By Emily Millar
April 28, 2011
As consumers continue to move both their conversations and business transactions online, companies must select the customer service and support tools appropriate for the customer experience. With so much Web-based opportunity, there is tremendous value for businesses to improve customer service and increase sales within the online environment.
To enhance the online customer experience, a growing trend among many businesses is to offer online chat. Also called live chat or web chat, online chat offers real-time, two-way text communication over the Internet. Some chat platforms are reactive, requiring the user to actively click a button on the host’s website to “chat with us.” Other companies use a proactive chat approach where website visitors are asked to engage with an agent usually in the form of a pop-up window.
The benefits of online chat are impressive, especially when it comes to providing rapid and cost effective customer service. Online chat:
- Reduces overall contact center costs by lowering average interaction costs
- Delivers rapid, personalized and timely communications to a customer
- Minimizes shopping cart abandonment by helping customers complete order forms
- Builds website credibility with the customer; agents can answer questions immediately
- Increases transaction value with up-sell and cross-sell opportunities
- Increases efficiency by allowing agents to handle multiple chats simultaneously
Despite significant benefits, much of online chat’s potential remains unrealized. Even with growing consumer preference, impressive ROI, and high customer satisfaction over other channels like phone support, online chat remains a largely untapped channel. This is particularly the case for online chat sales. When TELUS International commissioned a recent benchmark study for best practices in online chat sales, they found many of the largest retailers did not offer a chat sales option.
Making Chat Work
As we are getting savvier with social technologies, it’s not surprising that a growing number of consumers prefer online chat channels. For example, an ATG Global Consumer Trend study found that 90 percent of U.S. consumers ranked click-to-chat as “useful to extremely useful.” Likewise, an eMarketer.com survey found that 63 percent of respondents were more likely to return to a particular website after experiencing live chat.
The key to making online chat work is to implement it effectively and maintain the human element as part of the online interaction. According to our research, a successful online chat session rests on three key areas: agent skills, chat system features and communications style.