Getting Web Customer Service right

customer.service.image.2014The old saying that the website is your organisation’s shop front has never been truer – particularly given today’s massive penetration of smart, Internet-enabled devices. According to the Office of National Statistics, 87% of the UK population went online during the last quarter of 2013, and over half the population now has access to some form of tablet device.

So with this many people online and engaging, it’s hardly surprising that channels such as web chat are gathering pace in terms of customer engagement. Indeed according to BT Futurologist Nicola Millard, 68% of users would like to have web chat offered whilst online.

Using the same ‘shop-based’ analogy, web chat can be likened to a retail sales assistant letting customers know that they’re available for help when they enter a shop. However, while customers might speak to a sales assistant for an initial purchase enquiry, they know that they’ll still probably have to go to the customer services desk when they’ve got a more complex issue to sort out.

Live web chat as a communications medium arguably isn’t best suited to complex enquiries that can potentially be time-consuming. Just as in a shop, it can also tie-up ‘front of shop ‘sales’ staff’ and prevent them from helping customers who are waiting for some quick guidance and advice before making a purchase. Customer services enquiries tend to more ‘involved’, diverse and potentially lengthy in terms of context and understanding. As a result they invariably require much more consideration, investigation, and possible consultation with other ‘subject matter experts’.

Trying to deal with complex enquiries over live chat can often lead to unacceptable delays between chat responses, causing customer frustration and even leading to abandonment. This obviously puts pressure on agents to deliver answers, and even – potentially – cause agents to seek to close down the chat without dealing with the enquiry in a satisfactory manner for the end customer, and move on to a simpler enquiry.

For these kind of web-based service enquiries and interactions, web form posts and secure messages may be considered a more optimum channel for delivering an appropriate type of customer support.

So given that organisations will invariably have to handle both initial questions that can be answered quickly, as well as more in-depth customer service issues, it makes sense to have an online engagement strategy that supports both types of interaction. That’s why when clients initially engage to discuss live web chat projects, we’re always keen to encourage them to spend some time thinking about their type of business, and in particular the different ways in which they are likely to need to engage with their end customers. Pursuing such a more holistic approach ensures a much more integrated website engagement strategy.

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