The power of chat

01 May 09

Signifi cant shifts in behaviour from both retailers and consumers are creating the perfect storm for live chat to make a signifi cant impact on delivering a great customer experience that drives profi ts and keeps customers loyal.

In a time-crunched world, consumers are looking for answers to their questions and looking for them fast. The rise of the internet has only amplifi ed this impatience for real-time information at the click of a mouse. But at the same time, consumers are also getting more comfortable online and using new techniques to gather real-time information. And it’s not just the new generation of users who grew up online; chat is becoming the preferred method of interaction across the demographics. Why? Chatprovides an immediate response right where the consumers are; no picking up the phone, no waiting for an email. In addition, chat provides the two-way interaction that ensures a consumer’s question has been answered properly and to the full degree.

On the flip side, retailers are learning how to harness the power of chat more effectively, to deliver better customer service and increase sales. Not only are retailers able to use chat to handle customer service inquiries; it is also a powerful vehicle to move consumers closer to making a purchase. By delivering tailored customer service at the point of purchase, chat maintains the desire to buy and can potentially increase sales and revenue.

Implementing effective chat How can you evaluate and implement an effective chat
solution? To avoid the pitfalls, make note of the following four main requirements:

? Placement: When chat was first introduced, retailers were putting it indiscriminately all over their websites. In the same way that shoppers don’t want a pushy sales clerk following them around a store when shopping, online shoppers don’t want chat sessions popping up everywhere. However, when you are in the store andyou have a question, you want that sales clerk to be available and ready to help. The same goes with chat features: companies need to be more selective about how, where and when they place the chat function on their websites.

? Integration: The days of chat being a standalone communications silo are gone. Customers expect a unifi ed experience across all touch points, from email, to chat, to a phone call into the contact centre. If an incident escalates from a chat session to a phone agent who doesn’t have the background information, it will frustrate the customer and deter them from completing their purchase. For this reason, integrating chat with web selfservice, email and the contact centre is a must.

? Agents: Not every agent is cut out to be a chat agent. Handling multiple conversations at thesame time in proper English, while being friendly and upbeat, is a difficult skill to master. Testing is imperative when selecting and training chat agents, to be sure they are effectively using the channel to deliver great customer experiences.

? Tools: Give agents the tools to make the technical side of online chatting easy, allowing them to focus on being a friendly and helpful ‘face’ to the customer rather than mired in technical details. Tools that empower agents in this way include quick and easy access to information, and standard greetings and closings that are available at one click of the mouse button.

In recent years, contact centres have faced mounting pressures to move from being a cost centre that answers questions and handles complaints, to a more dynamic part of the organisation, supporting the customer and generating revenue. Chat sessions help companies meet this challenge while adjusting to changes in consumer expectations for online service experiences.

Brett Waters is Vice President Asia Pacific – South for RightNow Technologies. He has 18 years’ experience in the IT industry and is an online chat enthusiast.
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