can bring impressive efficiency to the contact center, it shouldn’t be considered an “also ran” channel that doesn’t live up to the organization’s otherwise high standards. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee