We talk a lot about the value of the customer experience, usually from the service provider’s point of view and how delivering quality support benefits businesses. It’s with good reason. For instance, did you know that 80% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better experience? The emergence of digital tools provides the means for living up to customers’ expectations. When done well, service and support result in a significant ROI, turning a function often seen as an expense to one that produces revenue and promotes retention.
Among the new tools is chat. Study after study shows that consumers like chat. They find it more engaging than other channels, more immediate, and when done well, a more personalized means of communicating, which is something else customers want. We are a pioneer in this channel and have talked about its effectiveness before, but the point bears repeating – when consumers demonstrate a clear preference for something, it’s a good idea to make that thing available. In this post, we’ll get in the weeds a little and explore some factors that may appear counter-intuitive at first glance but make sense upon deeper analysis.
Speed vs. Quality
Two of the main value propositions of chat are immediacy and convenience. There is no automated menu to navigate, as often happens with voice, nor is there the lag time in response typically associated with email. And consumers can initiate a chat from home or work, laptop or smartphone, irrespective of time or location.
To the first point, an in-depth study of more than 56-million live chats found that, on average, it took 46 seconds for an agent to acknowledge and respond to a customer. Is that good or bad? For a little context, the general industry standard with phone service is to answer 80% of calls within 20 seconds. However, that figure varies greatly among industries and does not account for any time that customers spend on hold, which is an enormous source of frustration. Plus, phone agents are limited to working with one person at a time. A chat agent can efficiently handle up to three customers concurrently, which enhances productivity.
As it turns out, how long it takes for an agent to respond is not nearly as important as what happens afterwards. Customers put a premium on quality; they will accept service that takes a bit longer so long as it is also thorough and results in a first-contact resolution. This reinforces the value of the experience – bad service comes at a cost, as in your customers are far more likely to turn to a competitor over lousy support than over product or price. Deliberate support that includes probative questions is far more likely to yield high-quality, satisfying answers than responses that fixate on handle time.
Also, longer response times prevent a couple of consumer pet peeves from coming up: canned answers that often read as if they want to get rid of you and move on to the next person, and inattentive agents who force customers to repeat themselves. Even though chat allows an agent to handle multiple customers concurrently, there is a transcript of the interaction for easy reference, if needed, to avoid asking repetitive questions.
Convenience and Conversion
Convenience was cited as a benefit to customers in the previous section, but it also applies to agents. Live chat is not just a means of providing a reactive response, it is also ideal for pro-active engagement. Consumers who use it are nearly three times to convert into buyers than those who do not. It is even more valuable when used in tandem with artificial intelligence that looks for specific user behaviors, then alerts agents when those behaviors occur.
For instance, if someone is switching back and forth between two items or two pages, that signals a potential decision point. People will abandon their shopping carts if they are left to linger on a website for too long. To be fair, “too long” is a subjective metric but engaging sooner rather than later is more effective, especially if a website visitor’s activity is visible. At that point, it becomes very much like the physical store employee who approaches a customer who has browsed for a few minutes and whose body language shows a propensity for purchasing.
The convenience factor is further buoyed by transcripts that can be made available to address misunderstandings or to serve as a record of the interaction, and by innovation like our text analysis and customer sentiment tool. This technology parses interactions in search of the key moments that delineate between success and missed opportunity. It not only explores a user’s mindset during an interaction, but the findings are also a tremendous coaching tool for improving agent performance.
All You Have to Lose Is Business
Live chat done right increases conversions, generates positive word of mouth and delights users. Live chat. Done right. Avoid canned messages if possible. People want real-time communication, which is going to be best provided by a real person. Automation is not authenticity and bots struggle to deliver personalization. The value behind this channel is evident in the links sprinkled across this post. If you’re not already offering chat, it’s time you did. Let’s get started.