The rise of web chat
Imagine two agents sitting side by side in a contact centre. One is hard at work on the phone, taking customer call after customer call. The other seems to be just sitting there, tapping away at her computer. She doesn’t pick up the phone all day.
It’s not that she hasn’t been working. In fact she dealt with four times as many customers as her phone-based colleague, received positive customer feedback for the detailed advice she provided to those customers and even discovered a significant technical issue about which she added a solution in the online knowledge base.
How did she do it? Through the fast-rising channel of web chat. This has been around for a long time but, according to ContactBabel, still only accounts for 1-2% of interactions into UK contact centres, although it is now offered by 29% of contact centres and many experts believe it is set to become increasingly important.
There are good reasons why. It allows agents to deal with more than one customer at a time, writing answers to one customer while others read their responses. Agents can use hotkeys to provide template answers and they can escalate queries as and when needed. In short, it makes them more efficient.
The best web chat solutions allow agents to moderate a group discussion, enabling them to address several related issues in one go. So, now, agents are becoming ‘educators’ as they help their customers whilst also picking up on issues and solutions to add to the knowledge base which might otherwise have been missed from the usual customer satisfaction and feedback routes. And more variety for the agent means more motivation.
Add web chat to your smart phone app and your customers can chat to an agent while they’re making a booking or querying aspects of a product or service. Offer three-way chat and they could even chat to a service engineer at the same time as the contact centre agent. Despite the move towards automation and self-service, there are still those times when real-time contact will make the difference between a good and bad customer experience and, ultimately, a sale. From a practical point, as far as the customer is concerned they are still using the app, they haven’t had to make a seperate phone call, wait to be put through to an expert - their queries are resolved there and then.
Given all these potential benefits, it is little surprise that, according to Forrester Research, investment in proactive web chat capabilities will produce an incremental return of 105%.
Some US contact centres are taking web chat so seriously they are recruiting agents who, in their spare time, play online, specifically because they are more suited to the fast-paced, text-oriented nature of web chat and are on the same wave length as the customers who want to use it.
Communication technology has moved the call centre of the past on to the contact centre of the future. That technology speeds up connection, makes processes more efficient, drives up productivity. But it’s still all about human interaction which is why I am sure web chat will be the channel we’re all talking about, and chatting on, this year.