The Rise of Live Chat Support: Is Your Contact Center Ready?

  • by Suzanna Colberg May 28, 2016
    May 28, 2016

    “The most effective customer service is designed to reduce effort at all stages of the customer journey—not just after a sale or when problems arise.”

    This insight from journalist and market researcher Craig Borowski rings particularly true in an age where digital interaction has become the norm for customer service and support. Unlike other channels, live chat lets you interact with your customers where they already are: right on your web properties.


    Whether your website visitors are seriously considering your product or service, or conducting preliminary research, good customer service agents who are available at every stage of the buying journey allows your business to exceed customer expectations, build loyalty, and drive revenue.

    The Adoption of Live Chat as a Customer Service Channel

    Over the last five years, the number of U.S. online shoppers who used lived chat increased from 38% to 58%, a Zendesk 2015 Benchmark for live chat reports.

    According to groundbreaking research conducted by FurstPerson’s Dr. Brent Holland, live chat is now the second-most important customer service channel. The fact of the matter is that many consumers have come to expect a live chat option to interact with you.

    More customers are opting for quicker, more “painless” service and support channels that require less effort and less waiting. Customers crave instant gratification, and according to research conducted by the Aberdeen Group, live chat support “helps customers avoid the need to switch channels by being able to initiate a chat session with a contact center agent… without the need to call a customer support number or send email.”

    It is imperative for contact centers to understand their customers’ channel preferences, and provide high-quality service for media across the board, writes Kate Leggett of Forrester Research. But when it comes to finding the right live chat support representative, hiring for the right skills can be challenging.

    The Challenges and Benefits of Live Chat Support

    For decades, customers enjoyed service and support via telephone. However, recent research reveals satisfaction rates for phone and e-mail support have been surpassed by live chat.

    If contact centers don’t modernize operations, Leggett writes, customers will become increasingly disillusioned with the quality of service delivered, and these companies will suffer revenue losses from customer churning.

    With sweeping changes revolutionizing the way customers connect with companies, the adoption of live chat makes sense, and many businesses have begun implementing it full force.

    However, the same Zendesk study mentioned above unearthed a number of telling statistics about live chat as a customer service channel:

    • 30 days after implementing live chat, ticket volume from embedded Web forms decreases. This suggests that customers prefer to communicate with support directly from the website to resolve issues.
    • There is a positive correlation between a company’s live chat customer satisfaction rating and the average number of messages exchanged between an agent and visitor during a chat conversation. This means the “chattier” the agent, the more likely it is that the customer will be satsified.

    While there are a number of advantages to live chat for customer satisfaction and revenue growth, it comes with its challenges as well:

    Teaching agents to manage omnichannel inquiries. According to Leggett, fewer than one third of contact center decision-makers train all their agents to support multiple channels. With the adoption of live chat, it is becoming increasingly necessary for agents to shift time and attention between communications to align with incoming contact volume.

    Managing inquiries in a uniform way. Businesses need to create a uniform approach to service that makes it easy for agents to find the information they need. This lets them assist customers who utilize multiple service channels for the same inquiry. Without that consistency, live chat loses its value as a customer satisfaction catalyst.

    Additionally, challenges can vary by industry. For instance, IT and consulting companies achieved the highest live chat satisfaction ratings at 96%, while organizations in the travel industry experienced the lowest satisfaction at 87%. Some industries present larger workloads which tend to be more challenging, and require agents with the right skillset to provide a great customer experience.

    Chat Support Hiring: Identifying Live Chat Agent Skills

    Live chat can benefit your business in a myriad of ways. As the Zendesk benchmarking report points out, live chat absorbs a large volume of requests that visitors would normally submit through other, less convenient service channels. With the opportunity to help two or more customers simultaneously, live chat presents businesses with a unique opportunity to cut costs, upsell, and establish relationships with customers while providing quality service.

    In order to overcome the challenges above, companies must focus on finding the right talent to handle the unique set of challenges presented by this emerging medium.


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