Blog Post

Where It’s At with Chat

After years of waiting in the wings and playing minor roles, web chat is emerging as a star on the customer contact stage. Companies know that their web presence is more important than ever and realize the importance of providing a viable, cost-effective real-time e-support option to enhance the customer experience – and drive online revenue.

By effectively implementing and managing chat, contact centers can draw customers away from the more expensive phone channel and provide a level of service that’s much more immediate and dynamic than email is. Further, centers can equip chat agents with web collaboration tools that greatly increase customer comfort with the company’s web self-service applications, thus increasing customer autonomy (and reducing operational costs).

Over the years, several chat best practices and even more chat worst practices have come to light. Let’s not dwell on the negative – following are a fistful of the former:

Use an advanced chat management system. Sure, your center might be able to get by with a basic chat tool, but “getting by” is no way to wow customers and woo them into using chat. Top customer care organizations invest in more potent chat solutions that come equipped with such features as:

• Skills-based routing functionality
• Access to complete customer history
• Dynamic “FAQs” and detailed response templates (to increase consistency and efficiency of agents’ responses)
• Web collaboration tools (e.g. form-sharing, page-pushing, et. al.)
• Multilingual capabilities

Incorporate chat into the call center’s workforce management (WFM) process. Forecasting workload and scheduling agents accordingly (to meet service level objectives) is just as critical in critical with chat as it is with the phone channel. Failure to develop sound WFM practices around chat will result in either understaffing (causing agents to burnout and customers to burn up) or overstaffing (causing operational costs to expand).

Hire and train for chat success. The best chat management system and WFM practices won’t mean much if the people who are handling customers’ chat inquiries can’t spel, use badly grammar and/or t-y-p-e s-l-o-w-l-y. Leading contact centers have revamped their agent recruiting and assessment practices to ensure the center attracts and selects text-proficient applicants. In addition, comprehensive training is provided to new and existing agents on such things as the center’s specific chat performance objectives, appropriate use of templates, web collaboration tools and the implicit danger of emoticons.

Measure the chat metrics that matter. It’s essential to select and measure a set of chat metrics that keep both the business’ needs and the customer experience in mind. The best contact centers – rather than obsess over such straight productivity metrics as average handle time (AHT) or number of chats Handled – embrace such customer centric metrics as chat quality, customer satisfaction, chat resolution rate and number of poorly placed commas per hour.

 

About the author

Author of Full Contact: Contact Center Practices and Strategies that Make an Impact. He has written hundreds of feature articles, case studies, blog posts and research reports on contact center best practices trends and challenges. He is founder and principal of Off Center, which provides a variety of resources to educate, inspire and entertain contact center professionals. Levin is the former editor of ICMI’s pioneering publication Service Level Newsletter, as well as its highly regarded follow-up journal Call Center Management Review.

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