Make Chat a Success in Your Contact Center – 5 Best Practices

Are you looking into implementing chat as a new channel in you contact center? Or are you already using chat, but looking into how to improve the way you manage the channel? Here are some best practices that may help make chat a success in your contact center.

If you are not yet using chat, recent NICE inContact research confirms that you have good reason to look into this channel now: 40% of customers say that chat is one of their three preferred agent-assisted customer service channels (together with calling or emailing a company). Furthermore, web chat continues to experience strong growth, both in terms of the mounting number of contact centers that support it as a channel, as well as based on an expanding share of the overall number of contact center interactions. In other words: more customers are using chat to interact with more companies.

If you already support chat, we have some suggestions that help you make even better use of the channel. So here are our top five best practices for web chat as a contact center channel:

  1. New to the Chat channel? Think about which interactions are likely to be handled successfully via chat. Chat is real-time (or near real-time, at any rate). It’s relatively fast, and in general, appeals more to the younger generation (millennials and younger). However, anything that requires sharing personal data of any kind is usually not a good idea. Chat may also not be a great fit for very complex interactions, or anything “emotional”. It ties naturally to any interaction that starts out on your website, such as help on orders, online forms, or questions based on web content or your Knowledge Base.Your solution must offer you the ability to capture customer information prior to starting to chat with an agent. This reduces wait times when chatting where the customer searches information like order numbers, ticket ID, etc. It also enables the agent to personalize the interaction.
  2. To optimize agent productivity, make sure your chat solution does not only allow your agents to handle multiple chat interactions concurrently, but opt for a solution that offers true Omnichannel. Your agents should be able to handle multiple contacts from different channels concurrently. That ensures that agents handling chat are still available for handling higher priority contacts in another channel. Word of caution: it will not pay off to throw agents into the proverbial “deep end of the pool” and have them handle multiple contacts in multiple channels right off the bat. Scale up slowly, adding a channel and an interaction or two at a time – give your agents a chance to adjust to the increase in cognitive load that comes with true Omnichannel handling. This approach can also help you to overcome any resistance you may initially encounter.
  3. If you are using chat as a channel in your contact center, you may – depending on how much volume you see – want to start looking into adding some intelligence to help you determine when and to whom you will offer chat. Most deployments will start out as a simple link or button somewhere on your website – most often it’s “Live Chat” under “Contact Us”. However, there are ways to position an online interaction in a more sophisticated way. For example, you may want to offer a chat only to a customer that has a shopping cart exceeding a certain value. Or, you might want to offer a co-browsing session to a customer that has been trying to fill in and submit your online application three times in a row and seems to be having a hard time with it? How about offering an agent assisted chat to a customer that unsuccessfully tried to use your knowledge base? There are many more scenarios similar to this one, just start looking.
  4. Think about your agents and how to best prepare and position chat when adding the channel to your environment. Many of your younger agents use chat in their private lives all the time. You still need to make sure they are trained on how to present your company in the chat channel. Handling multiple chats and/or other contacts concurrently requires a learning curve, and not all of your agents will be equally proficient, regardless of how much training they receive. You can position handling multiple interactions in multiple channels concurrently as a career challenge. You may want agents that focus on digital interactions, and another group that primarily or exclusively handles voice interactions. Or you may decide that everyone should be able to handle everything. There is no single best solution that works for every contact center. You need to find what is right for your employees and environment.
  5. Last but not least: chat is not the “end all and be all.” Ensure that your agents have access to other means of interaction and empower them to use those channels in addition to chat if conducive to reduce customer effort and achieve first contact resolution. Empowering your agents to call a customer, start a co-browse or send a confirmation via email not only increases customer satisfaction, but will also often lead to more positive agent engagement. And we all know that happier agents usually make for happier customers.

Learn more about customer expectations and business success in the contact center.