Born to Chat

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9 in 10 consumers want support while online and web chat is ranked by customers as the “easiest” channel through which to communicate – just beating social media, but outstripping email, phone and online self-service by far.*   So why do so few high-traffic websites offer web chat?  The answer is not as clear as the many advantages web chat offers – for customers, employees and organisations alike.

As far as customers are concerned, they want their inquiry addressed as quickly as possible, and it’s simply faster to get a response via chat than email or social media.  For some people, web chat is preferred to calling because there’s no need to hold a phone to your ear, navigate an IVR menu, or listen to in-queue music or announcements which may be annoying.  And there’s no need to wade through a company’s website to find a phone number, which are strangely and frustratingly hidden from immediate view – just click on the “Start Chat” box staring you in the face!    

Customers can also request a written transcript of the chat session to be emailed to them.  This gives the customer the opportunity to re-read the advice they have been given, reducing potential misunderstandings and assisting people whose first language is not English.

For employees, chat is preferred by many to taking calls.  The reasons vary from, “I don’t get abused for my foreign accent”, to “I can easily double-check things I’m unsure about while I’m engaged in a web chat session, so there’s less pressure.”  The option to consult a supervisor or specialist (without putting a customer “on hold”) surely correlates with a higher degree of accuracy and knowledge in the advice given to customers, in turn creating a positive customer experience.  It is no surprise that 82% of customers “rated Web chat as good or very good” in research commissioned by BT Global Services.

Organisations can benefit from deploying web chat as a channel in their contact centre in many ways: reduced costs (due to web chat consultants engaging in 2-4 chat sessions simultaneously, and no toll-free number costs), fewer customer complaints about accents or background noise, and better first-time resolution rates than email, where ‘backing and forthing’ may result in a customer waiting several days or even weeks to have their issues resolved.  Chat is also a less risky channel than social media, as it is a one-on-one customer interaction rather than in the public domain, meaning one customer’s negative sentiment need not be aired and shared with the world.  Offering chat to customers can readily be tested as a way of reducing drop-off and increasing conversion rates, and perhaps providing important clues as to why a website is attracting visitors but not closing sales in an optimal manner.

Web chat will not replace the telephone as customers’ preferred choice for addressing complex issues or sensitive matters.  But for organisations with a high volume of visitors to their website, web chat is fast becoming a “must-have” sales and service channel alongside phone, email, social media, and instant messaging (to which it is most similar, at least from the user experience point of view).  And remember if young adults are an important segment of your customer-base, millennials are born to chat!

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*Source: BT Global Services, Dr Nicola Millard

Last updated on: June 15, 2023