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The secret to Live-chat success

The secret to Live-chat success

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 4, 2014 6:04:37 AM / by Briana Songer

Briana Songer

Live-Chat technology is something that has grown in popularity over the past few years.
This makes sense for many reasons. For the customer, an online chat system provides immediate access and less time waiting than a call center. They can multi-task ask well. Studies have shown that customers are more likely to return to a website that offers this type of communication.

For the company, the benefits mean slashing phone costs, letting their employees spend less time on the phone, and more time to attend to other tasks at the same time.

If customers are recieving better and quicker service, it means higher satisfaction scores. Engaging customers with online chats can drive sales if it means that customers can have the option to be walked through a sale if they have questions.

So, sure, the technology has huge benefits for a company. However, it's another matter entirely making chat the integration process a success in your business.

Software Advice's customer service blog, Customer Service Inestigator, investigated success stories from Live-Chat training. In this case, Dell came up as a great example, a company that launched its training program seven years ago. Two customer service team executives - Manish Chhabra and Monte Tomasino provided those ''secrets''. Read on to see what they were.

Live-Chat technology is something that has grown in popularity over the past few years.

This makes sense for many reasons. For the customer, an online chat system provides immediate access and less time waiting than a call center. They can multi-task ask well. Studies have shown that customers are more likely to return to a website that offers this type of communication.

For the company, the benefits mean slashing phone costs, letting their employees spend less time on the phone, and more time to attend to other tasks at the same time.

If customers are recieving better and quicker service, it means higher satisfaction scores. Engaging customers with online chats can drive sales if it means that customers can have the option to be walked through a sale if they have questions.

So, sure, the technology has huge benefits for a company. However, it's another matter entirely making chat the integration process a success in your business.

Customer Service Investigator, a software advice column, investigated success stories from Live-Chat training. In this case, Dell came up as a great example, a company that launched its training program seven years ago. Two customer service team executives - Manish Chhabra and Monte Tomasino provided those ''secrets''. Read on to see what they were.

Agents must prove themselves.

Dell agents never start in chat support, even if they had previous chat experience before being hired. Instead, they must first prove themselves as a top performer in traditional phone support, and then “graduate” to earning a spot on the chat support team.

Similar to a reward system, a Dell agent must prove they are productive and responsible enough before taking control of a Chat position. As a less stressful role, agents don't have the same pressure like with responding to phone calls. The idea behind the chat ''reward'' system is one of motivation. The agent must earn their right to have this type of position. Zappos is another company that uses the same recognition idea for chat graduation.

Learn to ask the right questions

A major challenge when working in live-chat is learning what the customer's problem really is. Customer's tend to be broad in their problem description, so agents must learn how to work out the answer in as little words and time as possible.

Dell agents may only ask two questions per chat, making it important for them to choose the right questions to help identify the customer's issue. Dell teaches an interactive ''decision tree'', a system that uses keywords to suggest possible questions to ask. The chat trainee will shadow an agent using the chat to understand the kinds of questions that might be asked. In addition to this, agents have access to customer chat logs. They can see the entire process in identifying an ideal example to identify the problem.

This isn't all though, an agent must think critically about the suggested question, and if it matches what they think the customer's issue may be.

“Think of it sort of like a GPS guiding you to the right answer,” Chhabra explains. “If you put in the wrong address, it will take you to the wrong location.”

Effective Multi-Tasking

Agents who are handling multiple chats at one time must learn how to effectively manage each of the customer conversations in a timely manner. This means knowing when to take the time to explain how to solve a problem versus sending them a link that will explain an in-depth resolution.

Using chat logs, Dell trains their agents on the appropriate time to send links, avoiding customer frustration and extra use of agent's time if the link didn't solve their problem.

An “incorrect instance,” for example, would be one where the agent continued the live chat for more than two exchanges after sharing the link, which would indicate the content wasn’t effective in resolving the customer’s issue.

Driving positive customer expectations

One of Dell's top priorities is making sure customers come away with a positive chat experience.

Dell_Golden_Rules

Among their efforts, Dells seeks to avoid examples where the customer believes the agent is helping several others or that the agent has left the chat.

“If I was to do a quality audit and found a customer saying something like, ‘Hello? Are you still there?’, that would be considered a negative experience,” Chhabra says. “The key is to set the right expectation with the customer.”

The right expectation contains three points:

  • Reassuring the customer that the agent will be responsive;
  • Letting the customer know if the agent needs extra time to find necessary resources; and
  • Clarifying that the agent is really listening, and will wait patiently for the customer to explain their issue (rather than rushing them through the interaction).

The agent has tools to help reassure the customer if they are handling multiple chats. They can give the customer a time limit for when they will be away, plus the reason for why they are taking extra time. In the example where an agent provides a link, they can remind the customer they will be waiting if the customer has further questions.

Agents are taught not to interrupt customers in the middle of a chat, avoiding the feeling of being rushed, or not feeling listened to etc. They are also given specific guidelines on ''soft skills'' that they are tested on in the form of a mock chat session or written test.

Provide on-going Support

Agents that have ''graduated'' to chat support aren't immediately left to their own devices after training. They are shadowed by other chat agents to help them through the interactions, plus give tips on how to successfully handle customers.

“One of the biggest issues we see impacting productivity is new agents lacking confidence,” says Abhiroop Basu, content strategist with live chat software maker Zopim. Like Dell, Zopim’s new chat agents are teamed up with another agent after training.

“Pairing them with a veteran helps them gain confidence in their abilities because they know they have someone there to guide them if they’re unsure about their response,” Basu explains.

Even after the work day is finished, the training doesn't end there. An agent will be pulled aside with a trainer to review how the day went, how the agent went, any extra training they think they need etc. As the agent gains more experience over the next few weeks, they will handle more chats on their own, and the ''team huddles'' will be phased out.

We can all take away something from Dell's ''best practices'' with their chat tool. What has made your chat technology successful?

Post adapted from: How Dell increased support productivity by 25% through effective chat training.

Agents must prove themselves.

Dell agents never start in chat support, even if they had previous chat experience before being hired. Instead, they must first prove themselves as a top performer in traditional phone support, and then “graduate” to earning a spot on the chat support team.

Similar to a reward system, a Dell agent must prove they are productive and responsible enough before taking control of a Chat position. As a less stressful role, agents don't have the same pressure like with responding to phone calls. The idea behind the chat ''reward'' system is one of motivation. The agent must earn their right to have this type of position. Zappos is another company that uses the same recognition idea for chat graduation.

Learn to ask the right questions

A major challenge when working in live-chat is learning what the customer's problem really is. Customer's tend to be broad in their problem description, so agents must learn how to work out the answer in as little words and time as possible.

Dell agents may only ask two questions per chat, making it important for them to choose the right questions to help identify the customer's issue. Dell teaches an interactive ''decision tree'', a system that uses keywords to suggest possible questions to ask. The chat trainee will shadow an agent using the chat to understand the kinds of questions that might be asked. In addition to this, agents have access to customer chat logs. They can see the entire process in identifying an ideal example to identify the problem.

This isn't all though, an agent must think critically about the suggested question, and if it matches what they think the customer's issue may be.

“Think of it sort of like a GPS guiding you to the right answer,” Chhabra explains. “If you put in the wrong address, it will take you to the wrong location.”

Effective Multi-Tasking

Agents who are handling multiple chats at one time must learn how to effectively manage each of the customer conversations in a timely manner. This means knowing when to take the time to explain how to solve a problem versus sending them a link that will explain an in-depth resolution.

Using chat logs, Dell trains their agents on the appropriate time to send links, avoiding customer frustration and extra use of agent's time if the link didn't solve their problem.

An “incorrect instance,” for example, would be one where the agent continued the live chat for more than two exchanges after sharing the link, which would indicate the content wasn’t effective in resolving the customer’s issue.

Driving positive customer expectations

One of Dell's top priorities is making sure customers come away with a positive chat experience.

Dell_Golden_Rules

Among their efforts, Dells seeks to avoid examples where the customer believes the agent is helping several others or that the agent has left the chat.

“If I was to do a quality audit and found a customer saying something like, ‘Hello? Are you still there?’, that would be considered a negative experience,” Chhabra says. “The key is to set the right expectation with the customer.”

The right expectation contains three points:

  • Reassuring the customer that the agent will be responsive;
  • Letting the customer know if the agent needs extra time to find necessary resources; and
  • Clarifying that the agent is really listening, and will wait patiently for the customer to explain their issue (rather than rushing them through the interaction).

The agent has tools to help reassure the customer if they are handling multiple chats. They can give the customer a time limit for when they will be away, plus the reason for why they are taking extra time. In the example where an agent provides a link, they can remind the customer they will be waiting if the customer has further questions.

Agents are taught not to interrupt customers in the middle of a chat, avoiding the feeling of being rushed, or not feeling listened to etc. They are also given specific guidelines on ''soft skills'' that they are tested on in the form of a mock chat session or written test.

Provide on-going Support

Agents that have ''graduated'' to chat support aren't immediately left to their own devices after training. They are shadowed by other chat agents to help them through the interactions, plus give tips on how to successfully handle customers.

“One of the biggest issues we see impacting productivity is new agents lacking confidence,” says Abhiroop Basu, content strategist with live chat software maker Zopim. Like Dell, Zopim’s new chat agents are teamed up with another agent after training.

“Pairing them with a veteran helps them gain confidence in their abilities because they know they have someone there to guide them if they’re unsure about their response,” Basu explains.

Even after the work day is finished, the training doesn't end there. An agent will be pulled aside with a trainer to review how the day went, how the agent went, any extra training they think they need etc. As the agent gains more experience over the next few weeks, they will handle more chats on their own, and the ''team huddles'' will be phased out.

We can all take away something from Dell's ''best practices'' with their chat tool. What has made your chat technology successful?

Post adapted from: How Dell increased support productivity by 25% through effective chat training.

Topics: Contact Center, Agents, call centers, Teletrabajo, training

Briana Songer

Written by Briana Songer

Marketing Director at PlayVox

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