The importance of live chat for digital customer service

As digital customer service increasingly becomes the norm, live chat is quickly growing in popularity as a customer support channel. According to Forrester’s Kate Leggett:

Chat offers many benefits to the customer: companies can quickly connect customers to an agent with the right skills to answer the question without them having to navigate an arduous interactive voice response (IVR), they can succinctly resolve questions in near-real time, and agents can leverage customer behavior on the website to move the conversation forward instead of rediscovering information that has already been communicated to the customer.

While live chat used to be a nice-to-have, it’s quickly becoming a must-have; customers expect you to respond quickly to their questions, or they’ll take their business elsewhere.

So how can you get started with making live chat part of your customer service strategy?

First, think about which use cases make the most sense for live chat

Live chat is good for low-to-medium complexity inquiries; high-complexity inquiries are often better off being handled through a voice interaction.

Think about agent training

Your customers want a consistent customer experience across all channels, and part of that requires your brand to have a consistent voice. Writing a style manual with guidelines on things like tone, grammar, and message formatting will help your agents deliver customer experiences that reflect your brand.

It’s also important that you not throw your customer service agents into the deep end right away with too many chat sessions; managing multiple interactions is a skill that takes time to develop. The average contact center agent can manage 2 to 3 concurrent interactions, while a highly-skilled agent might manage 4 or 5 interactions. Let your agents start with lower numbers of interactions until they are more comfortable, and only then increase their interaction limits.

Customers expect fast responses, so plan to staff appropriately

Customers hate being stuck at their computer waiting for a live chat response and will abandon chats if they fail to get a response quickly, so be sure you are staffing your chat channel adequately.

Use a solution that has the features you need

When looking at a live chat solution, there are some important features that you will need to ensure a successful omnichannel integration:

  • Captures customer info before interacting with a human agent: Collecting pertinent customer information before interacting with an agent will reduce overall handling time, as your agent will not have to ask for the needed information item by item. It will also allow your agents to personalize their greetings.

  • Concurrent interactions: One of the primary benefits of live chat is the ability for agents to handle concurrent interactions [link to asynchronous piece]. It’s important to ensure agents are able to handle multiple interactions, and that supervisors are able to assign different interaction limits to different agents. 

  • CRM integration: As of 2017, only a third of companies are able to track customer journeys across multiple channels. CRM integration will allow your agents to view entire interaction histories, which will improve the consistency of your customer experience. It will also save your customers from having to repeat information, which is one of the biggest customer frustrations.

  • Metrics and reporting: Fewer than 50% of contact centers gather the same metrics on digital channels as they do for phone. But without gathering comparable metrics, how can you be sure your customers are receiving a consistent cross-channel experience?

Do you have questions about how best to implement live chat for your business or contact center? Contact us to speak to one of our digital engagement experts.

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About the Author: Anna Kreider