Why service businesses are losing out by not considering live chat and messaging
If you’re in charge of CX in a business that serves millions of customers – Communications, Financial Services, Utilities, Retail, etc. then you know: the pressure on CX operations is twofold. You’re expected to:
- Deliver better experiences and greater business value – measured through increased customer retention rates, NPS, brand value, or a similar metric.
- Do it at lower cost and/or higher volumes – i.e. serve more customers using the same resources, or find other ways of boosting productivity.
Surprisingly though, there’s a low-hanging CX fruit that can deliver on both counts –that service businesses could reap quickly and easily: chat and messaging. Surely customer companies could do worse than offering a service people want that’s actually cheaper?
So why aren’t more businesses actively promoting chat? In my experience doing CX advisory, I’ve found that it’s usually down to misconceptions (e.g. “our customers won’t use it, they prefer to pick up the phone”), and limited understanding of chat’s capabilities (e.g. “chat is just as resource-intensive as voice”; “it’s not as personal”). The truth is, though: both beliefs can cost companies money – and put customers off. Let me explain why.
Why consider chat, and why now?
For many executives, voice has long been the default option for any customer-service-related issue – and their only known way to properly interact with their customers. In my opinion, that’s an outdated perspective, for two reasons: first of all, customer experience today is so much bigger than the traditional contact center. It’s become important for brands to give customers channel choice, and be easily accessible from wherever they are, whenever they want. (And increasingly, if your customers actively have to find ways to get in touch with you, it means things may have already gone too far.)
The second reason is that customers actually prefer it. Chat has taken voice’s place in customer satisfaction surveys: live chat had the highest customer satisfaction levels at 73%, as compared to 61% for email support and only 44% for traditional phone support. Especially millennials expect to converse with a brand whenever they choose, and decidedly prefer text. It allows them to multitask on the same device, and they tend to see it as a low-barrier path to service.
And as for “why now?”, it’s safe to say that in times of economic uncertainty (like the current recession, and the high cost of living), brands – especially Utilities – can expect higher contact volumes (in fact, the businesses we advise are already seeing the increase). Customers might be shopping around for better deals, or worried about making payments. While in theory, customer companies can meet this demand by adding staff, it’s usually not an economically viable option.
Voice vs chat: a false dichotomy
So rather than think of voice as bells and whistles, and of chat as the “lesser option”, I believe businesses would do well to adopt a philosophy of offering the “right channel for the customer in any given situation”. Because that allows them to tap into live chat (as well as asynchronous messaging) as one of the building blocks of a holistic CX strategy, and hit some mission-critical KPIs. For instance:
- Meeting customer preference: Many customers prefer the speed, accessibility and convenience of chat, especially if they’re getting in touch while working. Chat reduces the effort required of them – a key aspect influencing customer lifetime value (CLV).
- Efficiency: Chat deflects low-complexity, standard requests away from the contact center, freeing associates to deal with complex, high-value requests in person; the talent pool for chat associates is larger, as there’s no requirement for a specific regional accent. This is great in terms of business agility, cost and volume.
- First-contact-resolution: Because live chat interactions are text data, AI can easily analyze conversations and quickly identify customer intent. This can trigger associate assist technology that supports associates with pre-built text snippets and next-best-action advice – and help them resolve customer issues faster, and more thoroughly.
- Increased BI leverage from interactions: The same AI can also help businesses analyze the entirety of their customer interactions and use this data to create meaningful segments – for e.g. demographics, customer service use cases, product usage, preferred channels, etc.
- Future-readiness: Chat, and its sister technology messaging (e.g. on WhatsApp, or Facebook) can enable a number of other capabilities, such as faster fraud detection and resolution.
Thus, while chat is not a silver bullet that’ll solve all your CX issues, it definitely adds one of the most valuable channels for delivering branded interactions at low cost, and in many customers’ preferred way. All in the interest of getting to a point where you can offer the right channel to the right person at the right time, while running efficient operations.
How to make chat a success
So how can brands move their customers over to chat, and make it work for them? There’s a lot I could say here, and I’m sure you have day jobs to be getting on with, so I’ll stick to the essentials:
- Commit to chat as a business model. Chat allows you to deliver to customers globally, at lower cost. The business case is attractive, but it might mean revamping your operations and re-engineering your service processes.
- Educate your customers. Customer service analytics can help you identify the customer segments, situations and type of interactions that can easily be handled via chat. Moving customers over to chat may be as easy as prominently featuring the chat option on your website. You could also run an awareness campaign that highlights speed-of-response, or incentivize customers to use non-voice channels.
- Manage change internally. Adjust your hiring process to check for chat competencies. This will include things like typing speed and accuracy, and language use. But on-the-job-training is just as important. Make sure your chat associates get structured coaching sessions and individual action plans, including chat SME and “buddy” support.
I’m not here to “sell you chat”. But I don’t know a single brand that, in this climate, couldn’t do with relieving their voice associates, assisting their customers faster, and saving time and money along the way. And I believe it’s important for brands to understand what digital technologies are available to them, and how they can leverage them in a way that makes sense for their business. So if you’d like to learn what else is out there: we’ve put together some information and resources on the Digitally Empowered Customer Experience: Take a look now, and if you like, get in touch. We can talk about this stuff all day.