CCW Special Report: Live Chat

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Chapter 2

Designing A Great Live Chat Experience

In principle, live chat is an irrefutably customer-centric offering. It simultaneously promises the comfort of conversational support with the convenience of digital engagement.

In practice, many live chat programs fail to keep that promise. The agents may not communicate in a natural, personal manner. Live chat agents, moreover, may lack empowerment to resolve complex issues. Combined with long wait times, unintuitive platforms and poor overall user experiences, live chat often becomes the antithesis of customer centricity. It subjects customers to slow, impersonal interactions before ultimately asking them to escalate to another channel.

To win the live chat game, leading organizations choose not to rest on the conceptual laurels of the channel. They earn customer satisfaction by defining—and designing—the mechanics of a great chat experience.

Establish the purpose

Like all contact center initiatives, live chat strategy requires a purpose. Why—and in what context—will the organization use live chat?

Purposes may include driving sales, providing transactional customer service, assisting customers with online accounts and transactions, or providing a “complete” customer engagement experience.

Everything from staffing assignments, to script development, to customer education, to performance measurement hinges on knowing the context in which the organization will chat with its customers.

Build live chat into the customer experience journey

After determining the purpose, a customer-centric organization considers where live chat fits into the overall customer experience journey.

The first step involves identifying the factors that trigger a live chat conversation.

In a sales context, this may include “popping up” a live chat when customers engage with product-oriented web pages. For service-driven chat, organizations will consider whether to simply offer a link on the “contact us” page or to proactively invite customers to chat when they reach notoriously “difficult” parts of the user journey.

Will representatives include “links to chat” during email or social media conversations? Will they build Internet of Things-based chat functionality into physical products like video game controllers or computer keyboards?

After deciding how chats will commence, it is crucial to determine how chat integrates with other contact options. Will chat agents have a “360-degree view” of the customers they are supporting? Can a customer make a purchase or pay a bill from directly within the chat window? If the customer escalates to another contact channel, such as phone, will the receiving agent have access to the conversation?

Consider the conversation

No matter how strong the framework, the success of the live chat venture hinges on what happens during the actual conversation. When designing their chat programs, customer-centric organizations will consider a myriad of experiential factors.

For inbound, support-based chats, organizations will want to consider the urgency with which they should answer inquiries. Will customers see chat as a “bonus” and thus endure long wait times? Or, will they expect an immediate response from a live agent?

Once a reactive or proactive chat begins, it becomes important to define the ideal conversation. As chats are digital, text-based interactions, customers may not expect same degree of “conversation” they receive from a live voice agent. They will still, however, expect the agents to communicate in a natural, friendly tone while tailoring the conversation to the unique circumstance.

The chat design process also involves creating support for asynchronous conversations. As customers embrace mobile communication, they increasingly expect the opportunity to exit and return to chats at their own leisure, ala text messaging.

"What started historically as a synchronous desktop-browser based chat has moved to the mobile communication world, ushering in a new form of asynchronous messaging," explains Meredith Flynn-Ripley of Salesforce. "Customers can [effortlessly] engage in never-ending conversations with brands."

Meredith Flynn-Ripley
VP, Digital Engagement, Salesforce

Another key consideration point is the role of automation. Depending on the nature of the product, customer base and conversation, it may be appropriate-if not preferable-to provide automatic replies at certain points. If the organization uses chatbots, it is also important to determine how they flow into “human” chat conversations. Will the organization inform the customer of the escalation, or will the live agent simply pop into the existing discussion?

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