5 reasons why chat beats voice and email and the one reason it might not
Customer service leaders recognize that live chat is an important channel for providing a superior customer experience. However, they delay investing in chat because they’re unclear of the financial benefit compared to a traditional voice channel.
When looking at the economics of chat vs. voice customer service, our research identifies the key areas of savings and benefits when chat is implemented. We assessed ongoing costs related to labor, hiring, training, program management and technology. Our data was collected through operations research and from interviews with contact center managers with expertise in chat and voice channels.
The following touches on five reasons why providing chat support to your customers surpasses voice and email as support channels and one reason it might not. They are:
Concurrency. When it comes to offering live chat for customer support, concurrency is a big deal. It means your customer service agents can deal with more than one online customer at a time – something they can’t do on a voice exchange. How many customers they can deal with really depends on their technical training, experience and the complexity of the questions they are answering. This is the main cost advantage with chat support.
First contact resolution is higher for chat than email. Here’s what frustrates customers with email. It’s the delay between asking a question and waiting for an answer which could come at any time, and usually at an inconvenient one. Sure it’s a good back up when the office is closed but how often do you get a response and have forgotten you even asked the question? Chat and voice channels can solve this in one session.
Customer satisfaction scores are often higher than voice or email channels. A 2011 Forrester study of a leading health insurance company found satisfaction scores for chat were consistently higher, sometimes by as much as 10 points, than voice service scores. There could be many reasons for this including the conversation is private, no one can overhear you, and you can print off a record (or transcript) of what was discussed which customers can’t do with phone conversations.
Customers stay engaged with self-service. Self-service that solves a problem is the fastest service. Chat agents play a very important role providing hyperlinks to information found in company-branded community forums and web pages. They help teach customers where to find additional information in the future. This should not be underestimated.
Increase in average order value (AOV). That is, you sell more. A 2010 Forrester study reveals a 19 percent increase in AOV for a company offering chat assisted sales versus the typical ecommerce transaction. Okay this isn’t strictly a voice vs. chat comparison but if you are expanding the chat platform you should know about it. It goes right to the bottom line.
So there are the five reasons why chat may be the best channel to support your customers – and now for the caution.
When concurrency becomes a problem. There it is again – concurrency. Some customer service issues are so unique, technical, or personal that they need your agent’s undivided attention or more time than you can devote to it in a single chat. Companies that focus on the five pro-chat reasons, especially concurrency, need to pay attention to this con.
Chat, done well, will always be a balancing act between how many chats an agent can properly handle based on training, experience and the types of questions they receive, and the level of service customers expect. As a general rule, 1.8 to 2.5 manual concurrent sessions is reasonable when agents face moderately complex issues, assuming a well-balanced trade-off between cost and customer satisfaction. But in some companies that number, whether voice or live chat, needs to be one. And in extreme examples, a detailed email may actually be best.
Author: Al Rose
Al Rose is vice-president, Retail & Internet Properties, at TELUS International – a provider of contact center outsourcing solutions to global clients. TELUS International is the global arm of TELUS, a national telecommunications company in Canada with $10.5 billion in annual revenue and almost 13 million customer connections. Learn more at: telusinternational.com
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