Creating a Cohesive Online Customer Support Network With Web Chat

Customers frequently choose the Web for their business interactions, and they need to be able to reach a live agent via Web chat in order to minimize disruption to their online session. Enterprises need to evolve Web and mobile customer service to serve these customers better and create cohesive support experiences. Web chat is easy to implement and provides customers with an efficient way to switch between self-service and live agent interactions. Customers are already familiar with chat from years of using messaging in their personal and work lives; instead of picking up the phone when they want assistance, it makes sense that they can also connect via chat. Agents can share knowledge articles or offer cobrowsing capabilities to help with technical issues. And enterprises can monitor and track these interactions.

The most obvious use case is to assist with online sales and thus reduce purchase abandonment rates. Web chat allows agents to support customers during their purchase, help with questions about returns and price matching, or merely reassure them that the business will do what it promises. By connecting sales conversions to chat usage, enterprises can easily track its impact and measure ROI, making investment decisions easier.

However, there is also a need to provide broader support within Web chat. By integrating it more fully with customer service, agents can offer assistance around Web site technicalities, create cobrowsing sessions to assist with form completion, and connect to a voice call where appropriate. It also has applicability for B2B interactions to support users with claims information, form completion, and sharing details about suppliers and logistics. The advantage of Web chat is that agents can handle two or three interactions at once, bringing down the costs in comparison to voice, as well as providing a convenient channel for customers.

Web chat enables intelligent, automated, device-aware communications

More and more customers are using smartphones and mobile applications for business transactions, and Web chat should be a valid option on these devices. Chat uses a very simple interface that can easily be shifted to the phone. Enterprises should include device detection to determine whether a customer is on a smartphone or tablet before offering a mobile chat session tailored to that particular device. By embedding chat within a mobile application, the customer experience becomes more convenient, reducing the need to open a separate application or communications channel to get support. Often customers need to authenticate themselves in order to use an application, and an agent can easily use this data to predict and determine customer needs.

Web chat can also be integrated with real-time analytics in order to pinpoint the most opportune time to offer a proactive outbound chat session to a customer. Enterprises can use real-time customer Web behavior, coupled with customer value information, to determine when and to whom inbound chat will be made available. By using analytics alongside business processes and historical data, enterprises can predict customer intentions and offer support when needed. This will help boost sales and customer satisfaction, by giving customers proactive assistance without bombarding them with requests to chat. Agents can also provide better responses if they have historical background about the customer and what he or she is trying to achieve.

As enterprises develop chat capabilities, they need to make customers aware of its availability and best uses. Customers should be encouraged to log on to a Web site so that agents can get additional data about them and link a chat to existing CRM records. Customers will be willing to share information if they believe it will improve their experience, and enterprises should therefore expend some energy making customer authentication a premise for using Web support tools. Enterprises can track customer behavior across the Web and use this data to improve knowledge articles, train agents, and determine when to push proactive chat sessions.

Despite its usefulness as a private channel, there will be queries that require more in-depth explanations that need to be resolved via phone. Web chat should be directly integrated with phone so that agents can call a customer directly, if needed, and the customer can speak to the same agent without having to repeat their question.

Enterprises should collect customer feedback and improve resolution rates

As with any channel, enterprises should assess the questions customers ask in Web chat and monitor resolution rates. Queries that begin in chat should be resolved in the same channel when possible. Enterprises should request simple feedback about resolution at the end of each interaction, as well as track post-chat behavior.

Finally, Web chat should be part of a broader Web customer service strategy, where customers have the choice and access to information across FAQ pages and community driven advice, as well as social media.