Despite the opportunity found within live chat, this sales and service channel remains often underutilized within many contact center contexts. Those that do invest in it as a way to expand and improve customer connections, however, often find increased revenue and loyalty.
With the popularity uptick of chat platforms such as Facebook Messenger, consumers are beginning to expect the same communications experiences from their favorite companies. According to customer service platform Zendesk, 44% of customers say that having a live chat specialist online during their purchase process is the most important service feature a company can offer. Effective customer-service representatives who are available throughout the buying process drive customer satisfaction and loyalty – creating a competitive distinction.
Live chat allows contact center employees to interact with consumers where they already are: on the web. Zendesk’s research continues, suggesting that live chat absorbs a large volume of requests that would otherwise be submitted through other, less convenient or expensive channels, or not submitted at all. Customers crave instant gratification, and they find satisfaction in live chat because they do not have to shift to a different, more cumbersome platform, such as contact form or phone. Simply, these are disruptive to shopping and service workflows. E-commerce research firm Econsultancy reports that 79% of consumers say that they prefer live chat because of the immediacy it provides. Embracing live chat functionality in a contact center environment enables true dual benefit: it improves service perceptions, while creating an efficient channel logistically and operationally. Finally, it is a more cost-effective means to handle service or sales requests too, with far superior margin potential than phone, for example.
But as a result of degrading service, high levels of attrition and the resulting financial strain in contact centers, company leaders often focus training on a single mode of communication, rather than empowering employees to shift. Today, market analyst Forrester reports that fewer than one-third of contact center decision makers train their employees to support multiple channels of communication. Understanding customer channel preferences and deploying those that customers want, while aligning with contact volume and using the right channel for the right use case, is critical to building long-term customers relationships.
While the opportunity surrounding live chat is immense, companies must consider the strength of the applicant or candidate pool where they intend to hire chat agents. In many cases, the fundamental skills of chat-proficiency are different than those for phone or email.
As companies begin to explore global expansion, examining the skill makeup required in effective chat applicants allows companies to make strategic market entrance and hiring decisions.
By example, FurstPerson's CC Audition® Live Chat Simulation Assessment tests a number of skills essential in chat roles. These include the ability to multi-task, data entry, navigation, and a strong service orientation. In a recent global study covering applicants in sixteen different agent markets, Furstperson identified those market-specific segments with strong baseline chat strengths. Philippines outperformed global peers, with its applicant pool achieving 60% in overall performance, buoyed by 70% in accuracy and 65% service orientation. Guatemala was next, scoring 59% in overall, including 55% in multi-tasking and 71% in accuracy. The U.S. followed, scoring at or nearly at the global mean in all categories, including 51% overall.
Successful live chat engagements require agents to maintain a service orientation within a rapid, unpredictable and technology-infused interaction. Clearly, certain markets are better naturally suited for this.
Chat provides customers with the opportunity to obtain answers quickly (the average length of time for a customer to receive an answer to a question is 42 seconds, according to Zendesk), which means that contact center applicants must have the skills to handle data, multitask, and navigate inquiries while staying customer-centric. Company planning needs to take this into account when selecting a market for growing live chat. If contact centers do not respond to customer preferences, or build chat services in the wrong markets, they run the risk of souring and ultimately, losing, customers.