Chat agent training, onboarding taking priority for many organizations

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At Customer Contact Week in Austin last month, we noticed how the discussions surrounding chat training and onboarding stood out far more than in previous conferences. Good reasons exist for this. 

Research tells us that 92 percent of customers have a positive experience using Live Chat compared to other forms of contact.  As a result, we are seeing a much greater demand for the implementation of a live chat channel to offer an alternate means for customers to communicate with their service teams. In many cases, they do not have the internal expertise or skill to enable a chat channel, so they look to outside resources to assist them with the setup and implementation.

For starters, the emphasis for call centers and customer service teams to employ “omnichannel” solutions took center stage. Nearly every breakout period held a session that discussed aspects of this conversational selling approach. The sessions included, among others, highlighting the use of live chat and its benefits to personalizing the experience for each customer. Two breakout talks, one led by John Pompei, Head of Player Experience Operations for Electronic Arts and one sponsored by telecommunications leader Vonage, outlined how to employ artificial intelligence, natural language processing and similar technologies to enhance the customer experience. 

Even more prominent was the number of sessions discussing how to measure the effectiveness of agents while also empowering them with a relevant, extensive knowledge base to effectively do their job. Many of these breakout sessions, such as the one led by Nicole Anderson, Senior Manager of Guest Assistance for Hilton, also extended the conversation to challenge how doing so enhanced — or even improved — the culture within their organization.

These initiatives will soon find their way into the priorities of most call center and customer experience strategies. The question more specifically is how best to train agents. Supporting human chat agents the moment they come onboard will make all the difference. These five tips stand out to us as the most essential.

Train to the chat platform

Chat systems tout their ease of use and turnkey nature. However, any technology tool requires time for operators to get familiar. Make the training hands-on and incorporate real-life exercises. Give agents time to engage in practice runs before putting them on the air. Don’t assume they’ll “pick it up.” 

Establish clearly defined goals and relevant metrics

Empower the new live chat person to do more than direct visitors to the content they need so as not to leave money on the table. We’re not talking about turning a support team into a sales

team. Instead, by training them to listen and understand the issue or problem being communicated, they can provide the proper solution for the customer. As your support representatives listen to customers and resolve their initial challenges, agents can subtly shift the conversation and introduce an additional product or service. When it’s done correctly, the customer should never notice that it happened. 

Teach them early on how best to seek out potential lead opportunities. That means more than just pointing the customer to a white paper. They should also offer to pass them to an inside sales person for more in-depth discussions, or to a video that requires registration, for example. Giving customer service agents the authority to fostering meaningful dialogue rather than focusing on how quickly it’s completed can support lead generation business objectives very well.

Integrate them with the entire chat team

Before going solo, new agents should serve time as an understudy to one of the company’s top performers to glean proven tips and tactics to perform the job successfully. Moreover, document best practices companywide to disseminate valuable “lessons from the front line” to all agents. 

Establish weekly calls to discuss events that went well, those that didn’t and trends in the field that can turn into great teaching moments for the entire crew. Creating this kind of supportive team environment will improve the productivity and success of all agents, not just the those who recently joined the company.

Educate Agents On Getting Help

A live chat agent can solve the majority of the customer service issues that come in but can’t stand in as a replacement for an entire customer service team. Most likely, they can deal effectively with 80 to 90 percent of customer queries. However, if you try and force agents to deal with things that require too much improvisation or that the agent does not have authority to do, you will trigger negative customer interactions. 

While most of the problems addressed via Live Chat get resolved in no longer than 42 seconds, it is critical to establish procedures for agents to quickly get assistance from a team leader when issues are beyond the scope of their power or authority to resolve. Few things are most frustrating for a customer than to spend 15 minutes on a live chat only to find out that the chat agent needs to bring in backup.

Utilize Augmented Intelligence To Support Agents

Call Centers still debate the use of chatbots versus live agents. We feel this narrative should shift. Artificial intelligence can serve chat initiatives well, but only by augmenting, not replacing, them. 

Through deep learning, natural language processing and multivariate analysis, companies able to analyze more variables and more extensive data sets than is humanly possible to help agents perform better at their jobs. The goal of these systems should focus on arming humans with information they can use to engage the customer more effectively. At RapportBoost, we’ve discovered that the very best chat agents aren’t the ones who are naturally gifted at charming the customer. They’re the ones who possess superior situational awareness and defer to the algorithm in certain circumstances and their instincts and experience when different situations require different tactics. 

The combination of man AND machine once again beats either one alone.

About the Authors: 

Tony Medrano is the Co-Founder and CEO for RapportBoost.AI, provider of a suite of live chat agent training solutions that use advanced machine learning and deep conversational analysis to organizations guide their human customer success AND chat sales teams to build stronger connections with customers. He can be reached at [email protected].  

Scott Moberly is the Vice President of Business Development for GlowTouch Technologies, a global customer care right sourcing organization that puts people first. Whether you are ready to economically scale your care operations or seamlessly integrate customer success across your channels, platforms, and devices, you can depend on GlowTouch to support your needs.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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Tony Medrano

About Tony Medrano

Tony started his career as a technology entrepreneur out of his Stanford University dorm as co-founder and President of DoDots, the first desktop-to-mobile app platform. He built the company to 100+ employees, raised $25M in venture capital and managed all company operations, personnel and deals. He was most recently CEO of Boopsie, a mobile Platform-as-a-Service company that he grew for 4 years and successfully sold to a strategic partner in 2015. Tony has also served as Vice President of Sales / Business Development at Reply! and SmartDrive Systems. Tony has dedicated his career in technology to leading sales teams and understands the need for automation tools that help sales reps increase efficiency, close more business and increase margins. Tony received his MBA and JD from Stanford, M.A. from Columbia and B.A. from Harvard.