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Debunking the web self-service myth "it's just for support, not for customer conversion."

13th May 2014
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Despite the omni-channel world we now live in, there are still those who consider web self-service to be a second-rate customer support channel. In this four-part blog series, we will be addressing some of the most common myths surrounding web self-service.

Part 1: reviewed the myth: “It’s fobbing customers off with a second-rate support channel.”

Part 2: reviewed the myth: “It’s all about cutting jobs in the contact centre.”

Part 3: “It’s just for support, not for customer conversion.”

Another common misconception about web self-service is that it’s purely for support, simply there to answer generic customer enquiries. However, web self-service tools are proven to not only aid customers by answering their questions 24/7; they are also tactically used to increase conversion rates.

According to research from Baymard Institute, the average reported shopping cart abandonment rate is 68%. This means that two thirds of the customers who start to place an order on a site may be leaving before completing their purchase.

Offering live chat on a website can significantly reduce cart abandonment rates, via both proactive and reactive chat. Proactive chat, which is deployed based on a pre-determined set of triggers (e.g. pausing on a form or checkout page), means that customers can be selectively targeted to be sent chat invitations, escalating them to one-to-one dialogue, exactly when they need assistance. Alternatively, reactive chat offers the customer the opportunity to choose to engage with an agent via clearly visible buttons at strategic points on a website.

Offering live assistance to customers whilst they are in the middle of an online purchase can have a major impact on improving conversion rates, with Forrester reporting that 38% of online consumers had made their purchase due to a chat session. In addition to this, live chat also helps to improve customer satisfaction, with stats from eDigitalResearch Customer Service Benchmark Survey showing it to have the highest satisfaction levels of any customer service channel.

The benefit of live chat from a customer perspective is that it allows them to remain in their channel of choice, ensuring the customer journey is a seamless one. Having started their purchase online, they can be escalated to a live agent for further assistance, rather than having to change to e-mail or phone channels to complete their transaction. The fact that contact centre agents are able to handle several chats simultaneously means efficiency and response times are also improved. From a business perspective, this can result in a notable reduction in customer handling costs.

It is important however to consider live chat as part of an overall multi-channel customer service strategy, rather than as a stand-alone service. Integrating chat within a centralised FAQ knowledge-base of information - that is deployed across all customer touch-points - will ensure consistency. Those businesses that extend their knowledge-base via an intelligent FAQ self-service tool or Virtual Agent also benefit from being able to promote contextual banner adverts and highly relevant promotional messages adjacent to answers, encouraging cross selling.

ContactBabel’s most recent research, shows that in the rankings for most important areas of IT expenditure in 2014-2015 by respondents, investment in self-service technology ranked second (first was telephony infrastructure), with web chat ranking in third place out of ten.

It is evident therefore that web self-service as part of a multi-channel offering, is no longer being viewed as a ‘nice to have’ but has grown in priority to a ‘must-have’ for the majority of businesses.

In part 4 of this series we will be addressing the myth: “Customers would rather speak to a real person than use web self-service.”

Other content you may be interested in:

ContactBabel report: Inner Circle Guide to Self-Service.
White paper: How to Choose the Right Customer Service Software Vendor.


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