What is holding back chat in customer service?
Amongst consumers, chat is fast becoming a mainstream channel for customer service. Thanks to the rise of messaging applications, people have grown used to having text based, real-time conversations, meaning they feel increasingly familiar with chat in a customer service scenario.Research indicates that millennials in particular are very comfortable using chat for customer service from their mobiles.
Chat has three very clear strengths:
1. Customers love it
Chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73% of people who use it saying they are satisfied. This is probably due to its speed – it provides the immediacy of a telephone call by delivering a real-time, back and forth interaction. And it’s convenient because consumers don’t need to switch from the web to the phone, meaning it can be integrated seamlessly into the customer journey. Companies can even offer proactive chat to help consumers that seem to be stuck on a particular page, by using their behavior to trigger chat sessions.
2. It provides a personal service
The interactivity and speed of response means customers are getting a personalized service that addresses their particular issue. Deepening this engagement, some of the most successful companies using chat provide the name and photo of the customer service agent to build empathy and allow consumers to use emojis to convey emotion.
3. It’s very efficient
While being quick and personal, chat is also much more efficient than the telephone. It allows agents to interact with multiple customers at the same time, bringing down costs without any impact on quality.
These points are backed up by the latest Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study, which highlights that the adoption of chat by UK brands is on an upward curve. For example in the 2014, 13% of companies claimed to offer it, and in 2015 this doubled to 26%. In the 2016 study it again grew exponentially, to 44% of brands surveyed.
The Eptica research also indicates that chat is still the fastest and most accurate channel when it comes to customer service, meaning consumers get the answers they need quickly and efficiently.
The downside of chat growth
While accuracy is high and chat usage is increasing, analysis of Eptica’s UK research over time points to three issues developing:
1.Speed and accuracy are declining
The average 2016 conversation time of 7 minutes 40 seconds was nearly 30 seconds slower than 2015, which in turn was nearly double the time taken in 2014. Three out of four (75%) of those who offered chat were able to answer a query successfully, compared with 89% last year. Given the ability of agents using chat to ask follow up queries in real-time to deepen their understanding of what consumers mean, this is a worrying trend for the channel, and seems to point to a lack of empathy with customers.
2. Switching channels
As we’ve said consumers value chat for its ability to have a meaningful conversation with brands, while companies benefit from the efficiency of the channel. Yet, many companies surveyed by Eptica seem to be undermining these benefits, with 25% unable to answer a routine question posed on chat, instead asking consumers to call or email to get a response. This disrupts the customer journey, and forces consumers to leave their channel of choice – hardly the sort of behavior that will build strong engagement.
3. Resources under pressure
Chat is often the first channel to be switched off when resources are stretched. Out of the 44 companies that claimed to offer chat in our 2016 study, just 16 had it available when tested. Given its widespread acceptance and proven benefits, brands appear to be shooting themselves in the foot, and letting down consumers by claiming to offer chat and failing to resource it properly.
Chat technology is relatively simple to add to a website which is why many brands are now offering it. But they must devote adequate resources at the operational level to ensure that they have enough trained agents available to meet customer requirements, and that these agents have the tools they need to deliver an excellent experience. This includes access to a comprehensive knowledge base that can help them resolve queries quickly and accurately.
Chat is on the cusp of becoming a mainstream customer service channel and has advantages to both consumers and brands – yet the 2016 Eptica research shows that it needs to be taken more seriously, and resourced adequately, if it is to deliver on its potential for increasing efficiency andimproving the customer experience.