OPINION: Eight ways to make the most of web chat tools by Sabio

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Customer service technology specialist Sabio has identified eight key factors to help businesses engage more effectively through webchat.

Webchat, which enables live customer service representatives to assist website visitors with enquiries, is one of the fastest-growing digital customer service channels, with 37% engagement which Sabio states is higher than both Facebook and Twitter.

Matt Dyer, head of digital customer service consultancy at Sabio, said: “Analyst firm Ovum predicts that webchat will continue to generate 17% compound annual growth through to 2018. This is partly due to its proven ability to provide a seamless transition between self-service and live agent interactions. With customers becoming increasingly comfortable with webchat as a channel, they are now demanding a more comprehensive experience, rather than simply using it for basic online support.

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 “At Sabio we are seeing a growing number of organisations starting to recognise the potential business benefits of webchat and integrating the channel more seriously into their customer service mix,” added Matt. “However you can’t just switch webchat on and expect the right results. That’s why we’ve compiled our webchat checklist, detailing the steps that organisations need to take to ensure that webchat operates as an integral part of their broader customer engagement approach.”

1. Staffing your chat channels correctly – when organisations open up a webchat service they often start by overstaffing the chat channel in order to meet anticipated demand. Organisations need to get chat staffing correct right from the start, otherwise chat can quickly end up eating resources rather than cutting costs. So when scheduling agent numbers for chat, you really need to make sure that your chat software provider can also offer an integrated WFM-style staffing calculator to help optimise agent numbers.

2. Recognising what you can and can’t do with webchat – you can’t just expect chat agents to have all the right answers to hand, indeed with the requirement to process multiple sessions, the need to provide agents with access to high quality knowledge systems will be even more important. Organisations also need to understand that there are transactions that are inevitably more complex – for PCI-compliant payments; for example, you’ll need to work with a technology that specifically supports PCI payments.

3. Making sure your back office systems (such as CRM) are set up to support the ways that webchat agents need to work – it’s important that webchat is carefully aligned with back office resources. For example if CRM systems don’t enable multiple customer records to be opened at the same time, then agents won’t be able to handle the 2, 3 or 4 parallel chats that can make webchat such a cost-effective channel.

4. Only offer a webchat service when you have the right skills in place – customer contact teams should only offer a chat service when they have the agents in place to provide customers with the right answers and level of service needed to resolve their enquiries. Too often you find organisations that rush to offer a chat channel, but have still to put the basic service building blocks in place.

5. Investing in getting your chat invitations right – successful webchat initiatives depend on driving volumes of interactions through the chat channel. How online chat invitations are presented and worded is critical, particularly ensuring that they resonate well with your target demographics. Getting the placement, design and wording right is essential – you need to constantly A/B test any changes to make sure they’re delivering the right results, especially as even percentage point improvements can lead directly to bottom line benefits.

6. Avoiding blending webchat agents – unless you absolutely have to – organisations are learning quickly that what makes a good voice or email agent doesn’t necessarily work for chat. Simply jumping from one channel to the next can easily disturb the balance for agents. Handling concurrent chat sessions, getting a sense of the pace that works best for customers, and understanding what’s achievable in chat and what requires a different channel requires real sensitivity.

7. Driving further service improvements by analysing what chat agents and customers actually say – customer service teams need to spend time looking at chat transcripts, and capturing those responses and activity that works best for customers. There’s so much rich data available and, for companies looking to transform their service delivery, the answers will inevitably already lie within their database of chat transcripts.

8. Actively seeking opportunities to align chat with online and contact centre activities – online teams are often guilty of thinking that their carefully designed customer journeys cover all eventualities, and that customers will never need to drop out and speak to the contact centre. Experience shows that they’re wrong, and that there are certain times or transaction types where customers still prefer traditional channels. That’s why it’s vital that web developers, content professionals and contact centre staff all work together to make sure that the hand-offs between channels are as easy as possible. If people are dropping off the website and calling the contact centre then there are usually good reasons for this. Placing intelligent chat support at these online tension points can fix breaks in the customer journey, but customer service teams need to be able to react quickly if they’re to be effective.


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