omnichannel customer service best practices

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The Comprehensive Guide to Surprise & Delight your Customers on Live Chat, Email, Social Media & SMS

Best Practices for Digital Omnichannel Customer Service

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Chapter 1

Live Chat

If there is any platform that your company must have for successful digital customer support, it is live chat. An early staple of internet-based customer service, live chat allows customers to communicate with agents in real-time either from the company’s website or mobile app. This real-time support boasts strong satisfaction rates (in 2019, live chat had an 83% average satisfaction rate, with 93% percent of Comm100 Live Chat users saying they prefer live chat over any other channel).

Customers don’t only love live chat only for its speed and immediacy – they also prefer it for its convenience. As well as being very accessible and easy to use, they enjoy having the freedom to multitask while they receive support, which is a lot harder to do when on the phone.

When it comes to live chat, what works well for the customer also works well for the company. On average, companies that use live chat save up to 50% or more on support costs versus other methods, according to a report by the Aberdeen group. Customers who use live chat before making a purchase show a 10% increase in average order value, and companies as a whole experience a 2.4 times greater annual increase in upsell revenue thanks to live chat.

Not only is live chat highly successful, it’s a key starting point for digital omnichannel. Live chat platforms like Comm100 have omnichannel capacities that allow easy extensions into other channels, making it a great place to begin your winning omnichannel program.

Best Practices for Live Chat

1. Make your live chat stand out (in a good way)

The key to earning a solid ROI is to ensure that your customers are using the channel that you set up for them. Live chat customer service is 17 to 30 percent cheaper than a phone call, meaning that every customer who heads for your live chat window instead of dialing support is saving you money. To successfully reap the cost-saving benefits of live chat, the thing to consider first and foremost is adoption.

Key tools:

  • Live chat button customization
  • Live chat window customization

Live chat button customization

Your live chat button is the first element that will compel your customers to engage with your chat service. Live chat providers like Comm100 allow you to customize this button so you can create a call-to-action that is effective and on-brand. You can dictate the design and location, without any knowledge of coding. You can also determine where and when the chat button will be visible.

When designing your live chat button, make sure to place it in a convenient location where your customer can easily find it. One option is to set your live chat button up in a fixed spot – such as in the bottom right corner of the screen – across all web pages. Not only will this help keep the pressure off your phone queue, it will help encourage customers to be more proactive in asking questions about products. (Like the comfort of seeing a helpful sales rep on the store floor).

Another option is to make your live chat button available on a single webpage, such as your Support page. This is great for companies that want to use live chat more to support existing customers than to assist potential new customers. When listing live chat on your Support page, be sure to give it equal or slightly greater prominence than your telephone number, perhaps listing it as the first contact method on the page. This will help your customers consider all the options they have to contact you before reaching out, while encouraging customers to use live chat as a go-to for their customer service needs.

The attractiveness of your live chat button is just as important as its location when it comes to establishing consistent use and credibility. While it is important not to compromise visibility, your live chat button should be in line with your brand image. An abrasive, off- kilter live chat button could come off as aggressive or unprofessional to customers, and discourage use entirely.

live chat buttons

Examples of live chat buttons. Which one better suits your brand?

Live chat window customization

The live chat window is another component that is integral to the visual and functional success of your live chat experience. Like the live chat button, the live chat window is easy to personalize with custom color schemes, avatars, greetings, message  styles,  window  styles, and more. Comm100’s mobile-friendly responsive-design chat window ensures that visitors have chat experiences that fit with their devices (although you can also define a separate style for your mobile chat window if you choose).

Customizing your live chat window with a banner or even just sticking to your website’s color scheme is a great way to give your customers a cohesive, branded experience. Agent avatars can further drive personalization by showing customers that they are chatting with real people and putting a friendly face to the name.

live chat window comm100

Example of a live chat window, Comm100

Unlike many other platforms, live chat also allows you to choose whether you want customers to communicate through an embedded or pop-up window. Embedded windows (or windows that stay fixed on the webpage) are a great option for customers who want to chat with an agent while still having an unobstructed view of the website. Pop-up windows can be useful for companies who want to capture a customer’s undivided attention, and work well for purely support-based inquiries. However, as they prevent customers from multitasking within the same window, they may limit sales opportunities, as well as frustrate the customer.

embedded live chat canadian blood services

Example of an embedded window, Canadian Blood Services

best buy pop up live chat window

Example of a pop-up window, Best Buy

2. Monitor and proactively engage with visitors in real-time

One of the best things about live chat is the wealth of customer data that it brings to the table. With live chat platforms like Comm100, companies can monitor on-site visitors in real- time, giving them the most up-to-date insight into the activity of leads and customers. This information is not only useful for analyzing your sales funnel or buyer’s journey – it’s directly actionable.

Key tools:

  • Real-time contact insight
  • Visitor segmentation
  • Rule-based auto chat invitation

With real-time contact insight, your visitors’ geographical location, browsing history, contact history, shopping cart information, purchase values, and more, is right inside the agent console. With this information in hand, agents can proactively reach out to visitors for personalized service that caters to their exact needs.

Despite your agents’ best efforts, it can be difficult – or even impossible – for some companies to sift through their contacts one-by-one as they come online. Visitor segmentation allows companies to organize their visitors in real-time according to a set of predefined rules: location, customer profile, purchase history, and more. Visitor segments can be sorted by color, giving companies a way to quickly and easily see which of their segments are online, and which visitors belong to each segment.

Rule-based auto chat invitations take real-time visitor monitoring to the next level by making proactive outreach more efficient for agents and ensuring that no visitor falls through the cracks. Companies can set up proactive chat invitations to target certain visitor segments and have the system automatically engage with users who meet qualifying criteria.

Take the following scenario for example:

Grace is shopping for a new software for her team. After an hour of comparing software, she has placed multiple options in her cart, and is having trouble deciding which of the options will be the right fit for her specific use case. As a result of her lingering uncertainty, Grace sits on the ‘View cart’ page for several minutes as she reopens her individual windows to re-examine her options. She is about to give up for the night when she receives a friendly proactive live chat message: “Hi there!

My name is Michael. Is there anything I can assist you with?” Grace types out her concern, telling Michael her team size and exactly what she is looking for. Thanks to Michael’s message, she is able to get a well-informed take on which product will be best suited for her needs, and completes the purchase that same evening.

Together, the amount of time that Grace spent on the page and the value of the products in her cart triggered an automatic chat invitation that connected her with an agent who was able to help her settle any doubts and questions that were impeding a purchase. This prevented her from abandoning her shopping cart, ultimately resulting in a high-value purchase that she may have given up on without the agent’s proactive help.

Automated chat invitations are essentially brick-and-mortar customer service brought into the digital realm – only agents are equipped with more context and insight. By making this kind of customer service possible, especially proactively, companies can increase conversions by 20 percent.

3. Connect customers to the right agent every time with automatic routing

It is just as important to serve your customers reactively as it is proactively. With live chat, you can connect your web and mobile visitors to the right person at the right time, no matter the scenario.

Over the phone, connecting customers to the person who is best equipped to support them means sending them through an IVR that forces them to talk or click through a menu until their call is answered by a customer service representative. Even then, customers often get bounced around different agents with each new piece of information that comes to light about their issue.

With live chat, better access to data and intelligent routing means that customers get to the right agent fast–without all the hurdles. This reduces customer effort, leading to a better CX and quicker resolution times.

Key tools:

  • Rule-based automatic routing
  • Pre-chat survey

Rule-based automatic routing uses predefined rules to connect different visitor segments with the support that will best suit their needs. Like with rule-based auto chat invitations, these rules can be based on a huge range of available customer data and even account notes.

For example, routing rules can be set to automatically field incoming chats to specific franchises or sales teams based on a visitor’s geographic location or language. They can be used to route customers who have had prior interactions with the company to specific teams (imagine having the ability to instantly and automatically send a customer who has chatted with support more than 3 times to a higher-tiered customer service rep who is more likely to be helpful to them). And customers of a certain spending tier can be prioritized and moved accordingly through the queue when they request to chat with an agent.

The pre-chat survey is another way for live chat teams to automatically and accurately route visitors. Pre-chat surveys are a quick way for customers to give details about the nature of their inquiry or the issue they have been experiencing. Customers can select which department their issue pertains to, such as Sales, Support, or Billing. This will help get the customer to the right agent to solve their issue, and avoid inconvenient transfers.

example-of-pre-chat-survey

Example of a pre-chat survey routing to appropriate department

It’s worth noting that pre-chat surveys are a great opportunity to prompt customers to provide relevant contact info – such as an email address – which you can use to build a better customer profile and for future support and marketing initiatives. Just make sure that you aren’t asking your customer to provide too much information, or it could dissuade them from chatting with you altogether.

With live chat, companies can weight routing rules by importance. That way, when visitors inevitably fall into multiple segments, the system will know which piece of data is the most critical piece to the routing puzzle.

Take a look at the following example:

Jennifer is visiting the website of a VR company based in the United States and Spain that creates immersive showrooms for real estate. Jennifer has a history of visiting the VR company’s website: they have an active working relationship and managed to help her successfully digitize 2 model homes. In the eyes of the company, Jennifer belongs to all of the following segments:

  • Repeat web visitor
  • Prior chat history: Chatted 4 times
  • Time on website: 5 minutes
  • Webpage: Contact-Us
  • Source: Google
  • Location: Seattle, Washington, U.S.
  • Language: English
  • Pre-chat data: Sales inquiry
  • Purchase status: VIP customer

With any other customer, the VR company would route the visitor based first on location (should they be connected with an agent who speaks English, Spanish, or Catalan?) and second on pre-chat data (should the visitor go to a sales rep or customer support agent?). Because of Jennifer’s history with the company, her VIP status takes precedent, and she is automatically routed to an agent who is familiar with her business and account.

By establishing a hierarchy of routing rules, your company can ensure that your leads are connected to the right agent to empower them to make a purchase, and that your active customers are treated with the care they deserve.

4. Boost momentum with agent-facing resources

Part of what makes live chat such a successful customer service channel is how efficient it is. Unlike phone or email, live chat enables agents to carry on several conversations at once. This capability, known as chat concurrency, not only decreases wait times – it can also help companies save on staffing. Several key tools are available to help agents build response momentum and increase their chat concurrency:

Key tools:

  • Canned messages
  • Internal knowledge base
  • Agent-facing AI

Canned messages are prewritten responses you can create to help agents quickly deliver precise, on-brand replies to common queries. Agents can search for the best answer from inside the agent console and send it to customers with just one click. They can even set up keyboard shortcuts for the most frequently used canned messages (for example, ‘#pw’ for a canned message about how to reset a password). This saves agents from having to type out the entire message over and over again – just make sure that you keep your canned messages up-to-date so that you are always sending customers the most relevant information.

An internal knowledge base is a quick and easy resource for staff to search for answers to current customer queries and problems. Internal knowledge bases provide the team with

a means of shared communication, and are a great way flag issues and spread relevant information. To create an internal knowledge base, start by identifying recurring questions or information that are commonly sought after. Higher-level team members should be assigned topics and be responsible for maintaining and updating information concerning these topics. Make sure that internal information easy to access by categorizing topics and utilizing a search bar.

Agent-facing AI can help agents serve customers more quickly and accurately. Comm100’s Agent Assist is an agent-facing AI-powered tool that monitors live chat conversations in real-time. It can understand what questions are being asked, and automatically suggests the best response from the canned messages, internal knowledge base, or chatbot intents in the Comm100 platform.

This reduces internal friction by helping agents circumnavigate the tedious process of digging for answers. When you use Agent Assist to put accurate information into agents’ hands at lightning speed, you will increase agents’ capacity to handle incoming chats and even reduce training time.

comm100 agent assist

Example of Agent Assist in action, recommending an answer for the agent to send to a customer’s live chat question.

Pro Tip

When creating and editing canned messages, internal knowledge base articles, and agent-facing AI, involve members from each department of your organization. Keep a record of all active messages, and consider implementing a form to have your customer service team contribute ideas for adding and updating canned messages. After all, they’re the ones who are using them on the front lines!

5. Increase operational efficiency with system-wide productivity tools

Agent-facing resources aren’t the only way to increase your live chat mileage. System-wide productivity tools like customer-facing chatbots and knowledge base articles can take pressure off of your support team by putting valuable resources directly in your customers’ hands.

Key tools:

  • Chatbots
  • Knowledge base

Chatbots make live chat an even more efficient customer service channel, and having one available is an important part of extracting all the benefits you can from this platform. Unlike agents, chatbots can handle an infinite number of conversations at once. They are available 24/7, making them a cost-effective way to offer around-the-clock customer support.

According to a study by Gartner, organizations that implement NLP chatbots report a reduction of up to 70% in call, chat and email inquiries. They also report increased customer satisfaction and a 33% saving per voice engagement.

Comm100’s AI Chatbot harnesses the world’s most advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) engine to understand your customers’ goals and help them achieve resolution. Chatbots give your customers the answers they are looking for right inside the chat window, so they don’t have to comb through your website in search of FAQs.

Chatbots don’t only answer customer questions though – the Comm100 AI chatbot can process transactions and handle complex workflows on behalf of your customers by integrating with your core business systems – from tracking an order and paying a bill, to booking a flight. And, it can do it reliably: in 2019, Comm100’s chatbot handled 68.9% of chats from start to finish, earning an average satisfaction rate of 87.58% – even higher than the average satisfaction rate of live chat conversations with human agents.

comm100 chatbot example

Example of Comm100 Chatbot answering a live chat question with embedded video.

Since chatbots perform at such a high level, they help growing businesses scale with ease. Take Tangerine, an Australian telecom provider. Tangerine experienced rapid growth following an expansion of their services, which in turn produced a surge in chat requests. By implementing Comm100’s AI Chatbot, 91% of chats assigned to the bot were resolved without any agent involvement. As a result, Tangerine could manage the increase in chat volume without hiring and training more agents, saving them money and helping them focus on growth without compromising on customer service.

It’s important that self-service knowledge base content and even chatbot functionality be updated regularly to reflect changes in company policy, business offerings, and customer needs.

For example, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, WestJet added a cancellation/ rebooking tool to their chatbot which customers could use without having to contact an agent, in addition to relevant knowledge base content. Together, these automation and self-help tools free up agents to focus on assisting customers who have an immediate and pressing need — such as those who have a flight in the next 72 hours.

A knowledge base is another integral tool to take pressure off your agents by making information more accessible to your customers. As well as providing knowledge base articles and FAQs within your site, you can also make them accessible within your live chat window. When a customer reaches out via live chat, knowledge base Q&As are offered to them before they are even connected to an agent, empowering them to find the answer to their question without using agent time.

6. Use enhanced chat features to boost resolution and create VIP experiences

While the key selling points of live chat historically center around its text-based capacities, advanced live chat software providers offer a host of other real-time communication tools that enhance the value of live chat. Not only do these features create memorable and unique customer experiences – they can also help agents better understand a customer’s issue, handle sensitive information, and even replace in-person encounters. Ultimately, they give customers more of the one thing they really love: choice.

Key tools:

  • Auto-translation
  • Audio chat
  • Video chat
  • Co-browsing
  • File sharing

Before you can get anywhere close to creating VIP experiences for your customers, you need to be able to speak their language – literally. For this you need built-in auto-translation, allowing you to customize your live chat interface into a touchpoint that is available in more than 100 languages. Comm100 Live Chat automatically translates chat messages to and from a visitor who speaks a different language, meaning than even customers and agents who do not speak the same language can have a helpful exchange and easy resolution.

Audio chat can be an attractive digital communication option for many situations. Perhaps the issue in question is more complicated than first thought and would be more quickly resolved through verbal conversation. In such a situation, the agent can simply offer to call the customer from within the chat window without any required downloads, transfers, or awkward waits.

Audio chat is a great tool for serving international customers who don’t want to place an expensive long-distance call just to resolve a complaint (like regular chat, audio chat will count toward data usage). And it isn’t just important for customers: unlike landlines, audio chat is always toll-free, which means you can shed some of the costs of traditional phone support.

comm100 auto-translation live chat

Example of integrated auto-translation, providing translation of French to English for a live chat agent.

Video chat gives you another way to elevate  your  digital  customer  service  and  sales practices by bringing web visitors and agents face-to-face for in-depth, personalized support. Video chat can be used to create strong one-on-one relationships with your customers. It helps build trust between salespeople and potential buyers: according to Albert Mehrabian’s book, Silent Messages, customers view the body language of salespeople as the number one criterion for assessing their credibility.

Video chat can be used to give virtual product tours (such as showing off a car or home), or demonstrations (such as showing off styling tips for a wearable product). It is sign language and disability-friendly, making it accessible for all of your customers. It is a great way to show customers your true self.

Co-browsing is another enhanced live chat feature that can speed up resolution times, particularly for complex web-related issues. With co-browsing, customers can share their screens with agents, giving agents the visibility they need to more easily walk customers through their problem – such as making a necessary change to their account, technical troubleshooting, or shopping cart assistance. They can even give the agent permission to take control of the browser session, with access strictly limited to only the tab they’re sharing.

Live chat sessions with co-browsing have a customer satisfaction score of 89.3%, six points higher than sessions without at 83.1%, making it an extremely valuable, frictionless customer service tool. Co-browsing is a browser-based solution, meaning that no additional downloads or plugins are needed for either party. (Beware of co-browsing solutions that do require plug-ins as they erect considerable barriers to customer adoption and ease of use.)

live chat agent remote control

Example of agent remote control

Enhanced live chat features like audio and video chat and co-browsing can pay big dividends, but they do require additional customer service considerations. Representatives who use them will need to account for factors that are more akin to phone and in-person customer service: posture, body language, eye contact, tone, and clarity of speech should all be considered when using these features. While these options are great ways to escalate an issue that may be more easily solved over the phone or in-person, agents should never initiate the switch without the customer’s request or consent.

File sharing is quick and easy over live chat and is a great way for customers to get faster help. Customers can send a file to agents within the chat window with just a few clicks – PDFs, images, documents, and more, as the example below shows. With these enhanced live chat features, any customer can leave feeling understood and fully catered to like a true VIP.

comm100 file sharing

File sharing example, customer sending an image

7. Improve team performance with managerial tools

Live chat is easier to monitor than phone customer service, so it’s easier than ever to keep agents performing – and systems running – at an optimal level. With live chat, managers have complete control of chat flow and agent scheduling. They have total real-time and post- chat visibility into every conversation – both with agents and chatbots. With live chat, all the tools you need to supervise, course correct, and grow the quality of your customer service operation are right at the tips of your fingers.

Key tools:

  • Queue management
  • Permissions
  • Chat monitoring and whispering
  • Chat capturing
  • Reporting
  • Chat transcripts

Queue management tools are a vital part of keeping your customer service operations running smoothly. With queue management tools, you can set concurrent chat limits, ensuring that no agent gets overwhelmed with too many  simultaneous  live  chats:  while every company wants their team to be as efficient as possible, it is more important that your customers receive quality care, and that your agents don’t burn out.

We recommend you set a concurrent chat limit of one or two for newer agents who are just getting the hang of live chat customer service. For more advanced agents, a concurrent chat limit of 3 or 4 maximum is advised.

Use queue management tools to define rules for queue overflow, queue wait messages, and chat distribution (will all agents get assigned chats evenly? Or will you establish a queue that sends customers to the most capable, the least busy, or the last agent a customer   chatted with?). You can monitor the queue in real-time and make adjustments or transfers as needed (thanks to Auto Allocation and routing, the heavy lifting will already be done).

Consider the current capacity of your live chat team and use these tools to strike a balance between customer wait time and internal resources.

Permissions can be used to give specific agents access to higher level managerial tools so that they can help take on administrative and monitoring roles. For example, you could assign a senior live chat agent permission to supervise new hires in real-time – also known as chat monitoring or chat whispering. With this permission set, your senior-level agent can “listen in” on chats for quality content and send novice agents a helpful message if they find that their customer interactions are unprofessional or missing the mark.

If necessary, your senior agent can use their permission to join the chat, ensuring that the customer is assisted properly. Supervisors may also have the power of chat capturing, meaning that they can kick an agent off a chat and replace them with someone else should the need arise.

To evaluate how effectively your queue management, agent capacity, and permissions are performing you need another tool: Reporting. Comm100’s robust reporting shows how many chats were requested, missed, abandoned, and refused – helping you better avoid this in the future. It gives insight into your agent utilization rate, helping you keep track of agent performance and scheduling. It shows audience profiles, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction scores – all the insight you need to make adjustments to your proactive chat and sales strategies.

comm100 reporting dashboard

Example of a Comm100 reporting dashboard showing conversion results from live chat conversations

In addition to reports, Comm100 keeps a full history of chat transcripts. Not only do chat transcripts contain the entire chat dialogue, they also show the customer rating, agent wrap-up, transferred files, and visitor information. Chat transcripts can be downloaded, exported, printed, and even emailed to customers as follow-up automatically or manually as needed. Companies can search for chat transcripts by criteria, such as visitor name, segment, rating, or even keyword.

Reports and chat transcripts contain both real-time and historical information, and can be used to take actionable steps towards optimizing your live chat. For a complete view of Comm100’s reporting, click here.

Pro Tip

Want to know how to make your live chat customer service the best it can be? Ask your customers! With post-chat surveys, you can gage how your customers’ experience is stacking up to their expectations. Keep post-chat surveys short and simple (two to five questions is ideal) to encourage participation. You can always ask customers for more detailed feedback, but this should be optional.

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