Ensure live chat is a customer service, not a customer ordeal.
One-to-one interaction with a customer service rep can make or break a brand. I've discussed this before in the context of written letters. Let's look at a more interactive technology: live chat.
Live chat is a great sales tool and a terrific way to provide stellar customer service. It's more scalable than a call center because live chat technologies usually allow the call service rep (CSR) to conduct multiple chats simultaneously, dramatically improving the ability to service more people per hour. Unless, of course, procedures actively work to destroy the customer experience rather than improve it.
Today, we'll look at a few ways live chat can ruin the customer experience. I've also included a preliminary checklist for implementing an effective live chat feature.
Ensure the CSR Doesn't Read the User's Question or the Session Log
This is a personal pet peeve. My early pedigree is in personalization systems and personalized user experiences. A fundamental personalization principle is "never make your users repeat themselves."
This problem occurs online, on the phone, and in live chat. It's evidenced online by blank forms that should be prepopulated with existing information (such as user name, if the user's already signed in). On the phone, it happens when the CSR asks for your telephone number or account number, even though you entered it during the automated portion of the phone call.
In live chat, this happens in two different places. Most chat systems require you to enter your name and a question before the chat begins. That way, the CSR already knows what the problem is and can start helping you right away. Here's a snippet from a recent conversation I had via live chat with eFax:You are now chatting with "Cynthia J."
In this example, I have been asked to explain my problem three times. I typed the problem into the system when I initiated the chat session. I repeated it to Cynthia. Then I was transferred to Gary, who asked me to repeat it again.
Is the problem they didn't read the conversation log before chatting with me? I think it's simpler than that. Currently, the templated greeting message reads:Welcome to the sales team! I'm Cynthia, your online Sales Representative. How can I assist you today?
A content creator actually changed the user workflow. If the greeting had been different, the entire experience would've been different. Here's another version that works better:Welcome to the sales team! I'm Cynthia, your online Sales Representative. Give me a minute to review your question, and I'll do my best to assist you.
This greeting makes it clear the first action should be done by Cynthia, not me. It also signals Cynthia will read the question I already wrote. Similarly, this would signal to Gary to read the log file instead of asking the same questions Cynthia did.
Don't Allow the CSR to Type Anything Himself; Insist on Templates Only
I had accidentally added a second fax line, which I wanted removed from my account. But eFax doesn't have a template response to that question. The closest automated response it has is for someone who wants to cancel his account entirely. Here's a snippet of my conversation:Jack: hello. I accidentally added a fax number to my account. I thought I would have the option to choose from a selection of number before committing.
There are so many lessons to be learned from this interaction. The most fundamental is templates cannot cover every possible scenario. I think Gary actually understood what I wanted, but he couldn't find a canned response that fit. So he kept picking responses that were "close." I'm not sure whether he just didn't want to type his own responses or he's directed not to. Either way, CSRs must be given the freedom to type their own answers when a canned response doesn't exist.
Further, it's painfully obvious when a canned response is used. All responses must be written in a manner that reflects the company's brand. Interactions with JetBlue should have a different style than those from Citibank. The companies have different personalities. They should be reflected in all customer communications.
Live Chat Can Be a Great Asset
When properly implemented, live chat can be a great tool for providing immediate customer service and support. To implement live chat correctly, the following steps must be taken -- at minimum:
These are the basic, minimal steps to creating an effective live chat feature on your Web site. Though the list goes on from here, these five steps will ensure users have a better experience with your company than I did on my last live chat session.
Until next time...
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Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at Shop.org and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.
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