Posted tagged ‘chat’

Audience Questions from Web Chat Webcast: Hotter Topic Than Social Media

July 21, 2011

You know you are onto something when you have 800 people register for a customer service webcast. And no, it wasn’t about social media. It was about an even a hotter topic, believe it or not: Web chat for B2B support. Tuesday’s webcast, sponsored by CitrixOnline, included the “Top 5 Web Chat FAQ’s” from me, and a great case study about deploying Web chat by Judy Bendy, End User Computing Practice Director, Long View Systems. For those of you who missed it, here is a link to register for the OnDemand version of the webcast:

There were lots of audience questions we didn’t have time to answer live, and I’m attempting to make up for that with this post. Here are some of the questions we received:

Q: Can chat be used effectively as a sales tool as well as a support one? Do you have any strategies for implementing this successfully?

Absolutely. Proactive chat is commonly used for sales. The best example is retail websites, including Amazon. If you are browsing high end products, or have a certain dollar amount in your shopping basket (at one point the Amazon threshold was around $300), the customer is prompted with a chat option, such as, “May I answer any questions for you?” In this way, a sales agent can help push the customer toward purchase by answering any questions they have or reassuring their fears.

But sales can also be successfully incorporated into a support chat interaction, easier than by phone or email. For example, instead of just asking the customer if they are interested in your new service option or an upcoming training class, since you are connected via chat you can push a webpage to the customer advertising the offering, or take them to a product page for something you want to try upselling to them.

The key, and this is a topic for a whole other blog post, is incorporating soft sales training into customer service training, so support employees begin to see selling as part of the service transaction. And as one company told me after successfully implementing sales offers into support calls, “When agents hear ‘YES’ often enough, they stop thinking they are selling. It is all just part of servicing the customer.”

Q: Could you elaborate on the Proactive Chatting? You mentioned something about asking users on a website where if they are repeating some actions, the website will prompt a question for additional service/chat.

Proactive chat uses a rule engine in your web self-service portal to detect when certain things happen. When a rule is met, the customer is proactively prompted with an option to chat with an agent. Rules can be defined to be very inclusive, or very restrictive. Common rules for proactive chat include:

  • Customer value. For ‘platinum’ level customers, or other customers designated as high value, proactive chat is a great way to give these high profile customers the best possible experience. In fact, proactive support could be an option included in a premiere support package.
  • High value purchase. As I mentioned in the first question, you can also proactively prompt customers for chat when they access web pages about expensive products, or when they have a certain value of merchandise in their shopping cart.
  • Unsuccessful self-service. You can also get very creative in writing rules that detect when a customer is unsuccessful with self-service, and ask if they need help. Rules can be based on amount of time on the site, number of searches, number of articles viewed, etc.

Q: Do you think chat works better in call center environments (customer service, taking orders etc) vs. IT Help Desk or technical support?

Clearly Web chat works fantastically for high volume, low complexity environments like communications, retail, and financial services. These quick one-and-done questions work great with chat, and keep the customer in their channel of preference–the Web. But, we have seen case studies from multiple TSIA members including EMC, Symantec and Cisco, that Web chat lends itself for most technical support issues, as long as they aren’t TOO complex. We discussed on the Webcast the importance of having an escalation procedure in case a chat question becomes too complex and needs to be moved to phone.

Q: I support a very technically demanding software package, has Chat been shown to cause questions which are not fully thought out… i.e. email would require users to take long and think about their questions.

This is not a complaint I’ve heard before, but I can understand the concern: instead of attempting self-service, a lazy customer would just reach out to you via chat. I would argue that if the customer wants you to do all the work, they probably would have just picked up the phone and called you anyway. The only thing I can offer, and I’m not saying this is a best practice, is to only reveal the chat option on the website after the customer has at least made some attempt at self-service, such as a search of the knowledgebase, or after viewing a knowledgebase article.  Though customers may be confused why the chat option is there sometimes and missing sometimes, at least that way you are pushing them to at least try self-service before chat.

Q: Is it possible to have chat agents at different physical locations responding to chats from the queue?

Absolutely, and this is become a common scenario with more home-based workers. The same push/pull options for chat queueing work whether all the agents are together in a contact center, or working remotely. With the ‘push’ method, the next chat in queue is popped to the next available agent. This is a basic feature of Web chat platforms. With the ‘pull’ method, agents monitor a queue of pending chat interactions and pull the next customer in queue into a chat conversation.

Q: One of the questions i have time and again been faced in IT Support is that :: Does chat aids reduction of Phone AHT or not? since resolution by way of typing may add more time for resolution. So will it take more agents to resolve same set of queries while doing it on chat.

We discussed this a bit on the webcast, and I admit there are some differing opinions on this topic. In my experience, the AHT (average handling time) for a chat interaction is slightly longer than for the identical question handled via phone. Why? There are often lags in the conversation while the customer is browsing the web or on a  phone call and ignores the chat dialog for a few minutes, and as you note, typed conversations take longer than spoken conversations. However, for consumer centers with less complex issues, experienced agents can handle multiple concurrent chat sessions, which boosts productivity and more than makes up for individual issues taking a few minutes more.

Q: using chat for a customer sat survey vs. eamil or web…   is the acceptance rate higher…  and does it depend on the age range?

I don’t have a lot of data on this, but I do know that customer survey response rates are higher the sooner the customer is surveyed after the interaction. The advantage of Web chat is you can prompt the customer with the survey at the end of the chat session, while the interaction is fresh in their minds. Not only is the response rate higher because you are surveying immediately–as opposed to sending an email survey 24 hours later–but the answers are more accurate.

Q: What are some common mistakes that companies make when they first start up a chat program, and how can those mistakes be avoided?

There are quite a few common problems, and we talked about some of them on the webcast. Here are a few:

  • Dedicated chat agents. A 2 year trail at 2 large communication firms showed that dedicated chat agents had higher productivity than blended agents (those handling chats, phone calls and emails interchangeably).
  • Chat skills. Chat requires a different set of skills than phone, so don’t assume your high performing phone agents will automatically be a whiz at chat. You need to incorporate chat into employee screening and training to find agents with the right skills for chat.
  • Volume management. This is the single biggest problem I see–companies put a chat option on every page for every customer and are overwhelmed with the volume. Instead, only put the chat option on a few pages, and consider limiting chat availability to certain customers or certain geographies to keep chat volumes low while you get out the kinks and agents have figured out the chat tools.
  • Bad technology. You can get free chat tools from a variety of sources, but I don’t recommend them. Chat platforms for support have strong UI design, ties to knowledgebases and CRM, bulletproof security, auditing capabilities, supervisor monitoring capability, etc. Get the right tool for the job to start with.

Q: What are the key KPIs you enabled for measuring chat traffic in contact center?

  • Average handling time/chat time is the most important metric, and be sure you have a supervisor dashboard showing all chat sessions in progress with elapsed time on each. The supervisor should be able to ‘drop in’ if a chat session is going too long, so they can see if the agent needs assistance. Also, agents should be trained to move the chat to a phone call if the issue is becoming too complex for typing.
  • Satisfaction. Since you can prompt customers with CSAT surveys at the end of the session, be sure you are keeping an eye on the ratings and take immediate action if a low score comes in.
  • Wrap up time. Chat conversations can automatically be written into CRM incidents, so there should be little wrap up time after a chat compared to a phone call.

Of course, the key is to capture enough metrics to identify averages and high/low performers, regardless of the metric.

Q: What are the keys to more efficient chat?  Integration with KM tools is one thing that was mentioned, what is meant by that specifically? what are the other keys?  

First of all, pick a chat tool with a UI designed for high productivity. Options like a response library for common problems and frequently used text can really speed conversations. Integration with KM is important so that you are presented with a list of knowledgebase articles automatically based on the chat conversation, and can cut/paste KM text into the chat dialog if necessary. And, writing the chat conversation into CRM is a critical piece to make sure the “360 view of the customer” is preserved.

Thanks to everyone who attended the webcast and asked questions! And as always, thanks for reading!









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!

Proactive Chat Proves Hot Topic: Audience Questions from Webcast

April 13, 2009

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?
  • (more…)

Boost Utilization with Proactive Chat

April 2, 2009

I am doing a webcast next week with our partner, LivePerson, entitled “Can Your Support Center Afford Not to Be Proactive about Chat?” Web chat is always a popular topic with SSPA members, and something I’ve written about before.  Adoption of Web collaboration and Web chat technology has risen in the last couple of years (and I’ll share that data, including a preview of 2009 numbers, on the webcast).  However, though many members use desktop sharing and remote control, Web chat remains a minor channel, with only 1% of current incidents opened via chat.  

Web chat has some unique characteristics that make a good medium for support–as long as the problems aren’t too deeply technical.  For example, a chat request captures the context of where the customer is when they ask a question, it keeps customers in their channel of preference (the Web), and it lends itself to multi-tasking for both customers and agents. One of the issues I hear from members is that channel preference surveys often show chat as unpopular, and I will talk about why these surveys are misleading.

I went through 2+ years of member inquiries and compiled a list of the top FAQs about Web chat, which I will briefly address on the webcast: (more…)

Web chat finds growing adoption for tech support

June 20, 2008

In a previous post on the appropriateness of email for tech support, several folks added comments suggesting a post on Web chat, so here it is!  I think Web chat is already hugely successful in the consumer world, and I frequently use it to communicate with my wireless carrier and various eCommerce retailers.  But what about tech support?  When I first joined the SSPA 2.5 years ago, chat was hardly a hot topic with our members, and I was told repeatedly that “chat doesn’t work” for tech support. Since then, I’m slowly seeing adoption growing, with a few great success stories.

The biggest eye opener for me was a webcast I did quite a while back, in which Symantec gave their case study on a huge success with chat support. I am also working on a case study with Linksys, which mentions the work they have done to turn their chat channel from moderately successful into a highly adopted and highly rated channel. Dell also has a huge chat operation. So adoption is growing.

But not very fast. When we rewrote the SSPA Benchmark Questionnaire last year, I was successful in getting Web chat added in a few places. One of those was incidents by channel. According to the current benchmark data, 1% of consumer incidents, 0% of SMB incidents, and .1% of enterprise incidents originate via chat. So while some companies are finding chat as a great way to interact with customers, others have yet to jump into the chat pool.

From my perspective, here are the advantages of Web chat: (more…)

IntelliResponse: One Right Answer for Web Self-Service Questions

March 17, 2008

I receive a lot of requests for briefings from emerging customer support software vendors, and a recent request from IntelliResponse caught my attention because of this line:  “Our unique competitive differentiation is our ‘One Right Answer’ approach, versus all of our competitors who utilize search based paradigms.” Because of the huge popularity of Google, many vendors in this space are creating a ‘Google-like’ search experience, which is great when you are researching a topic, but not so good when you have a specific question or problem and need the One Right Answer, not a scrolling page of thousands of possibilities.

IntelliResponse, a 100% SaaS vendor, has around 100 customers and nearly twice as many deployments, but their focus has been higher education and financial services, with reference accounts including TD Canada Trust, ING Direct, American Express, Scotiabank, Ohio State, and Penn State University. After receiving inquiries from many high tech companies, IntelliResponse is now bringing their solution to our industry, with a commitment I think many tech companies will find attractive: Go live in 60 days and deliver one right answer to at least 80% of visitor questions. (more…)