Is Chat Ready to Grow Up?

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My credit card recently expired, which meant updating accounts such as Netflix, cable, etc. where the card was used for automatic payment.

It was a strangely inconsistent process from company to company.

My cable company’s website wasn’t working, so I had to contact a live agent. I opted for chat, hoping this would be the most convenient. It was not a great experience.

I waited for two minutes to get connected with an agent. Once the agent came online, her responses were so clearly templated that I sincerely questioned whether she was a human or a bot. She replied “I am a robot 🙂 beep beep,” which tells me she was (probably) a human.

There was also a long lag between her responses. I later learned she was handling three chat sessions at the same time. The chat session took 10 minutes just to update my credit card expiration date.

This experience is similar to what many chat customers encounter every day. If your company offers live chat, it’s time to do better.

Chat Satisfaction is Down

Customer satisfaction for chat was down in 2017. 

The LiveChat Customer Service Report 2018 shows an overall chat satisfaction decline from 86.35 percent in 2016 to 83.54 percent last year. Comm100’s Live Chat Benchmark Report 2018 showed a similar decline from 84.06 percent down to 80.68.

Two major pain points are average wait times and average chat length, both of which I experienced in my chat with the cable company. Here are the averages for 2017 from the LiveChat report:

  • Wait time: 51 seconds 
  • Chat length: 11 minutes, 34 seconds

Companies should drive those numbers way down if they want to modernize their chat channel. Keep in mind that customer satisfaction with wait time is a function of the actual wait combined with how that wait was spent.

Best Practices to Speed Up Chat

I reached out to leading chat providers such as Comm100, LiveChat, and Zendesk to learn some best practices.

Leverage Chatbots

Comm100 launched a chatbot in 2017. Its clients were able to use the chatbot to handle 20 percent of their chat volume, on average. Let’s go back to my credit card example. The agent added no humanity (recall I initially couldn’t tell if she was human) to what was really a simple transaction. A chatbot could have handled the same issue with no wait time and no lag. This also would have freed up the agent to assist another customer with a more complicated issue.

Integrate Customer Data

Szymon Klimczak, CMO at LiveChat suggests leveraging available information. “Building a positive experience is all about using the available data appropriately. Hence, knowing your customers really well seems to be the key to success.” For instance, I was signed into my cable company account when I initiated my chat session, so the chat program could have been programmed to recognize that data and allowed that chat agent skip the four questions she used to verify my identity.

Route Intelligently

Tony Sandhu, Comm100’s Customer Success Manager, suggests making sure chats get routed to the best available agent, rather than just assigning chats on a random or round robin basis. “Long wait times can be eliminated by using intelligent routing rules that automatically route requests based on departments, customer value, or competency of agents.”

Share Content 

Caitlin Henehan, Zendesk’s Vice President and General Manager for Chat, describes how sharing helpful content in chat helped one client solve issues faster. “The ability to send video, screenshots, and links to help articles via chat has allowed our customer TeamSnap to reduce their work time per issue by 20% and increase customer satisfaction.”

Limit Simultaneous Chats

The number of simultaneous chats an agent can handle at one time should be capped to improve customer satisfaction, reduce lag time, and prevent errors. The exact number varies from company to company and should be determined by working closely with your agents to observe what’s most efficient. In my cable company example, running three chats at once created a negative experience because the agent took took long to respond and wasn’t able to inject any personality into her initial responses.

Take Action!

Chat has the potential to be a really great channel if used correctly.

Evaluate your own chat function from the outside in by conducting a mystery shopping exercise to experience what your customers experience. Look for opportunities to apply best practices to reduce customer wait times, increase customer engagement, and solve problems faster.

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