We need to have a chat. More precisely, you need to have chat.
The phone may still be the most used (and, sadly for contact centers, the most expensive) channel in customer care, but demand for web chat has grown significantly. In 2013, Forrester (News - Alert) reported a 24 percent rise in chat usage over the previous three years. And according research by BoldChat, after using live chat for the first time, more than two-thirds of consumers actively look for websites that offer chat as an option.
Many contact centers are answering the call (I mean chat). A recent study conducted by ContactBabel (News - Alert) revealed that 43 percent of U.S. contact centers now offer chat, compared to only 15 percent five years ago. It’s a good thing, too – especially for companies whose customer base includes millennials - many of whom would rather do virtually anything other than use a phone to speak with another human being.
Of course, just because a contact center has chat doesn’t mean it’s using it well. To make sure you and your customers get the most out of chat interactions, 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 a sophisticated chat solution in place (sometimes as part of a complex multi-channel management system) that plays a big part in consistently achieving objectives for service level, C-Sat, first-contact resolution and sales.
Forecast and schedule. Research has shown that only about half of contact centers offering chat take the time to formally forecast and schedule for those interactions. Not good. Forecasting workload and scheduling agents is just as important with chat as it is with calls, as both are real-time contact channels.
Failure to develop sound workforce management 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).
Hire and train. Just because most young people in today’s labor pool could text before they could talk doesn’t mean you can put just any millennial in the chat seat. Your center needs to be able to attract and obtain candidates with strong written communication skills and plenty of web savvy. A solid e-cruiting program – where you post job openings on online career sites and social media (and ask interested candidates to respond in writing) – can help a lot in this regard.
In addition, it’s important to train for chat excellence. Leading contact centers provide comprehensive training on chat performance objectives; preferred writing style/tone; how to use tools to enhance chat efficiency and consistency; and how to fight through severe hand cramping while handling multiple chats simultaneously.
Measure the chat metrics that matter. Contact centers that own the chat scene embrace metrics that promote a healthy balance between productivity and quality. While it’s okay to keep an eye on straight productivity metrics for planning purposes and to identify training needs, more of an emphasis should be on customer-centric metrics including chat abandonment rate, chat quality, chat C-Sat, and first-contact resolution.
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 aren’t overwhelmed.
Greg Levin is founder of Off Center (www.offcenterinsight.com).
The Perfect Match
By Geoff Mina
Finding a chat solution that your customers love requires a solution that offers:
- intelligent routing that quickly gets the customer to the best available agent, or at least one that is awake;
- immediate agent access to customer account and history - with rules-based screen pops - to help agents provide highly personalized service and product offers that don't make the customer want to punch them;
- a comprehensive and customizable knowledgebase that can be filled (and easily updated) with FAQs, response templates and web links - all of which help agents to be agile and super smart; and
- web collaboration tools (or at least the ability to integrate such tools) that enable agents to direct customers to web pages, help complete online forms, and - if the customer is angry - send images of puppies as a last resort.
Geoff Mina is CEO of Connect First (www.connectfirst.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi