Archive for April 2011

Web Chat Finally Makes it to B2B Support

April 18, 2011

Last weeks’ webcast showcasing EMC’s “Incredible Chat Journey” was a big hit, with a very large audience, and the most audience questions we’ve ever received on a webcast. The “on demand” version of the webcast will be released later this week, but for now, I thought I would recap some of the info I covered on the live event.

We just started tracking data about chat in the overhauled benchmark last year, and here are some factoids for you:

  • Currently 2.3% of assisted support incidents are received through the chat channel, granted a small percent, but one I expect to grow to 5%-8% this year.
  • Chat interactions have an average customer satisfaction score of 4.05 (on a 5 point scale), way ahead of email with an average of 3.96.
  • Chat lends itself well to offshore outsourcing, as the text-centric channel eliminates many of the language and culture issues with offshore phone support, including the dreaded “accent neutralization.”  Currently 61% of members offering chat handle those incidents with an offshore service provider partner, a much higher percent than phone or email.

Why is chat growing in poplularity? The answer is easy: demographics. Chat is already a common channel in consumer support, largely due to the fact that the target demographic for most technology firms is the 20-35 age group, which includes Generation X and Y, both of whom love chat. On the enterprise side, companies are finally realizing that phone is not the preferred channel by younger customers, and the average age of the IT system adminitorator–the customer contact at B2B sites–is often the 20s and 30s, also Generation X, and Generation Y is on their heels. Offering chat is simply offering support via the channel customers prefer.

Chat has a number of advantages, a primary one being it is an excellent way of transitioning from unassisted to assisted support. If the customer is struggling to find what they need on your website, chatting with a support tech is only one click away. Also, the chat option can be hidden or displayed to control traffic volume, so if you only want to staff chat during the day, remove the chat widget from the web page. Chat also lends itself to proactive chat–asking a customer on your self-service site if they need help. This offers an amazing experience for customers, and you can use a CRM integration to prompt “premium” customers only, if you want.

A few recommendations I offered include:

  • Start small. Offer limited rollouts to make sure systems and training are working effectively before you open up to everyone.
  • Dedicate agents to the channel. One of my findings at Forrester was that blended agents do not have as high productivity as dedicated chat agents. In fact, after a 2 year trial at 2 large mobile phone providers, dedicated agents still had higher productivity than blended agents–it isn’t just a learning curve.
  • Have escalation procedures in place. Some issues become too complex for chat, allow graceful transition to phone. One of the worst chat nightmare stories is a customer saying, “This is too complex for chat, can I call you?” and having the support tech reply, “I don’t have a phone on my desk.”
  • Integrate, integrate, integrate. Leverage existing knowledgebase with auto-suggest to streamline chat conversations, and chat interactions must be written to customer history to complete the 360 degree view of the customer.
I’ll post a link to the on demand webcast when it goes live, there are many more chat insights from EMC during the event.
Thanks for reading, and hope to see all of you in 2 weeks at Technology Services World!