Web chat: Why it’s becoming the customer channel of choice

intelecom.klaas.van.der.leestKlaas van der Leest, UK Managing Director, discusses the benefits of Web chat and explains how to prepare for the chat revolution

According to research by BT*, ‘web chat is climbing the ladder of customer channel preference’ and rapidly contributing to customer satisfaction, employee productivity and cost-reduction for contact centre operators. In fact, web chat is fast out-pacing the popularity of social media with 27% versus 17% of customers choosing it over other interactive, online methods such as Facebook and Twitter.

For contact centres, web chat appears to be driving tangible business benefits, achieving on average 15% efficiency gains in terms of time savings and cost reductions when compared with traditional phone chat.

So what are the key benefits?

• Increases agent effectiveness

Web chat aids agent productivity because agents can deal with more than one enquiry at the same time. The latest cloud-based technology delivers enhanced handling of simultaneous enquiries and improved visible interactivity. Agents can respond to conversations at the pace set by the customers themselves and deal with prioritised multiple dialogues while adding additional conversations at any given time. They simply copy conversations straight into records without the need for re-keying and minimising the risk of error.

• Enhanced customer experience

Web chat improves the overall customer experience and enhances customer satisfaction, it rates well when compared to voice calls, 82% of customers rate web chat positively and 85% enjoy using it. Many contact centre agents agree that it delivers customers better service compared to traditional phone calls by offering them a more personalised conversation. Customers often prefer Chat to email because it is faster and often resolves queries immediately. Personalised dialogues have higher rates of resolution.

• Facilitates a truly multi-channel environment

In an age where customers expect to interact with contact centres however they choose, whether it is by phone, email, SMS, instant messaging, Facebook or Twitter, introducing web chat as an additional communication method is another step forward to creating a truly flexible, multi-channel environment for customers. It sits comfortably alongside social media, as it allows organisations to draw customers into a more private dialogue, where they can discuss specific details and issues in a one-to-one channel.

• Tangible cost benefits

Web chat is an effective stepping stone to less labour-intensive, lower cost communications methods. Organisations are seeing a direct link between an increased use of web chat and cost-reduction in contact centres. According to ContactBabel,** a leading analyst firm for the contact centre industry, web chat is one of the fastest growing technologies for contact centres. Around 43% of US contact centres now offer web chat compared to only 15% five years ago with volumes of web chat interactions increasing 125% over the same period.

Web chat shifts transactions away from expensive phone-centric contact. It is estimated that the cost of web chat is the same as email, half the price of a typical voice call. Web chat is also perceived as providing an effective stepping stone, moving customer contacts towards cost-effective, web-based self-service interactions.

Further benefits of web chat include a calmer and quieter working environment for agents and fewer challenges due to regional accents and background noise. Web chat also provides a clear audit trail of customer conversations.

How can you best prepare your contact centre for the web chat revolution?

Now you understand the benefits of introducing web chat, here are a few top tips for integrating it into your contact centre:

• Select the right agents for the job

Not all phone-based service agents are comfortable handling web chat. Assess the suitability of your agents to handle contacts not just by their product knowledge and service skills but also by their written skills. Provide additional skills training as required.

• Always be professional

While the nature of web chat means that a less formal language style can be used, it is important that agents write in a professional manner. Bad grammar and spelling reflects very badly on an organisation, and can be easily avoided by automated spell checking.

• Be secure

Agents must be completely satisfied that they are speaking to the correct person before giving out sensitive information. That’s why strict identification processes are necessary and must always be followed.

• Quality check your web chats

Web chat is often not as formal as a letter, so mistakes can be made in grammar and information delivery.

Measure your perception of quality against the customers. Monitor a contact and have a result based on company standards/expectations and evaluate this against specific organisational KPIs or customers SLAs.

• Choose the right technology

Choice of technology infrastructure is critical to offering a successful web chat service. Organisations should select a complete, multichannel cloud-based contact centre solution that is rich in functionality and available in modular form, making it easy to specify the tools that are right for their business. Cloud technology and open Web Services allow integration with third party applications and a robust contact-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) framework ensures organisations achieve operational and cost efficiency on a pay-as-you-use basis which requires no capital investment or maintenance costs.

Finally, getting web chat right will make all the difference to running a truly multi-channel contact centre environment that improves agent productivity, enhances customer satisfaction and boasts enviable business benefits time and time again.

* http://www.btplc.com/Innovation/News/webchat.htm The research, entitled ‘It’s good to chat – how web chat fits into the contact centre experience’, was conducted on six contact centres in the UK and India, three of which are operated by BT serving enterprise customers and three run by other large corporations.

** “The US Contact Center Decision-Makers’ Guide (6th edition – 2013)” is available free of charge from the ContactBabel website www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm

For additional information see Intelecom’s Company Profile

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