If customers visit your business’s website and don’t get the help they need, you run the risk of losing them forever. A survey found that 45 percent of customers will leave your site for a competitor, and an equal percentage will be less likely to visit again. Four out of 10 visitors will be less likely to buy online, according to the survey data from Jupiter Research, a Forrester Research (News - Alert) company. Customers expect proactive help from a website’s customer service tools, whether they’re making a purchase, solving a billing dispute or looking for technical assistance.
To meet the need for fast, personal help, more and more companies are turning to webchat. Webchat can improve the customer experience while increasing self-help adoption. It can help increase revenue and lower costs, deflect e-mail and voice contacts by double digits, and substantially raise first contact resolution.
Customers are embracing it, too. In just three years, from 2009 to 2012, customer acceptance of webchat jumped from just 45 percent to 68 percent, according to a survey by BoldChat, a live chat software provider.
Whether companies have a webchat program in place but feel it’s not living up to its potential or they’re thinking of starting one, the five steps that follow can help ensure that webchat is an asset and not a stumbling block for businesses and their customers.
Identify baseline performance, goals and success metrics
For companies embarking on webchat and those who want to improve performance, it’s critical to establish a baseline and define goals and metrics. The metrics that drive performance on traditional channels are different from those that measure webchat performance. Deflection from other channels is the primary measure of success. Other important metrics include customer satisfaction, incremental sales or any other criteria that makes sense for a particular business.
Improve the customer journey and change behavior
A webchat system that works well helps improve the customer journey. Companies need to assess whether they’ve made self-service channels easy to find, simple to use and inviting. If the chat option is poorly deployed, it will aggravate customers and drive them to another channel or even a competitor.
Every contact through voice and e-mail channels is also an opportunity to educate customers about the webchat option. For example, a call center representative might resolve a billing question on a particular occasion but also work to change customers’ future behavior by telling them about the chat option and how it can be used.
Look for broad technology capabilities
Having multifunctional technology in place can ensure that a webchat system is being used to its full capacity. One important technology feature is the ability to segment customers. Not all customers can be helped with webchat, and segmenting avoids lost time and frustration for the chat agent and the customer. A webchat channel should ideally be rules-based so it is offered when certain conditions are met, helping to avoid unnecessary volumes.
Analytics to glean customer insights are one of webchat’s most useful features. For example, when a new product is launched, contact centers can create alerts that capture customers’ reactions about pricing and features, and offer early warnings about dissatisfaction that could lead to churn. This information can guide management in changing course, if necessary, and making better decisions in the future.
To be most useful and customer-friendly, webchat programs should have multimedia capabilities. A video link, for example, could provide a customer with a step-by-step, easily understood guide to setting up technology devices such as broadband. A video chat would be useful for showcasing features of high-end products. While deploying such tools can be expensive, they drive considerable ROI for businesses.
Provide specialized training for agents
Just as the metrics are different for webchat agents vs. e-mail and call representatives, recruiting and training must be channel-specific as well. Consider recruiting requirements such as typing speed and familiarity with multimedia and social media. Once agents are hired, there should be a training program to help them become proficient in chat-related activities such as chat-specific communications and etiquette. Overall, businesses would be wise to create a best-practices roadmap that spans the agent lifecycle.
Evaluate regularly and make improvements
It’s not uncommon for businesses to buy and implement a webchat system and then fail to take critical actions like evaluating its effectiveness, measuring ROI and improving functionalities. In some cases, businesses may have decided their webchat is unsuccessful because they don’t have the knowledge or tools needed to measure ROI, or the system may have key – but correctible – lapses that aren’t being addressed. Surveying customers about their experience can be very revealing in terms of surfacing pain points.
Webchat can be used broadly across the customer servicing spectrum and a wide range of industries, including telecommunications, media, retail, financial services and utilities, among others. It has clear benefits for businesses and customers. At the heart of a successful webchat program, however, is the human touch. In combination with the advanced technology now available, a webchat program can help a business reach its ultimate goal – keeping its customers loyal.
Jonathan Pinto, senior manager of business transformation at Firstsource (www.firstsource.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi