Expolink Guide to Web Chat in the Contact Centre

webchat.image.2015Expolink ‘The Insiders’ Guide to Web Chat in the Contact Centre.
If you think web chat is something discussed by arachnologists, think again. Web chat is one of the fastest growing contact centre technologies. Read on for our handy Insiders’ Guide to making it work for your business.

What is web chat?

Web chat connects users in real-time via web interfaces, so bypassing the need for specific chat software. Its simplicity and accessibility mean it is a highly desirable way for businesses and consumers to interact. Web chat is conducted via a simple text messaging service; not to be confused with video chat.

Why we use web chat for our clients

In its 2014 Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide, Contact Babel reported a 60% increase in the volume of web chats handled by UK contact centres. The resulting 250 million web-based conversations provided customers and brands with a convenient, low-cost forum to give and receive services.

We use web chat for our clients as they want to be there when their customers need them and in the channel that suits them best. Accessibility is an often over-used noun in our buzzword-drenched lexicon – yet its importance to customers is undeniable. Show me an argument for contact centres providing less access to services and I’ll agree not to use buzzwords for, well, a week at least.

Web chat allows us to be there for our client’s customers throughout the lifecycle of their purchase; providing a proactive consultative service which facilitates up and cross-sales and identifies any problems for swift resolution. Web chat is designed to be a seamless extension of a user’s digital activity and, coupled with timely responses, amounts to an excellent customer service experience. This integration works both ways – our clients benefit from greater efficiencies with agents managing web chats alongside email and social media response.

What businesses is it good for?

ContactBabel reports that 40% of UK contact centres have already adopted web chat with a further 28% more planning to do so by the end of 2015. (this text will be a box-out)

Web chat is good for multi-channel brands and those with a high volume of general enquiries and can be particularly useful for those with queries that can’t easily be answered by FAQ pages. Well managed web chat can reduce unnecessarily high call volumes and keep down call durations, to the satisfaction of both customer and business.

Financial services or account-sensitive queries can be tricky as web chat is not a secure channel. First line enquiries are manageable via web chat with the customer moving to a secure, logged-in portal when necessary.

Web chat is still possible if your product or service is complex or requires considerable guidance, though experiential considerations are necessary. Ricochet-ing back and forth dozens of times to save a PCs motherboard is not prudent. Guide your customer to the best end result via the best medium.

How do I make it work for my business?

Forward planning – As with all aspects of your business, hurtling in without a defined strategy will likely end in tears. Who will this new platform serve, how will it work and what do you want to achieve? The latter could be reductions in call volumes, quicker response times, greater accessibility or, indeed, all of the above. The general expectation for web chats is that they are done in real time. If this isn’t possible, clearly state your response times and honour them.

Be personable – Tone of voice is vital in web chat communications. Consider a time when you misconstrued the tone of an email or when you fired off a memo in haste and received a poor reaction.

Managed badly, digital conversations lose warmth and can mislead – and that’s before we even get on the subject of bad grammar (spell check!!). Select staff for their aptitude in written communication and their ability to present themselves fluidly in your brand tone of voice. A certain level of informality sits well with web chat but professionalism should always be maintained.

Be accessible – That word again. There’s no use having the web chat option if it’s buried in the underbelly of your site. The ideal position will depend on the nature of your site and user behaviour so keep an eye on your site analytics and if utilisation stalls get testing some other options. Make sure the chat window automatically scales to fit every device and is compatible with all relevant operating systems.

Don’t overdo it – The chat window should be made available at the right time and not displayed repeatedly when the visitor is browsing multiple pages. If your customer doesn’t require chat, keep the window minimised in an unobtrusive place in case they change their minds.

Best practice – Most web chat systems store transcripts of conversations so all your interactions should be auditable, mirroring your call recording procedures and giving you control over quality standards.

Get better – Adding a brief customer satisfaction survey to the end of a web chat will give you invaluable insights and allow you to address any problems. Granular information on demographics would also be useful here. Be prepared to amend and update your operational strategy. Our experience has shown us that client expectations on query types and volumes often differ in reality – though we are yet to meet any who deny its benefits to their business and customers.

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