Time to Consider Web Chat

Time to Consider Web Chat

By Blair Pleasant July 8, 2014 3 Comments
Interactive Intelli 125 PNG
Time to Consider Web Chat by Blair Pleasant

When it comes to getting customer care and service, today’s consumers have a plethera of options. No longer limited to calling an 800 number, customers can call, write or text, and even video, from a range of devices based on their needs and preferences. More and more people are turning to alternative channels for customer care, and smart organizations are embracing these channels as part of their overall customer care strategy and contact center operations.

By deploying a multichannel contact center platform, providing a single queuing and routing engine for all channels, a single integrated view of the customer, and a single reporting system, organizations can reduce costs while enhancing customer service and support. However, too many companies have made it too difficult for customers to reach out and connect in the way that’s most convenient for them for that particular situation. Businesses need to make it easy for the customer, while making it more cost effective and efficient for the organization.

As shown below, the portion of voice or phone interactions for customer care is staying stable or very slightly decreasing, as alternate contact methods are on the rise, particularly web chat and social media. While the voice channel isn’t going away any time soon, it will be used primarily for more complex and time sensitive issues, as the easier, more transactional interactions will be increasingly handled through web chat and web self-service.


Source: COMMfusion LLC

The channel of choice for many consumers today is web chat. According to Dimension Data’s 2013/14 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking study of 817 participants in 79 countries, “Web chat has become the top channel priority for 50.6% of contact centres, and the number of deployments that are planned has gone up 27.2% over the past 12 months.”

Web chat is gaining in popularity for many reasons, notably the rise of the smartphone for interactions. Increasingly consumers are becoming more comfortable with self-service options, as it often saves time and allows them to seek help and information at any time of day or day of the week. According to a study by Ovum, 63% of online consumers said they were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat. For the business, web chat can help save money. The average cost of servicing a customer by phone is generally around $7.75 per call, while email service costs around $3 per interaction, and web chat can cost even less, depending on the number of simultaneous chat interactions.

Yet, providing web chat as a channel does not automatically deliver cost and customer service benefits. When adding chat, it’s important to assess your customer’s needs and usage patterns. In order to identify where and how the channel can best be used, businesses do well to consider the following:

  • In which situations should web chat be offered – sales, service, both?
  • Will web chat be available after normal working hours?
  • Should voice agents handle web chats?
  • How many simultaneous web chat sessions should an agent handle?
  • What happens when an issue can’t be resolved in web chat and needs to move to a voice interaction?

Web chat has tremendous potential, but it has to be done properly or it will likely fail. Organizations must develop a well-thought out multichannel strategy that addresses a range of issues to help best meet their goals while increasing customer satisfaction. It’s important to avoid potential issues that may cause customer frustration or disappointment.

For example, some companies that have deployed web chat initially found that they were overwhelmed with the volume of web chat requests, and didn’t have the staff to properly handle the number of interactions. This can easily be overcome by using workforce management and optimization tools to help ensure that the right number of web chat agents are available throughout the day.

Organizations can increase customer satisfaction by deploying a multichannel contact center with a universal queue that integrates all channels and provides a single view of the customer, including any past and ongoing interactions that they may have had with the business across channels. With an integrated multichannel contact center, all phone, email, and chat events are handled by a common system, leveraging the system’s recording, reporting, and workforce optimization capabilities. The universal queue can set priority levels to incoming calls, emails and chats, and let agents to move between channels. In addition, organizations can use blended agents that handle multiple channels, making it easier for agents to dynamically move from one channel to another as needed based on volume.

As the Dimension Data pointed out, “Will web chat – notwithstanding its potential to integrate with social media – provide consumers and organisations alike with the call-avoidance solution that they’ve been demanding?” As a consumer, I often get frustrated using web chat because the agent is handling too many interactions at one time and can’t respond quickly enough. I often give up on the web chat session and end up calling the company to get my issue resolved.

Therefore, I was very happy to see a demo of Interactive Intelligence’s Agent Productivity Tool for Web Chat 4.0, which notifies agents when too much time lapses from when the customer enters text during the chat session. This new feature highlights a chat interaction as soon as specific conditions are met, such as when an interaction dialog for the chat is open. If an agent does not respond to the customer before a certain amount of time, the chat will be highlighted to remind or warn agents that a chat response time exceeds a specific time limit. By using this capability, organizations can reduce customer frustration when they have to wait too long for an agent response.

Depending on the nature of the issue, the time constraints, and even generational issues, consumers will want to use the channel that best meets their needs. It’s important for businesses to not just offer these channels in an integrated manner, but to develop an appropriate strategy based on their business goals and customer requirements.

This paper was sponsored by Interactive Intelligence.


3 Responses to "Time to Consider Web Chat" - Add Yours

Art Rosenberg 7/8/2014 9:33:37 AM

Yes, web chat provides important benefits that voice alone doesn't, especially visual output to the customer and information links.

In terms of interactive responsiveness, there can be a graceful way to escalate to a voice conversation, especially with mobile users, which can exploit ININ's new capabily it acquired with OrgSpan, to let the customer choose who they want to talk to, based on qualifications and availability. Being more accessible with smartphones and tablets, virtual queueing and callbacks are now more practical.

So, we can't give customers everything they want on demand, but we can give them second prize with more flexibility for live assistance as well as control for how and when they can get it.
Chris Stegh 7/10/2014 11:12:44 AM

Blair, excellent post! I found especially interesting the stats per interaction and the chart showing the leveling off of email as a channel.

A couple examples from my own company back up your call to action.

1) Our inside sales estimates that 50% of their leads have been coming in through our new web chat option, which simply uses Lync as the back end.
2) We've got small customers (high-tech/software) who have no formal contact center, but who are adding web chat as a support channel. They are letting their support team multitask and give the customer the feeling of instant access that they want.

Surely, companies with existing contact centers should consider adding web chat, but what do you think about web chat being an entry point into the contact center for organizations who haven't yet made CC investments? Will that be a big enough # to impact the market?
Ileana Chermenschi 7/11/2014 1:07:19 AM

Hi Blair, great article!

I think this trend will only get stronger as Gen Z come of age - they are definitely more comfortable using chat as opposed to voice.

Regarding the questions you posed above, at our company we implemented chat aiming it as a sales channel, however it proved impossible to take out the customer service functionality - customers were demanding it. So we changed the agent structure to also offer primary tech support on the website. And it's doing wonders for customer experience.

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