Web chat is one of the fastest growing contact channels. From the customer perspective, it’s instant, it’s easy and it’s text based. For the call centre it offers some tempting efficiency gains over phone calls and the chance to improve customer engagement. But the old saying ‘the devil is in the detail’ definitely applies here. In this podcast we discuss the pros and cons of chat, as well as providing some tips for getting chat right in your operation. Chris Dealy of injixo is joined by industry experts Carolyn Blunt (LinkedIn, Twitter), Managing Director of Real Results Training, and Tina Squire (LinkedIn), Strategic Contact Centre Operations Director at Interact CC.
No time to read the full article? Just download it as a PDF and read it offline, anytime, anywhere.
Press click on the play button and enjoy the podcast!
Chris: In this podcast we discuss the subject of using Contact Centre web-chat. Over recent years, chat has been one of the fastest growing contact channels. From the customer perspective, it’s instant, it’s easy and it’s text based. For the call centre it offers some tempting efficiency gains over phone calls. But the old saying ‘the devil is in the detail’ definitely applies here.
In this podcast we are going to discuss the pros and cons of chat, as well as providing some tips for getting chat right in your operation.
I'm Chris Dealy from injixo and I am delighted to be joined today by Carolyn Blunt, Managing Director of Real Results Training, specialist in training and development for the contact centre industry. As well as running Real Results, Carolyn is a professional speaker and prolific author in contact centres field and also by Tina Squire, Strategic Contact Centre Operations Director at Interact CC a contact centre outsourcer, handling contracts that cover sales & customer support, inbound & outbound, B2C & B2B, via phone and web chat. Interact’s USP is to do things differently, for the benefit of both clients, and the people working in the contact centre. Tina has 14 years’ experience in contact centre operations management, working with blue-chip clients.
Chris: Do you think the use of web-chat in Call Centers is still in ascendence or has it plateaued? [02:01]
Carolyn: Definitely still growing, lots of our clients are looking at developing their strategy and train front line advisors who are going to be handling their chat. The millennial generation much prefer the use of text based (customer service). The evidence is there in how they prefer to communicate with friends and family.
Tina: Agree that it is still on the rise and we have clients that want to expand into that area. The ROI is higher, the cost of sale is lower, this is the way I see things still evolving.
Chris: What is the appeal of web-chat to the rest of the population? [03:30]
Carolyn: The convenience of web-chat and the fact that it is less committal than a phone call and as there is no need to go through lengthy IVRs and be put on hold, listen to music. This also gives the customer the ability to multi-task at home while you’re making an enquiry to an organisation.
Companies can capture a whole group of people that perhaps may not have been quite ready to take that plunge to pick up the phone.
Webchat is less intense and overall offers a more convenient way for people, and overall it just works.
Chris: From the POV of the Contact Centre, what is the appeal of web-chat? [04:41]
Tina: The benefit is mainly driven by the Cost per sale for our clients.
When a customer comes in on a webchat channel, from then on in - that is their preferred channel on which to interact. Once they have tried it once and realise they are talking to a real person they will stick to that channel.
In customer satisfaction scores it is consistent. There is an average of 88% and does not really fluctuate. In fact only from 86% to as high as 92%. So we are seeing a great satisfaction rate and importantly customers are returning.
Carolyn: Yes absolutely, however there is more call for AI to be handling basic live chat, it does not necessarily have to be a human. A client is using a large proportion of their live chat through automated messaging and that is helping to make them competitive against much bigger competitors. They can automate a lot of repetitive simple contact, and customers don’t even know that it’s not a real person and that it is automated.
Chris: What is the pros and cons of agents handling more multiply chats concurrently? [06:38]
Tina: We have had great success in agents handling multiple interactions. Currently one of our biggest Telcos are averaging three and a half interactions at any one time. So that means anything from 4 to 6. That sounds amazing from an efficiency POV, it does really depend however in what sort of query you are dealing with.
On a more complicated Customer Service query, a complaint maybe that would come down to 2 to 3 concurrent interactions on average. But, with that I don’t see that customer satisfaction goes down if we increase that. There are great wins to be had there.
Carolyn: An example of a flooding you can increase concurrency of chat massively to deal with customers whereas with voice it is constantly 1 on 1, you have to get through those very quickly in order to be able to do more. Actually, as a Contact Centre you don’t really lose out that much even though people in the short term if they can’t make it to the office you can actually tweak that around other parameters which has been really great.
Chris: A recent survey by The Call Centre Helper suggests that handling more than 2 chats can impact quality. Is handling more than 2 chats sustainable? [08:37]
Carolyn: This is something you have to look at on a case by case basis, depending on the organisation, the customers, what the chat content is about, what your self-service and knowledge base is like behind the scenes. An agent may be able to handle three chats really easily at the same time, if he/she has all the information and quickly searchable at their fingertips and they are able to cut and paste things into the chat and redirect customers to things online and while they are looking at that the agent can be chatting to the next customer. However, if the chat is very complicated and personalised and there is lots of detail to read, the other two customers looking to chat are going to have to wait. That is where customer experience can suffer. This can impact response time while the agent completes wrap up from customer number one, customer number two and three are typing and waiting for me to read. This is when we start seeing question marks from customers asking ‘are you still there?’ That is where customer experience in chat can be impacted if we are not careful. This can put undue pressure on the advisor who is being pulled in all these directions. If they are not careful they can skim read and not get to the right answer correctly. I would like to put a limit of three generally but it really does depend on the advisor’s knowledge, the systems and the content of the chat.
Chris: Do you have any tips on the technology you should put in place to effectively handle webchats? [11:01]
Tina: Technology is really key. Whatever chat vendor you use would really depend on what you what to achieve as a business and what you need to measure. As chat has grown, more and more suppliers are coming on to the market. It is really about what you can do with the back end of it from a productivity and operational perspective.
Carolyn: The really important thing for me is the integration of chat with your other channels. I much prefer a vendor who can do my voice solution, email, chat and social rather than 4 different systems bolting together and that that platform is then linked to the CRM and we have one single view, omnichannel of that customer journey, so that if today I chat tomorrow I tweet and the next day I phone and I am dealt with by three different advisors they can still see all that interaction history and its linked to all my accounts my buying behaviour so that there is a joined up view on the information. The problem with chat is that if we use it as a stand alone channel we don’t really know who it is we are talking to. So, I could be a really loyal customer of yours and been with your brand for ten years and spent an awful lot of money, but if you don’t have visibility of that you can’t then bring that into account when you are dealing with my compliant. And really, that is what we should be doing when we are thinking about customer journeys and life time value of customers.
Chris: Is there anything specifically to think about when it comes to staff planning? [13:09]
Tina: As always in a Contact Centre it is essential to get your staffing right. I find that working with a dedicated big ‘Chat’ team it is essential to have a Workforce management solution that can really cater for that and I think that on a big chat channel like that where you have multi-skilled staff, you have individual ability in terms of concurrency, having a Workforce Management solution where you can really tweak that individually you are always going to have the ultimate staffing at any time. With chat you have different peaks and troughs through the day, all of that becomes very very relevant with chat particularly when you have so many different parameters that you can tweak and work with from a productivity and efficiency POV. We found that absolutely invaluable.
Carolyn: It depends on how specialist your advisors need to be and the knowledge they’ve got and whether you are doing skills based routing through voice already as to how you are going to set up your team. But, for me it is really helpful to select advisors for chat teams that have good spelling, grammar and typing speed which is really important. If we can think about having multi-skilled agents it gives us that flexibility because webchat can be unpredictable. We can overflow, if we have increased chat demand I can pull a voice advisor onto chat and I can say ‘right I want you to take some because it’s queuing.
I am a massive fan of extending the hours that we make chat available, because people are browsing in the evenings and weekend. If you are a retailer and you are not offering chat on weekends you are missing a massive trick. Agents don’t particularly want to work evenings and weekends, I would like to see us using Home-workers more for live chat. Advisors are happy to do that work from home and you don’t have the issue of TV’s on in the background, because you just won’t hear it, it is a completely text based channel. And as long as we are quality monitoring chatlogs in the same way as we quality monitor call recordings, there is no reason we can’t have chat as a home working role, which gives us even more flexibility in crisis situations, agents can be pulled in without having to come and sit in a physical building.
Tina: Couldn’t agree more, the hours are absolutely essential. Our operation runs until 11.00pm at night from 7.00am and those are our busy times, early in the morning and late at night, slump in the afternoon and again the slump in the afternoon really lends itself to home-working. And, because you are working in the digital space it is just a lot easier to manage home-working staff.
Chris: That concludes Part 1 of this Podcast. Thank you for listening we hope you enjoyed it. We will continue on Part 2 with more from Carolyn and Tina on more top tips and pointers about where Web-chat goes wrong, recurring themes when call centers fail to implement web-chat, any stumbling blocks to watch out for and how to overcome them.
Did you find the article interesting and would like to share it with your colleagues? Download the article as a PDF.
Originally published on Jul 20, 2016, updated on May 05, 2020
Download the free E-Book
How to be a Call Center Workforce Management Superstar
What you will learn:
- Learn about the 4 key metrics to measure and improve WFM success
- Diagnose problems and find tailored solutions
- React quickly and appropriately to the unexpected
- Increase customer and agent satisfaction with the help of WFM processes