Good and Bad use of Live Chat – A Tale of Two Telcos


Share on LinkedIn

Live chat used for ‘live support’ or ‘live help’, is rapidly being adopted in Australia. CEC director Chris Severn asks: is it actually producing better customer experiences?

Technology will never be a panacea that produces better Customer Experiences; its implementation always needs to be carefully considered. ‘Live Chat’ is no exception, as the two examples from the telecoms industry discussed below will show.

Let’s review the customer demand for such services; in a recent report produced by Live Person at the beginning of this year, of almost 6000 consumers across the UK, US, Australia, Germany, France and Italy, some key findings concluded:

  • 83% admit they need some form of support during their online journey
  • 51% either try once or give up immediately when seeking help before an online purchase
  • 71% expect to be able to access help when purchasing online within five minutes – 31% expect help to be immediate
  • If a response is not delivered in the expected timeframe, 48% of shoppers will either go elsewhere or abandon the purchase altogether

So the demand is here, but is it being thoughtfully implemented in Australia? In Australia, we can look to our two major telcos to give two interesting (if imperfect) examples.

I recently had reason to test Telstra’s live support. A lengthy problem had led me to the Foxtel service page on the Telstra website, and once there I was presented with an offer to chat. I duly typed ‘Foxtel outage’ into the box and had an exchange which, technically speaking, worked well – fast responses, friendly, and correct phrasing. But after 60 seconds, or 4-5 messages, I was told I would need to be transferred to a Foxtel specialist (even though I’d started from a Foxtel service page and already given my reason to chat). My second chat was also friendly, despite having to repeat myself a little, but ultimately came to an unhelpful ‘we don’t know when this will be fixed’ conclusion. Essentially, an unresolved query, and several minutes wasted of both my and two Telstra staff’s time.

The lack of intelligence in the routing of my query, the lack of care on the agent’s part to read my previous exchange carefully, and both agents lacking the tools or technology necessary to resolve my query, ultimately resulted in a superficial service. The Chat itself was fine, but the supporting methods and tools were not. It’s clear that the issues I saw were systemic and would be experienced by many customers.

Another recent experience, this time with Optus, yielded different results. Whilst looking for a new phone, I noticed after a few minutes that a small ‘Chat now’ box had appeared in the navigation bar where there wasn’t one before. It wasn’t that obvious or inviting, so I decided to continue browsing. Later, however, after adding an item to my cart and pausing for a while, a more obvious, targeted offer to chat popped up in a highlighted box on the screen. I clicked and had a short conversation with the agent to answer my questions. What’s happening here is that the website detects customers who are not exhibiting the ‘right’ buyer behaviour and presents them with a real-time offer to chat.

The Optus approach seems to be the technology enabled equivalent of a shop assistant or alert concierge, who sees that you look confused or unsure, and comes over to ask if you need any help. Personal, timely and relevant; it’s hitting the right CX buttons. It seems they are getting the results too.

Live chat can be very effective, but you have to design the right experience from the outside-in, and change your internal support processes too, not just implement a glossy new customer channel on top of a poor process and poor backend system that still won’t result in a good customer experience.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chris Severn
Co Founder and Director of The Customer Experience Company. Expert in Customer strategy, and delivery of customer improvements in service, sales and marketing, and across online, call centres and retail channels.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here