Real Time Chat and Customer Experience Cheat Seats

Real time chat can be the most impactful activity on customer experience, especially if your live chat integration aligns with your business goals.

Real time chat can be the most impactful activity on customer experience, especially if your live chat integration aligns with your business goals.
Real time chat can be the most impactful activity on customer experience, especially if your live chat integration aligns with your business goals.

Real time chat is one of the most meaningful ways of impacting customer experience. It is a medium that is fast and convenient for both the customer and the customer service representative. But what can you do to ensure you’re getting the most out of real time chat?

Last week, Flavio Martin at Win the Customer posted an article about customer experience management, featuring a “Customer Experience Cheat Sheet” from Kampyle.

The content of the cheat sheet is helpful but really the content is secondary to the structure. The sheet breaks the customer experience improvement process down into its component parts: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), touchpoints and relevant data. Chris Frascella addressed something similar earlier this year in his article “What Live Chat Reporting Can Drive Real Improvements?” You can read even more about live chat reporting here. If you’re interested in having an easy, measurable way to improve customer experience, I would recommend you take a few minutes with one or both of those links.

Real Time Chat, Customer Experience and Live Chat Integration

Live chat integration brings to life the promise of using real time chat to impact customer experience management. Live chat integration is what bridges the gap from your real time chat software and your e-commerce platform, help desk software, CRM, etc. This is how you’re able to correlate live chat activities (on both the customer end and the chat agent end) with e-commerce purchases, upsells, customer retention, etc.

The process looks like this: you capture data about how effective you are at achieving your goals (KPIs) using data from the points at which you receive feedback and measure engagement (touchpoints). You compile this information in a centralized database, such as your CRM. By connecting the dots on these data points, the data itself (relevant data, to tie it back to the Customer Experience Cheat Sheet) can help you determine what changes you should be making to improve. At least, in theory. The tough part is actually making this happen in practice.

The four primary obstacles that make customer experience management hard to execute effectively are:

  1. technology
  2. implementation/configuration
  3. staff
  4. expertise

Technology is an obstacle when it fails to facilitate the collection and analysis of customer feedback (and customer engagement) data. Some tools just aren’t built to do this well.

Implementation is an obstacle when your software configuration is not aligned with your goals. Whatever tool you’re using to collect and analyze data must be structured in such a way that it can effectively do its job. There are many instances of companies seeing mediocre (at best) benefits from truly great data collection and analysis tools. This is simply because the company’s systems were not configured in alignment with what the company was trying to accomplish.

Staff becomes an obstacle when employees don’t see the data as essential to the company’s success. They will not be as attentive to accuracy and completeness of data, which will compromise the integrity of the results. A lot of this can be solved with automation, but not all of it. It’s important to get staff buy-in to maximize your ability to positively impact the experience of doing business with your company.

Expertise is an obstacle when a company’s lack of familiarity with the process of managing customer experience leads to counter-productive decisions, for instance starting with too many data-points. You will be drowning in data without any context for how to make sense of it. Similarly, trying to integrate every tool you use is probably not your best move. You can read more about essential vs. non-essential integrations here.

Measuring Customer Experience with Real Time Chat Software

Many of the key data points surrounding the customer’s experience doing business with you are captured automatically in conjunction with your real time chat software solution. These might include referring page, current page, the transcript of the conversation with your chat agent and whatever activity they completed (maybe a purchase, maybe a lead form). This can help you complete the picture of what the customer experience is like. Again, you can read more about live chat reporting here and here. Armed with this data, you should have what you need to frequently, measurably improve customer experience.

Chat Etiquette 101: Want to Lose a Prospect? Use These Three Words Improperly

Good chat etiquette can make the difference in converting a prospect.

Chat etiquette is just as important as phone etiquette.
Good chat etiquette can make the difference in converting a prospect.

Real time chat represents a fantastic opportunity to bring inside sales efforts to scale – but it is not without its potential chat etiquette pitfalls.

Even experienced sales reps will encounter two types of challenges when approaching a new communication medium such as live chat: 1) existing challenges that need to be handled differently in this medium 2) new challenges that don’t exist outside this medium. Find below an example of each of these in the context of chat etiquette, and of one that straddles the line, using language that you’d probably hear in your own contact center.

An Old Problem with a New Complication in Real Time Chat

Even before real time chat came along, “yes” has been a dangerous word in the hands of a sales person. “Yes” can set inappropriate expectations in the mind of the prospect, or so vastly surpass the prospect’s expectations that it poses a threat to the sales person’s credibility (and as a result, to the credibility of the organization as a whole). While sales reps are always accountable for what they said to a potential customer, live chat complicates this by providing a transcript of the conversation (and usually making it readily available to the customer, and/or automatically logging it in your company’s CRM). In this instance, the chat etiquette suggested is as much for yourself and your colleagues as it is for your prospective customers.

An Ally Prior to Live Chat Software

In the age before live chat software, “Hold” (or “Wait”) was a great word to precede with “Please” to reduce a prospect’s frustration with how long a task was taking. Real time chat is, as its name suggests, real time, and any reminder of delay or slowness defeats the purpose of the medium and will actually contribute to customer frustration. Good chat etiquette would suggest that instead of saying “hold” or “wait,” you should say “I’m looking into that, this may take a moment” or a similar turn of phrase. The goal is to reinforce that you are working diligently for the prospect, paying immediate attention to their concerns, rather than emphasizing their side of the experience: waiting for you to do whatever it is you need to do to answer their simple question. Don’t remind your prospects that you are making them wait!

A Word Either Complicated or Rendered Useless By Real Time Chat

On the one hand, live chat software has made “Click” (in the sense of web navigation) useless. Why bother asking a prospect to go through the process when you can just push them to (or invite them to view, to use the best chat etiquette) the webpage yourself? This makes chatting with you a more user-friendly experience, as you aren’t sending links or describing where to find the appropriate links, you’re merely asking “Can I show you this?” and then doing so. It’s like being a good host.

On the other hand, “Click” can be used well in live chat, it just has to be used differently. If you are presenting a prospective customer with a choice, for instance, rather than asking them what their choice is and then taking them there, you could present them with their options and the means of pursuing the one most relevant or important to them simultaneously.

No two people are identical. You can usually tell from response time and from word choice where a specific prospect’s level of engagement and level of frustration is. If they seem to be responding well to being provided with several links, great – but if they find it frustrating, you might improve their experience by helping them reach a decision, then offering to take them to the corresponding page. On the flip side, if a prospect is frustrated that they are not “in control” of their web navigation though it is less convenient for both of you, feel free to send the links over to be clicked. Ultimately, it’s about creating a great customer experience and accommodating a prospect’s idiosyncrasies are sometimes a part of that.

You can read more about live chat etiquette here.

Five Tips for Improving Live Chat

Improving upon live chat to meet or exceed customer expectations may require training, among other changes.

The benefits of providing live chat service to your customers are well known and documented. Companies that offer live chat benefit from lower operating costs, quicker response times for customers, less frequent shopping cart abandonment rates and superior customer experiences.

Live chat can lower operating costs, expedite response times for customers, reduce shopping cart abandonment rates and improve customer experiences.
Improving upon live chat to meet or exceed customer expectations may require training, among other changes.

As more organizations realize the benefits of live chat it is becoming less of a differentiator between competitors. Now is the time to assess your live chat service and take it from good to great.

With live chat becoming more common on websites, customers are now expecting more robust service to be provided through this channel. The technological advances with live chat are making this customer service tool better and more assimilated into back-of-house operations so that the live chat agent can provide a deeper level of service. When live chat agents are able to see a customer’s page view history and shopping cart they can provide more targeted help to the customer, which ultimately saves time.

Making it Better

Since most live chat features are similar let’s explore some ways to improve upon the live chat experience for your customer.

  • Around the clock service. There is no such thing as banker’s hours when it comes to customer service. Consumers expect to be able to explore, compare, shop and purchase at any hour of the day. Add to this mix a global marketplace with consumers connecting to your brand or product from different time zones, and you can quickly see why it’s important to make sure you’re available to meet the needs of your customers when they are trying to connect with you. If it’s not possible for you company to locally staff your live agent channel at all hours, then consider outsourcing this feature so that you can be accessed at any time. It’s possible, of course, that most of your customers aren’t trying to reach you at all hours and you can have limited live agent hours. Taking a look at your analytics will give you a better handle of when customers are interacting with your website so you can assess your live agent staffing needs.
  • Plan for surges and lulls. Staffing requirements for live chat have some of the similar challenges of staffing a call center. There will be peaks and valleys of demand and you’ll want to make sure you are communicating clearly with customers that there may be a wait associated with live chat. Many consumers are accustomed to the speedy responses they receive with live chat and may get frustrated and discouraged if they find themselves experiencing a long wait before a live chat operator is able to respond. Studying your analytics regarding the volume of inquiries will provide useful data in knowing how to properly staff for the peaks and valleys. The cost savings to companies who offer live chat is that live chat agents often handle multiple customers simultaneously, so a greater number of customers can be served with fewer employees.
  • Give your customers control. When customers can customize their screen when interacting with a live agent and request a transcript of the conversation, they feel empowered. Giving opportunities for customers to personalize their interaction with your company helps build trust and gives them reason to remain loyal to your brand or product. Personalizing the live chat experience also humanizes the interaction, which is important for improving upon this customer service channel.
  • Training. Arguably one of the surest ways to improving your live chat experience is by training your agents. Agents must possess the knowledge of your brand or product and know how to easily and succinctly communicate their expertise to the customer. Beyond product knowledge live agents also need specific training in how to communicate effectively through the written word. Writing is a very different skill than speaking and proper training around this area is important.
  • Humanize your communication. There are many different short cuts that agents can utilize to type out canned responses to a customer’s inquiry. To reduce the risk of coming across as too robotic or scripted, you’ll want to train your agents in the proper ratio of scripted vs. personalized responses. Customers are more likely to trust their interaction if they feel they are communicating with a live person rather than a robot. Another tip for humanizing the live chat experience is to provide a real photo and the name of the agent that the customer is communicating with.

 

Live chat offers many benefits to customers and companies. It is quickly becoming the preferred method of communication for customers. Live chat has been around long enough where the earlier kinks have been ironed out making it the perfect time to improve upon its value. Spend some time assessing how your live chat feature functions within your operations and consider boosting it so it goes from good to great. Your customers will thank you!