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The Value of Web Chat in Your Contact Center

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Is Web chat right for your business? Consumers demands have shifted and customers expect access to information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Read this white paper to learn how Connect First's web …

Is Web chat right for your business? Consumers demands have shifted and customers expect access to information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Read this white paper to learn how Connect First's web chat system can implemented quickly to help your business.

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  • 1. THE VALUE OF WEB CHAT IN YOUR CONTACT CENTER
  • 2. THEVALUE OF WEB CHAT INYOUR CONTACT CENTER The proliferation of tablets and smartphones as well as the advent of social media has led to explosive growth in text-based communications. Every day, millions of people across the U.S. useWeb chat for a wide variety of personal and business purposes. Driving this are social networking sites such as Facebook as well as “over-the-top” services such as Skype, GoogleTalk, MS Chat, iChat, and a myriad of others. Next to its close cousin, SMS,Web chat is the communications channel of choice among generations X and Z — and over time older generations are becoming more comfortable with it as well. As a result, consumers are increasingly usingWeb chat to conduct business with online merchants.According to recent research conducted byWeb chat service provider HYPERLINK “http://www.boldchat.com/” BoldChat, about 65.5% of American online shoppers had engaged in a live chat as of September 2012, up from 57.5% in 2011 and up from 50.4% in 2009.The firm’s HYPERLINK “http://www.boldchat.com/live-chat-research. asp#effect-2012” Live Chat Effectiveness 2012 report also finds that 21% of online shoppers in the U.S. now preferWeb chat over voice communications. Web chat is playing an increasingly important role in business-to-business marketing and sales as well. AsWeb chat continues to prove itself as a driver of customer satisfaction, organizations are increasingly integrating it with their customer service strategy. Most have found that it is an excellent way to make theirWeb site more interactive, which in turn helps increase conversion rates.Although Web chat may not account for a high percentage of volume in contact centers today, it is nevertheless the second most popular customer service channel, next to voice.A recent study byTSIA predicted that inboundWeb chat traffic in the contact center would increase about 5% annually in the U.S. Meanwhile voice fell from 64% of all inbound volume in 2010 to 58% in 2011.As texting continues to “cannibalize” voice, customer-facing organizations are reacting by implementingWeb chat in their contact centers. Many have come to realize that they must include chat in their multi-channel strategy, or risk missing out on future sales and marketing opportunities. WEB CHAT ADOPTION DRIVERS For the consumer, Web chat provides a level of immediacy to communications that email and voice cannot match. All a customer has to do is click on the Web chat interface that is provided through a merchant’s Web site to launch a one-on-one interaction with a virtual or live agent — they don’t have to switch to another application, leave the computer to findaphone,orwaitonhold. In this regard,Web chat creates an opportunity for merchants to tap into a “captive” audience that is more inclined to make impulse buys. Some organizations offerWeb chat with “click-to-talk” functionality, which allows a customer to escalate a chat session into a voice interaction with a live agent, either by using their computer’s built-in microphone or by donning a headset. (In the case where “click-to-call” is not offered, it is just as simple for the agent to call the customer on their landline or mobile phone.) Web chat is particularly helpful to customers seeking information about products and services.According to BoldChat’s survey, 42% of respondents indicated that their first use ofWeb chat was for a support or customer service question.WithWeb chat, customers can self-escalate from self-service to live assistance and get their questions answered quickly. Once in-session, agents can help customers navigate theWebsite to find products — or they can push out links or downloadable documents for immediate consumption. Further, with its amazingly low abandon rates,Web chat provides agents with unprecedented cross-sell and upset opportunities. Typically, merchants useWeb chat to proactively reach out to customers.After a visitor spends a certain amount of time on a merchant’s site (or after they generate a certain number of page views or clicks, or add items to their shopping cart), a pop-up including the chat interface will automatically appear in the visitor’s browser, asking them if they have questions about any of the merchant’s products or services, or need help checking out. Sometimes this is facilitated via a “virtual agent,” “chat bot” or “concierge;” aWeb application that mimics a live agent by automatically providing scripted (often “yes” or “no”) questions that the visitor can answer by clicking on links. Once the customer reaches a certain point in the interaction, the virtual agent will ask if they wish to speak to a live agent (or, in some cases, the interaction is automatically and seamlessly escalated to a live resource). Some organizations — particularly those with younger customers — have had great success using “chat bots” to automate the entire sales process. Those serving a wider demographic, including older customers, or those with more complex offerings, are more likely to keep the interaction live from start to finish. Still others useWeb chat in “reactive” fashion, letting their customers initiate the interaction themselves (the merchant might point out that they offer chat as an alternate channel) — and using live chat once initiated. AlthoughWeb chat currently accounts for only about 3% of all contact center volume,TSIA’s research suggests that chat usage rates will continue to rise at a rate of about 5% per year — cannibalizing voice, which will continue to see gradually declining volume.The firm’s 2011 research showed that New Silent Generation customers (aged 18-21) usedWeb chat 28% of the time when carrying out a transaction with an online merchant — a stark contrast compared with the Baby Boomer Generation, which only usedWeb chat 4% of the time. Interestingly, other research has shown that consumers overwhelmingly support chat as an alternate channel, even if they don’t make use of it. Consumers appreciate the fact thatWeb chat is offered, as it demonstrates the merchant’s willingness to do business through the channel of their choice.
  • 3. HANDLE WEB CHAT WITH CARE Although proactiveWeb chat can be a very effective sales tool, it can also be a “turn-off” when it is presented too aggressively. For example, it may pop up on a customers screen “prematurely,” before they’ve had a chance to browse, or the messaging might be too overt or abrupt, signaling a certain level of “desperation” on the part of the merchant. Merchants will typically configure their sites so that the pop up isn’t too large or intrusive (it’s usually positioned slightly off center in the browser window, so that the customer sees it, but it’s not “in their face”). Also, just because chat can be easily integrated with aWeb site doesn’t mean it is simple to implement in the contact center. In fact, it can work against a merchant’s goals when it isn’t integrated or supported properly. Recent research from contact center consultancy ContactBabel shows thatWeb chat interactions generally take about twice the amount of time as phone interactions, simply because there is typing involved (plus unlike voice there is some inherent latency on the network side).Therefore, organizations need to ensure that they have adequate agent resources in place to handleWeb chat. If customers start initiating chats, but there are no agents available to respond, not only will customers abandon, they will wonder why the merchant bothered to offerWeb chat in the first place. In addition, organizations should be committed to responding toWeb chat 24-7-365, as part of the purpose is to deliver customer service during non- business hours. Proper agent training is crucial: Organizations typically use agents with good typing and writing skills for chat and email, for obvious reasons, but there are other factors to consider: For example, agents have to be very careful not to misrepresent or “over promise” on products or services, as there is now a written record of the interaction that can be captured by the customer via screen shot (in addition, compliance mandates require some organizations to have the agent email copy of the interaction to the customer, or offer it).Therefore, organizations seeking to succesfully implementWeb chat should prepare to invest in upfront and ongoing agent training, in addition to upfront implementation costs. ISWEB CHAT RIGHT FORYOUR BUSINESS? Most customer facing businesses — especially those with aWeb presence — can benefit from includingWeb chat in their customer service strategy, providing it is implemented correctly and agents have been properly trained. However the degree to which a business will benefit fromWeb chat can vary greatly from industry to industry. Important considerations include: What are the demographical characteristics of your company’s core customer base? Is it tech-savvy or not-so-tech-savvy? If a company’s core base is aged 65-75, it is unlikely thatWeb chat will deliver a fast ROI. (It should also be noted that many organizations survey their existing customers to see if they wantWeb chat as an alternate channel before deploying it.) Are your company’s products or services complex and thus tend to elicit a lot of complicated questions, requiring accurate, detailed, perhaps even research-based responses?There are some issues that simply don’t lend themselves to chat resolution. How much customer email does your company currently receive?This can be a strong indicator as to how wellWeb chat, with its faster response rate, will resonate with your customers. Organizations implementing Web chat for the fi rst time can face considerable upfront deployment and integration costs — particularly when integrating Web chat with legacy or hardware-based call center systems. Therefore, organizations need to balance those costs with the anticipated demand for Web chat, based on an evaluation. It should be noted that most of today’s cloud-based contact center systems offerWeb chat as an added feature, tightly integrated with the ACD, thus giving SMBs a smooth migration path to multi-channel capabilities. In addition, organizations deploying chat will need a strategy for monitoring quality as well as tracking agent performance with this additional channel. Cloud-based contact center systems, with their unified architecture, allow for KPIs and other statistics to be tracked for all channels — often both historically and in near-real time — to give contact center managers a holistic view of performance.When chat is deployed as a standalone service, achieving the same level of reporting can require additional upfront cost for system integration. INCREASING CONTACT CENTER EFFICIENCY WITH WEB CHAT Of the many organizations that have deployedWeb chat, most have found that it not only boosts customer satisfaction but it also increases labor efficiency in the contact center.Through agent cross-training and skills-based routing, organizations can increase utilization rates by having agents handle chats and emails in addition to voice.This so called “universal” or “blended” agent model gives contact centers the ability to use agents for outbound revenue- generating activities when inbound volume decreases. With this strategy, agents can switch seamlessly from one customer interaction channel to the next — for example from email toWeb chat to phone to social media — giving organizations flexibility to allocate agent resources in real time, thus boosting productivity and increasing customer satisfaction.As an added benefit, studies show that mixing up
  • 4. the different channels an agent handles throughout a shift reduces the fatigue caused by repetitive processes, and thus improves agent performance and reduces agent attrition. Web chat also creates labor efficiencies by enabling agents to handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously.Through tight integration with the ACD, multiple configurable chat windows can be automatically screen-popped onto agent’s desktops, allowing them to handle several interactions at once.The number that can be handled per agent depends largely on the complexity of the interaction (however a maximum of five seems to be a general industry standard).Very often, agents can respond to commonly asked questions quickly by copying and pasting standard scripts into the chat window. Web chat also gives organizations the opportunity to personalize interactions, which in turn leads to increased conversion rates.Through integration with the company CRM system, agents can have pertinent customer metadata screen-popped onto their desktops, including basic information such as name, age, address, and recent purchase history, just as if they were on a call. In addition,Web chat helps organizations hold down communication costs.Web chat is text-based, delivering extremely low costs per interaction (a fraction of voice). If “click-to-call” functionality is integrated, an inexpensiveVoIP connection facilitates the live interaction, and the connection rates are still only a fraction what the major carriers charge. Finally,Web chat is an ideal function for outsourcing. Because chat is “accent neutral,” customer-facing organizations can outsource the function from the geographic location of their choice and cut operational costs without having to worry about customer churn resulting from accent barriers (of course, the outsourced agents will need to have decent English writing skills). CONNECT FIRST’S WEB CHAT SOLUTION Based in Boulder, Colo., Connect First offers a cloud-based contact center system withWeb chat available as an added module.With this full-featured, enterprise grade contact center system,Web chat and voice contacts share a single queue and are routed to agents based on business rules which you define. The Connect First platform enables organizations to increase contact center efficiency through the use of skills-based routing, which can be applied to both phone and chat interactions.Web chats originating from devices owned by “premium” customers, for example, are automatically identified and routed to agents not only trained to handle chat, but also those with the highest customer satisfaction scores. Management has full control over the prioritization of all contacts through the assigning of values to contact types via the system’sWeb-based administrative interface. With Connect First’s OnQ Live Agent Chat, your customers can easily self-escalate to live assistance by clicking on the “Chat” button on your home page or checkout page. From there, the chat is placed into the designated universal queue for your contact center and the next available agent will take the “call.” Connect First’s OnQ Live Agent Chat is a highly reliableWeb chat solution that will help you boost customer satisfaction and increase agent efficiency. The intuitive interface will enable your agents to quickly react to commonly asked questions using an array of scripted responses designed to guide the interaction to fruition and achieve faster contact resolution. In addition, Connect First’s powerfulWeb chat solution offers granular historical reporting — with hundreds of out-of-the-box settings for the most commonly used reports — as well as the ability to create customized reports, which can be run on a schedule defined by your organization.These reports provide management with everything from a high level view of contact center performance to deep drill-downs into details such as duration or completion rates forWeb chat activity, by agent or by group.What’s more, the system’s RealTimeTelemetry solution delivers live streaming of critical, customer- selected contact center metrics, thus giving contact center managers the ability to quickly react to changing conditions and to adjust operations accordingly. Finally, because Connect First’s OnQ Live Agent Chat comes tightly integrated on a shared, cloud-based platform, it can be deployed rapidly, and for a lower upfront cost than an on-premises, third-party Web chat system. What’s more, tight integration between the ACD and chat software means system reliability is greatly improved in comparison to the mixed vendor/custom integration approach. Want to find out ifWeb chat is right for your business? Let the team of experts at Connect First evaluate your current customer service strategy and demonstrate how the Connect First cloud-based platform withWeb chat can boost agent productivity and improve customer satisfaction for your organization. ABOUT CONNECT FIRST Connect First is an award-winning SaaS telecommunications and cloud contact center software provider that focuses on customer satisfaction and elegant hosted solutions. Connect First offers a robust platform, designed and supported by a team of highly experienced engineers, designers and business analysts, and backed with personalized in-house customer care. Solutions include Cloud Routing, Inbound ACD,Outbound Dialing, Call Tracking, InteractiveVoice Response (IVR),Voice Broadcast, Disaster Recovery, Predictive Dialer, Real-Time Telemetry,CDR Reporting, Live Agent Chat and more.Through a consultative approach with each customer interaction, Connect First builds customized solutions to meet the needs of a discerning customer base.