Proactive Chat Proves Hot Topic: Audience Questions from Webcast

Last Thursday I did a webcast with LivePerson about proactive Web chat.  I knew this was an area of interest because I receive so many inquiries about chat, and my blog posts about chat tend to generate a lot of traffic.  The live event yesterday had one of our largest audiences over the last year, and we received a lot of questions from the audience we didn’t have time to answer live.  If you weren’t able to attend the live event, here is a link to watch the OnDemand version.

Here are a few of the audience questions and my attempt at an answer:

  • Q: While you contend that chat works for technical support, how effective is it when dealing with a complex technical issue that may be unique to the customer?

We had a few questions from people who are still struggling with the idea that chat works for tech support.  While you support managers tend to deal with all the really complicated support issues, keep in mind that the majority of cases typically aren’t critical, and many members report that 50-85% of issues are procedural questions, not break/fix problems.  That said, certainly Web chat is not the ideal channel when there are detailed diagnostics needed, the customer needs to read some log file entries, or there is a hard down/data loss issue.  The key here is to have a process in place to immediatley escalate issues from chat to phone when necessary.

  • Does the chat need to integrate with the issue tracking system or the CRM system such that the session would be recorded and searchable later or can be converted to a ticket?

We also had several questions about how/what to integrate between chat and CRM. My guest speaker, LivePerson’s Dave Flammia, implemented and managed the chat channel at Earthlink (where he worked in support operations for 11 years!) and has lots of real-world experience in this area.  He said while including chat in CRM history is ideal for “360 degree view” purposes, he admitted this often doesn’t happen.  Personally, I think not integrating this is a really bad idea.  What happens if a chat customer thinks of one more question, or the advice they received via chat doesn’t work, and they pick up the phone and call for more help?  If the phone agent has zero visibility that the customer just worked with a chat agent, and doesn’t know what advice was given, you will perform an unpardonable sin:  forcing a customer to go through the same interaction again because your infrastructure is inadequate.  Sorry to be “hard line” on this one, but EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER INTERACTION needs to be written to CRM history.  No exceptions, no excuses.

  • Q: How do you pull online browsing history to the agent participating in the chat?

This arose from my slide about how chat is contectual:

Contextual Nature of Chat

Contextual Nature of Chat


Most chat platforms capture the webpage from which the customer’s chat request was launched, so you know what they were looking at when they asked for help.  By also pulling the last few minutes of browsing history (a simple customization for most self-service platforms), the agent can also see what knowledgebase searches the customer has performed and what articles they may have already viewed.  Of course you can go too far with this–the chat agent can’t take 10 minutes to investigate customer clickstreams before starting the dialog, but they should at least be armed with enough clickstream info to provide context for the chat question.

  • Q: I am surprised that you say an agent can handle 4 or more sessions at once. I must assume these chats are for very simple issues. What kinds of issues would you even use chat for?

This question was about a comment I made that chat allows contact center agents to work with multiple customers simultaneously, boosting productivity.  From a project I did with the airlines some time back, I know the average number of concurrent sessions per agent was 4-5 in that industry, with experts handling even more.  Does this model apply to tech support via chat?  I don’t know what a ‘best practice’ guideline would be to number of sessions and would love your input.  There are time delays in chat, as agents wait for customers to compose a response, and those time delays can be used to interact with another customer. But how much is too much? 

If you are leveraging chat in your contact or tech support center, please share your thoughts, best practices, lessons learned, etc.  Web chat may have been around for a decade now, but we still have a lot to learn!  Thanks for reading!

Explore posts in the same categories: Consumer Support, Technology

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