Chat Enhancements Optimize Customers Web Experience

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1 Chat Enhancements Optimize Customers Web Experience Brands Realize Significant Benefits When Providing Automated Web Chat Support for Online Customers Executive Summary Chat, an effective interactive web conversation tool, has dramatically improved functionality with the introduction of automated chat conversations. Automated chat creates a cost-effective method to assist customers, resulting in reduced support costs and improved response times. Chat handles many repetitive transactions speedily in a rich media session and can escalate customers inquiries to a telephone conversation for completing complex transactions or receiving more intimate sales support. Automated chat further enhances chat sessions and provides a self-service option for brands supporting online customers. Customers experience a seamless interaction when requesting assisted support, as all customer data from the web site flows to the agent, leaving no need to repeat information. The many benefits of chat have made it the fastest-growing customer support channel, encouraging brands to move forward in developing an effective blended chat strategy to capture the attention of online customers. The substantial benefits of blending automated chat with assisted chat provide a major opportunity for brands to deliver personalized support to web site visitors while realizing significant savings by deflecting live interactions with robust self-service solutions. Importantly, to deliver a connected customer service experience, brands must fully integrate customers web experiences into overall customer service operations. Communication Initiatives Commissioned by Avaya

2 Chat Enables Interactive Conversations for Online Customers Many customers initial explorations of a brand s product or services occur on the brand s web site. This is the time for brands to ensure that online visitors receive the support they need and to provide a positive web experience. Chat conversations provide the following benefits: 38% of today s customers use chat to communicate with organizations. 68% would like access to web chat while on the Internet. Source: The Autonomous Customer 2013 Survey Improve customer confidence. Accurate responses to questions enhance customers experience and result in a favorable view of the brand by the customer. Engage customers more fully. Customers often surf the web looking for product information and services. Interactive sessions keep potential buyers involved, leading to higher sales and customer satisfaction. Provide faster response times. Automated web chat provides information directly to customers and deflects traffic from assisted support. This reduces traffic flow and decreases handling times for those customers who seek assisted support. Simplify customer experience. The transfer of an automated chat session to a live chat agent or phone conversation minimizes customer effort and contributes to the Customer s Lifetime Value. It makes it easy for customers to receive quality support and results in a positive customer experience. Chat Offers a Blended Experience to Fully Engage Customers Many options are available that enable brands to provide chat conversations. With the use of simple business rules, brands can determine whether they wish to begin with a live agent session or an automated session. The sequence often depends on the type of information requested and the importance of managing customers web experiences. For example, a customer may look for basic company information and proactively receive an automated response based on a high confidence factor of the answer s accuracy. Or customers may be offered live chat sessions and then be sent to automated chat to complete the transaction. As with all customer encounters, it is important to support flexible options that best accommodate each customer s situation. Communication Initiatives. All rights reserved. Page 1

3 Figure 1 Chat Provides Both Assisted and Automated Support Rich Media Enhance Chat Sessions Today s customers are more demanding and expect more from a company than timely support and good service. They want brands to recognize them, understand their needs, and simplify their experience. The practice of forcing customers to toggle through several channels and repeat information at each step is no longer acceptable. Digital natives are more sophisticated in their web usage and are not content with static 85% of consumers shop around for the best price. content they expect an interactive engagement that delivers a multimedia experience on their smartphones. Chat supports a rich media experience in the following ways: 62% prefer to shop online to avoid sales representatives. Only 17% say organizations make it easy to switch between channels. 67% say much of the personalized offers they have received were irrelevant. Source: The Autonomous Customer Survey 2013 Enables high levels of interactivity. This may include services, such as streaming video or dynamic content, that are adjustable to a specific customer s situation and support two-way conversations. Seamlessly blends automated web interactions with live chat assistance. This is a major benefit for providing a simplified customer experience and facilitates support for sales and service activities. Chat sessions can also escalate to live voice conversations and enable simultaneous online chat with telephone support. Supports proactive outreach. Customers appreciate timely receipt of information, which personalizes their experience. Outbound chat reaches out to customers and invites them into conversations. Communication Initiatives. All rights reserved. Page 2

4 Enriches sales content. In today s multimedia world, customers respond more favorably to dynamic content that describes a product or service, which ultimately will drive up sales and revenues, such as increased conversion rates and shopping cart size. Chat Makes Contact at Time of Customers Greatest Interest Chat offers many opportunities to turn online shoppers into buyers. Many customers start the search for products and services by going online and browsing content of web sites for brands of interest to them. Chat captures shoppers attention at the time when they are most interested in buying, engages them, and provides them with an immediate source of information to assist their decision making. Many brands that lack chat may find that their customers abandon their web sites before receiving relevant information regarding the products of interest or special sales offers. Importantly, customers appreciate timely invitations to join online conversations. Automated chat improves sales opportunities in the following ways: 69% of customers complain when asked to repeat account information on the same phone call. 82% of consumers will buy more from companies that make it easy for them to do business. Source: The Autonomous Customer 2013 Survey. Provides fast and accurate responses. Customers want information or their problems solved when they contact a brand. Many shy away from self-service because they find it difficult to receive the information they need; instead they will place a call to an agent. Content delivered as self-service must have a high confidence factor for accuracy before it is sent to customers. Turns browsers into buyers. In a competitive world, it is important to engage customers when they are most interested in buying a product or service. At the time when customers online activities indicate buying signals, extend an invitation to engage in a chat session, which often indicates a brand s commitment to delivering excellent service. Enables customers to consider products without listening to sales pitches. Many customers will turn away from uninvited sales pitches, preferring to gather information independently. Online chat is less intrusive than a direct telephone conversation. Supports a continuous path to agent. This represents a best practice and enables a customer to escalate to live support without being required to submit information repetitively. Uses analytics to determine correct content. Customers do not like to sort through offers and information that are not personalized to their interests. Analytical tools ensure the brand that it is delivering content that is directed at a customer s specific interests and is not considered extraneous. Brands Gain Sound Business Benefits with Self- Service Chat Options Brands strive to deliver a consistent and connected customer experience across all channels. To do this, they need to support a fully integrated platform that anticipates customers needs, engages customers in conversations, and minimizes the need for disruptive channel switching. This goal requires brands to offer consistent support to customers on the Communication Initiatives. All rights reserved. Page 3

5 channel of their choice and self-service solutions that leverage and integrate existing applications. Selfservice channels need the same access to customer data as live support agents. Brands that empower customers to receive content and complete their interactions within self-service channels achieve the following business benefits: Reduced operational costs. Automated chat can lower agents work time by providing quick responses to routine inquiries and enabling them to shorten live sessions by accessing information already provided in the automated chat session. Increased revenues. Chat provides an opportunity for brands introduce new products and services and increases customers knowledge of specific items. It can also extend offers for purchasing multiples or provide additional discounts for products. Faster responses to customers. With the delivery of accurate content from the knowledge base, customers get answers quickly without needing to wait for live assistance. Increased direct web purchases. When brands make it easy for customers to do business over the web, it encourages more shoppers to the web as a primary shopping channel. Shoppers discouraged from abandoning the web site before making a purchase. Proactive chat positively engages prospective customers, which increases the probability of their making a purchase while online. Figure 2 Major Business Benefits from Automated Chat Communication Initiatives. All rights reserved. Page 4

6 Channel Cost Comparisons Indicate Value of Chat It is important to note that the market consists of many different types of service organizations and average costs are based on the types of services provided, the complexity of interactions, and the skill sets required to support customers. Brands need to determine their actual costs for providing services and then create analyses based on their data. Nevertheless, the human factor is the major cost for most operations, and alternative options that deflect time from assisted services will lower costs. According to the following chart, live assisted calls are the most expensive based on agents average talk times. E- mail response also uses live agents but costs are reduced, with management systems that autopopulate a portion of the response, resulting in agents spending less time per response. Live chat involves agents time, but costs are lower if agents handle multiple chat sessions simultaneously. The live chat estimate below assumes that agents handle two to three simultaneous sessions. When chat sessions are partially automated, agents spend less time with customers, and cost per transaction continues to decline. The lowest cost is full automation, assuming that the customer completes the interaction without further chat or assistance from other channels. The cost model assumes fully burdened costs. Communication Initiatives. All rights reserved. Page 5

7 Figure 3 Cost per Contact Comparison Blended Chat Options: Identify Ideal Transactions for Automated Chat Customers do not always need live assistance and often prefer to complete interactions independently. Consider any repetitive activities that offer assistance and information that may not be conveniently available without guidance. This may include providing general company information such as store hours or location information. Technical support questions may be answered on short descriptive videos such as where to locate specific product codes required for repair. Enrollments are also convenient to complete with automated chat support. Unlike legacy self-service options, such as interactive voice response (IVR) systems that force callers to go through menus, automated chat takes customers directly to the appropriate content and provides information quickly with interactive multimedia. When implementing an automated chat solution, consider the following steps: Determine transactions that are best suited for automated support. These include simple inquiries and highly repetitive requests or questions. Use click stream analysis to identify buying behaviors or need for assistance. Avoid overactive offers for chat when online customers do not indicate signs of needing assistance. Apply routing rules to send customers to correct agents. Once customers request to engage in a live chat session, determine the best-suited agents to handle the interactions. Communication Initiatives. All rights reserved. Page 6

8 Staff appropriately for live assistance. Chat support needs to be available immediately. Plan for sufficient staff members to be available to take over the automated session when the automated agent can no longer deliver responses with an acceptable degree of accuracy. Plan for Successful Automated Chat with Analytics and Knowledge Base Online self-service must deliver an engaging customer experience, and this requires that brands support their chat application with a fully integrated knowledge base that provides content with a high confidence factor for correctness. Additionally, customers should not have to sort through multiple responses when receiving information. If the confidence factor of the automated response is low, then customers immediately should be directed to live assistance. A manager needs to be assigned to maintain the knowledge base to ensure that its content is constantly refreshed and properly managed. Careful planning ensures that the launch of automated chat is successful. Analytics provides information to customers and alerts management of changes or problems early on. Analytics can also spot problems of usage and enable corrections to be made before the issues impact overall operations. Data provided from analytical applications need to be reviewed frequently to determine the effectiveness of the chat sessions. Additionally, customer feedback from surveys provides essential insight into the manageability and accuracy of chat sessions. Call to Action: Fully Integrate Chat into Service Operations Deploying chat is not a stand-alone application but part of a fully integrated customer support strategy. Customer engagement requires brands to deliver a complete customer solution across all channels. This includes the evaluation of the entire spectrum of customer touchpoints and the delivery of a connected customer experience. Excellent service is responsive and solves customers problems quickly. To develop an integrated chat strategy, consider the following best practices: Start with defined objectives and goals. Gain consensus on tools needed to deliver nextgeneration customer support across rapidly expanding web channels. Promote use of automated chat sessions with existing customers. As automated chat rolls out, encourage customers to use the service, and promote it on the company s web site. Determine whether the chat application is user friendly and inviting for customers. Ensure high levels of accuracy on automated response. This is a critical step. If the automated response tool is not delivering highly accurate responses, then customers will not use it and will default to higher-cost options. High confidence in an accurate response requires consistent monitoring and review. Establish routing rules for agent escalation. This is an extension of the same rules used for handling incoming calls. However, customer support agents are usually trained in handling telephone conversations and require additional training to better engage customers over the web. Personalize interactions for a more intimate response. Customize responses to deliver information that is relevant to individual customers and avoid overloading customers with product information and offers that are not of interest to them. Communication Initiatives. All rights reserved. Page 7

9 Continue to update database as new information is received. The data that forms the base of information for the automated chat agent needs to be kept up to dated continually. Make sure customer information on databases is shared among response teams in order for responses to be consistent across channels. Monitor and measure results. Automated chat is often rolled out in stages, and it is useful to build on experiences with earlier implementations to continually improve performance and customer acceptance. Upgrade knowledge base to better support automated response. Knowledge base management is an essential component of successful chat sessions and needs to be continually administered and updated. Use customer feedback and surveys to tune application. Look for honest feedback and adoption rates to measure how effective chat delivers an engaging customer experience. Track percentage of successful automated completions. Although live support brings many benefits, it is important to measure the number of customers who were able to successfully complete their interactions with self-service support as a means to determine brand savings for automation. Communication Initiatives. All rights reserved. Page 8

10 Analyst Bio: Elizabeth Herrell Elizabeth Herrell is the founder and president of Communication Initiatives and a VP and principal analyst with Constellation Research. As a recognized industry leading analyst with eleven years of experience at Forrester Research as vice president and principal analyst, she has delivered multiple consulting projects to companies and provides expert advice on business communication solutions and contact center transformation. Elizabeth has published more than 500 reports on industry trends, vendor assessments, best practices, and technology insight and is often a featured speaker for business conferences and client engagements. She is frequently quoted in major news journals and trade publications. Communication Initiatives. All rights reserved. Page 9

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