by Penni McLean-Conner, Eversource Energy
Offering customers the ability to chat is becoming a service differentiator. Savvy utility customer service leaders are investing in chat not only because it increases customer satisfaction, but also because it improves operational performance.
In this chat series of columns, I’ve explored the business case and best practices for chat. This final segment explores implementation, including technology, resourcing plans and ongoing management and monitoring processes.
When evaluating chat platforms, your most fundamental objective should be to look for flexible systems that have been successfully deployed by others. You should pick a chat system that can integrate with existing self-service channels, as well as the back-end data systems. The system should offer the ability for pre-developed scripts and chat-flows, along with the flexibility to augment personalized chat scripts. This combination of pre-developed scripts with customization allows for a customer experience that is both satisfying and efficient.
To resolve issues with a customer, it is important for the chat agent to be able to push webpages or share files or both. If you are planning to offer both passive and proactive chat, ensure that the tool you select includes the ability to offer proactive chat. Logic management is required to present the proactive chat option to the customer. In addition, you should consider capability that can capture the chat transcript for quality and customer reviews. The systems need to be equipped with monitoring and managing capabilities.
Chat technology and software can be owned and operated on site, or consumed via a subscription fee with service from the cloud. The best option for your company will depend on the telephony infrastructure you have in place. In addition, as you consider chat, you will find solutions that are single-platformed optimized for chat, or multi-platformed optimized for voice, email, chat and social media.
As you look to implement chat, start slowly. Ensure the system is tested and piloted to identify and resolve any potential customer issues. Consider starting with a soft launch or limited rollout to work out the kinks.
In addition, consider how you are driving traffic to chat. Start the rollout by offering chat initially only on a few places on your website. Consider starting with high volume, routine activities such as bill pay or password reset. As you gain experience with customer behavior, you can add both passive and proactive chat prompts.
As you plan how you will staff to support chat, you must know your website’s traffic volume and understand when the web traffic occurs. Industry metrics indicate that a good rule of thumb is to expect 5 to 8 percent of web visitors to use chat.
Ongoing Management and Measurement Processes
Managing and measuring chat is critical if you’re going to optimize both its operational and customer interface capabilities. From a management standpoint, companies want to ensure a good customer experience with reasonable wait times. From a measurement perspective, metrics that provide insight on the customer and operational performance are best.
Managing chat is analogous to monitoring and managing inbound call volume. You want to ensure that resources are available when customers want to chat. When the queues are high and agent availability is limited, you can either turn off chat or route a chat customer to another channel for fulfillment. And, just as with voice calls, you must monitor for quality. You must provide chat agents with an outline that describes the expectations of a quality chat interface. In addition, it is important to monitor to ensure they are delivering that quality experience.
From a measurement perspective, you should consider operational and customer metrics. On the operations side, consider keeping metrics on concurrent chats per agent, average handle time and chat quality. From a customer perspective, it is good to use customer satisfaction surveys and consider first-chat resolution.
Savvy utility leaders are recognizing that traditional call centers are transforming to contact centers. Utility customer leaders want to meet and serve their customers in an easy, personalized manner in the customer’s choice of channel. As such, many utility customer service leaders are investing in live chat and gaining a positive return on investment in operations and in customer satisfaction.
The good news is that from a technology perspective, adding live chat to a website is not a complex implementation. The real trick, though, is in the implementation. Live chat requires customer service leaders to be thoughtful to ensure they have the resources and processes in place to respond to chat requests and deliver the service customers expect.