Live chat teams around the world experienced a 7% increase in average monthly chat volume from 2019 to 2020. The emergence of Covid-19 undoubtedly played its part in this rise. Its impact was felt as early as February 2020 as customer service teams faced a surge in customer queries generated from the confusion and panic of the pandemic that continued for many months.
Much of this increase in chat volume came from phone. Phone lines initially took the brunt of the sudden and sharp rise in customer queries. Stories emerged of hours-long wait times and organizations quickly recognized that operational changes had to be made. To deal with this increased volume, many customer service teams shifted their operations away from phone and towards live chat to take advantage of the latter’s scalability, efficiency, and ease of use.
While an agent can only take one phone call at a time, live chat agents can manage several simultaneously. By using live chat, agents can also take advantage of efficiency tools such as canned messages, AI-powered Agent Assist, pre-chat surveys, and intelligent routing – all of which help agents to answer and resolve questions more quickly and accurately.
The necessity for employees to work from home from early 2020 shifted the move towards live chat and away from phone even further. Reconfiguring legacy phone systems for a remote setting posed huge issues for more traditional, centralized contact centers. On the other hand, live chat can be set up instantly in a working from home environment with little more than an internet connection and a computer – or even just a mobile phone. This naturally drove many organizations toward using live chat as their primary customer service channel. Read our Covid-19 Live Chat Benchmark Report from October 2020 for more information on how Covid-19 affected live chat operations.
However, it would be too simplistic to attribute the rise in chat volume solely to the emergence of Covid-19. Live chat usage has been steadily growing year-on-year, the result of two core factors: increasing consumer-led appetite and demand for instant gratification. Firstly, while phone has been the traditional customer service channel for decades, live chat is growing in popularity as customers of all ages and demographics are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and embracing digital communication.
Second, we see the growth of instant gratification as it pertains to customer service & support. Living in an era where ordering and receiving a package within a day is commonplace, this expectation for accessibility and speed has seeped into customer service. Customers expect fast and accessible support, and this is exactly what live chat offers. Customers can receive answers in real time with minimal effort – all within a digital medium that has become so integral to their everyday life. These two developments have undoubtedly contributed to the growing chat volume we see in 2020, and will continue to do so.
While most team sizes experienced a significant increase in chats per month, teams of 26+ agents were an exception as their average chat volume dipped by 16%. A key underlying explanation for this is an increasing awareness of omnichannel customer engagement throughout 2020, and an understanding of its importance. To provide the best customer service in today’s digital-first world, organizations must offer multiple communication channels so that their customers can pick the channel that best suits them and their query. As well as providing live chat, this means also offering email, social media, and SMS. In 2020, adoption of Comm100’s omnichannel customer engagement platform rose significantly, particularly among larger organizations. This helps to explain why live chat volume dipped for this team size as customers were given the choice to also reach out via other key digital channels.
Self-serve knowledge bases are also key to an omnichannel approach and result in reduced live chat volume when used well. By empowering the customer to self-serve and find the answer to their question by themselves, they do not need to engage with an agent. While knowledge bases have long been an integral customer service tool, usability improvements are increasing use (such as integration within the live chat window), another factor for dip in live chat volume for teams of 26+ agents.