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Five Tips to Help Online Brands Get Started with Live Chat

Offering live chat is a no-brainer for any brand that sells online. Studies show that live chat is the preferred method of communication for customers who buy online. Not to mention, a well-implemented chat platform saves brands money. As with any new technology, there are keys to adoption that can make setting up and administering live chat a success. We sat down with Jeremy Watkin, Director of Customer Experience at FCR, to generate the why and how of live chat adoption for your brand.

live chat customer service RapportBoost.AIRB.AI: Jeremy, you have hands-on experience working with customer service teams. We often think about why businesses should offer live chat from a sales perspective, and once they do, how to use live chat optimization to make brands money. But can you speak on behalf of customer service agents, and why they prefer live chat?

JW: With few exceptions, contact center agents prefer being on chat versus handling phone calls. Chat gives contact center agents more agency. It’s a little less confrontational since you’re dealing with lines of text rather than a voice conversation, which often means agents are dealing with a customer’s emotions head-on through vocal inflections, tone, and volume. Chat also gives agents more time to think about responses. With phone support, it goes without saying that an immediate response is expected, but with live chat, agents are able to manage simultaneous interactions and take the time to deliver effective responses. Plus, live chat agents can work from anywhere easier. When brands can offer contact center agents flexibility with where and how they work, they’re more able to recruit and retain talented personnel.

RB.AI: Can you give us a cost breakdown of live chat compared to other types of customer support?

JW: Live chat is actually less expensive than phone support provided that agents consistently handle more than one chat at a time. Studies show a cost savings of 17-30% per customer contact. If agents handle only one chat at a time, chat can actually cost more depending on the handle time per interaction. That’s why things like macros help. Macros add efficiencies including preformatted responses, adding tags to conversations, and updating the status of a ticket as needed. Macros mean less typing for your agents so they can effectively juggle multiple conversations at once.

RB.AI: Given that at RapportBoost, we help brands optimize live chat sales to reach desired Key Performance Indicators, it’s great to know that live chat offers impressive savings out of the gate —even before the live chat agent has initiated a conversation.

Now that we’ve established the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of live chat, let’s move on to your key takeaways for online brands that are looking to set up live chat for the first time.

JW: Absolutely. Here goes:

#1 Know Your Contact Rate

A lot of our clients at FCR come in with a definitive contact rate and this makes the process of setting up customer support much easier. You can calculate your contact rate by dividing the size of your customer base by the number of instances of customer contact. Some of our clients know that they need to add a certain number of support agents per X number of new customers. For companies that have an intensive set-up process, knowing the contact rate helps us know how to diversify and build the team.

#2 Put the Chat Window In the Right Place

Sometimes the most simple suggestions have the greatest effect. We recently advised a client to move the chat window from the support site to the landing page, and they saw a 300% increase in engagement and support volume. This is something that the Disney Training Institute talks about, too. Disney-goers had trouble finding their cars, so Disney provided complimentary shuttles to move them between the theme park and the parking lots. By identifying where customers have a tendency to get upset, brands can adjust the placement of their chat window accordingly and prompt them before cart or site abandonment occurs.

#3 Explore Customer Service Tools and Use Them Wisely

According to the book, The Effortless Experience, 57% of customers attempt to self-solve issues before contacting support. By beefing up your knowledge base and using tools like Solvvy to put self-help content in front of the customer before they submit a ticket or a chat, you not only reduce contacts, you minimize effort for customers as well. DigitalGenius actually works internally to help agents find macros faster. Using Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning can automate manual work like tagging to allow agents to focus on the quality of the conversation.

When it comes to hardware, dual monitors help contact agents toggle between the many windows they have open while juggling concurrent chats. And finally, it’s important to note that some channels blend better than others. We advise against agents fielding chat and phone inquiries because it’s physically impossible to carry on a voice conversation while handling text communication at the same time. Email and chat, on the other hand, blend very well. In between chats, a customer service agent can respond to email inquiries in their down time.

#4 Monitor Concurrent Chat Time In Addition to Total Chat Time

One of the challenges we face at FCR is dealing with the fact that a lot of chat tools don’t provide the ability to see how much time agents are spending concurrently chatting. But in most instances, you’re able to see the average handle time and how many chats the agent completes on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. If you multiply these figures together, it’s going to look like the chat agent is occupied 100% of the time, but most agents are actually chatting with a few customers concurrently. By taking into account concurrent chat time when monitoring individual agent and team productivity, you’ll be better equipped to set realistic goals for your team for both handle times and how many chats they should be engaging in at once.

#5 Deliver Brand Voice Guidelines

Brand voice is becoming increasingly important in the customer service space. More and more, clients are honing in on the quality of the support they provide, and oftentimes provide a full voice and style guide to FCR up front. Contact center agents can then be trained to speak a language that’s consistent with all other customer communication while team members at FCR help train agents on using the required tools and technology for the job. When brand voice and quality assurance guidelines are provided up front, and are implemented through training, modeling, and practice, online retailers can ensure that their chat teams execute well right out of the gate.

Now that you’ve got a handle on live chat implementation, learn more about live chat agent training solutions at RapportBoost.AI.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premier provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service, customer experience, and contact center professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Customer Service Life. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.