Audrey hosted this discussion on May 28th, 2015.
This Fine Tuning session is about planning for chat, including:
- Goal Alignment and Metrics
- Planning and Placement
- Maximizing Workflows
Zendesk Customer Success Executive Audrey Griffith has been with Zendesk since December of 2014 but brings over ten years' of experience in customer service leadership with various retail companies.
See all the Fine Tuning series discussions .
Part 1: Chat Goal Alignment and Metrics
So you’ve read all of the studies and are excited about the service and sales possibilities chat could offer to your customers. While chat adoption is on the rise at 58% in 2014, according to a Forrester survey, like the other channels in your service channel portfolio, it comes with it’s own unique set of considerations to think about prior to implementation.
As a former Director of Care for a rapidly growing e-commerce retailer, driving awareness around chat and growing it as a channel was essential to our ability to scale and turn our Customer Care department from cost center to profit and loyalty center. After some wins and missteps, by channeling +50% of our interaction volumes to chat, we were able to save on operating costs, increase CSat and make a substantial incremental sales impact.
In this Fine Tuning session, we’ll walk through chat implementation basics, anecdotes, and lessons learned while scaling chat in this type of contact center environment.
Aligning chat goals with your business objectives is the first step in your chat journey. I can’t stress this enough, as 100% alignment ensures everyone from your agents down to your executive stakeholders know the drivers behind offering the channel and the intended outcomes. To start, I’ve listed a few of the common goals associated with chat, all of which should be easy to measure in your reporting solution.
Common Chat Goals:
- Cost Reduction : Chat agents have the ability to take multiple chats at once, making chat more efficient than phone. Increased efficiency and agent productivity means a cost per contact savings for your organization.
- Speed to Reply and Resolution : Seconds matter when it comes to service and chat allows for quick, real-time answers. Faster reply and resolution times mean higher agent production, lower cost and oftentimes, higher CSat.
- Training/Onboarding New Agents : Chat is a fantastic channel for onboarding new agents quickly as it combines learning and the positive stress of a phone call with the ability to collaborate on research and ask for assistance.
- CSat: Chat typically offers high single contact resolution rates and low average handle times, more so than email, making it a go-to channel when improving CSat. Chat aligns with the growing preference of texting and posting as well as satisfying customers’ desires to get immediate answers without a ton of effort. Chat tools, like Zopim, make CSat easy by carrying the rating and comment to Zendesk as a ticket is created.
- Conversion : Being easily accessible to answer customer questions, often through proactive chat, at various points in your site’s experience means more satisfied customers, fewer abandoned carts, and increased revenues for your business.
For my team’s purposes, we knew we had opportunity to shift some of our most frequently asked questions to a faster, more productive channel and self-help wasn’t an option. We also wanted to measure the impact of our personal shopping group, so cost reduction and conversion were our priorities.
While it is possible to see gains across the goals above, it is important to note that there will be some give and take from a metrics perspective. For instance, if you are building out chat for conversion purposes, you probably shouldn’t be focusing on average handle time as you may compromise average order value and CSat.
Let’s take a look at the metrics you should be measuring and the goals to which they correlate. Fortunately, some metrics drive positive benefits across the three themes listed above, but some metrics may work against each other, so balance and focusing on those business objectives is key!
- Cost Reduction: cost per contact, handle time, reassignment or escalation rate, speed to reply time, and first contact resolution
- Speed to Reply and Resolution: cost per contact, handle time and reassignment rate
- Training/Onboarding New Agents: agent productivity, agent CSat, retention
- CSat: reassignment rate, speed to reply, first contact, and CSat survey results
- Conversion: abandonment rates, average order value, and units per transaction
Part 2, 11 am: Planning and Placement
Mapping the customer experience with chat is just as important as any other channel, maybe even more so because of its mobile accessibility. Many factors will drive chat volume, including chat type, placement and access. Deciding on click-to-chat versus proactive chat or a blend of both will most likely be the biggest decision for you to make here.
Reactive vs. Proactive Chat :
In addition to static links or click-to-chat, proactive chat, the ability to invite customers chat based on predetermined criteria, is something to consider as you hold the keys on which of your customers will be offered chat based on their demographics, behavior, etc. A recent Forrester study found that 44% of US online consumers said they like having a chat invitation appear to help answer questions during an online research or purchase, which is up from 33% in 2012. Combine that with another study suggesting 55% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question , and you have a pretty compelling case for proactive chat to live on your site.
Placement and Planning:
Placement and chat type should also align with your business goals. If you are looking to increase conversion, then offering chat on your most popular or high tickets items and your checkout page would make sense. If cost reduction or CSat is your focus, then maybe you are serving chat on support pages or after your customer has accessed self-help. That said, your set-up is as complex or basic as you make it. We rolled out click-to-chat on all pages, made a few adjustments and were able to achieve the goals we set forth. As we became better at predicting patterns and learning what our customer wanted to chat about and not, we tuned our workflows and set more specific goals.
The sky's the limit to how you present chat, so consider these as possible volume leavers:
- access for specific products
- limiting to specific customers
- gated access (say after offering self-service)
You will see sizeable changes in chat volume depending on chat placement and type, so be sure to test variations in presentation to prevent unpredicted spikes in volume. We rolled out click-to-chat with minimal volume issues, but when we tested a chat widget visible in the same place on each page, our chat volume doubled! While chat will cannibalize some of your phone volumes, you may also see incremental interaction volume as well for simply offering a new channel, so plan for people who just want to check out the new feature, at least initially.
Placement and chat type should also align with your business goals. If you are looking to increase conversion, then offering chat on your most popular or high tickets items and your checkout page would make sense. If cost reduction or CSat is your focus, then maybe you are serving chat on support pages or after your customer has accessed self-help. Engaging with those customers is as easy as setting up a trigger for proactive chat. Triggers in these cases can be super helpful for targeting customer type (like return customer) or behavior (like idleness).
Staffing for chat is not as daunting as it seems, but make sure you have mechanisms in place to dial back volume if need be. Between business rules and your technology, there are many variables, but some basic math and knowledge of your call volumes and patterns will help. According to a Forrester study, 15% of your site visitors will engage in chat. Using that stat and applying to your site traffic historicals is a great start to making sure you have adequate staff.
As you tune your staffing, you will want to make sure that your agents are assigned to a single live channel and supplementing their time with emails, forum moderation and the like. Regardless of how low volumes are, handling two live channels is not an optimal experience for the customer and especially the agent. As my team went to 24 hour service, with the low volume, we experimented with agents handling both live channels and it was a mess--increased AHT, decreased CSat and high agent burn-out. It was more cost effective and better for conversion and CSat to add additional agent hours to the shift even though the volumes didn’t immediately justify it.
To add context to service limitations, consider the maximum capacity of your organization. For this exercise, let’s say you have 3 agents handling 3 chats concurrently, so 9 chats. Your tenth chatter is going to be waiting for the duration of those chats. Reach that max capacity regularly and you are probably compromising your CSat rating as well as your speed to reply.
Part 3, 2 pm: Maximizing Workflows, Measure and Repeat
Offering an array of channel options is becoming the norm with many customers wanting the ability to move between channels without having to repeat steps. We also know that customers are more loyal to businesses that make their experience easy, so while chat may be the most accessible channel, it may not be the best channel for certain situations.
Part of your experience mapping and workflow construction should consider the biggest reason drivers from voice and apply those to a chat workflow across devices. Introducing a new channel is a great opportunity to not only train agents, but retrain customers. One of the most impactful changes my team made was to suggest articles from the FAQ pages or our Help Center as the first step in a chat. Oftentimes, customers would find the answer there and no longer need our help. This drove awareness and decreased our total inbound volume.
In addition to blending channels, we also considered the end-to-end customer experience and changed canned responses, routing rules and integrations to improve the customer experience.
- Shortcuts or predefined responses: create responses for frequently asked questions, with the ability to personalize, of course. This is great for improving speed to reply, agent production and maintains brand voice consistency across the agent pool. Use Help Center content frequently? Make it into a shortcut and save even more time.
- Routing by department or agent groups: Increase CSat and decrease AHT by making sure the right group is addressing your customers question by segmenting chats by agent group, request type or product type.
- Triggers: reduce cart abandonment, engage with first time or return customers, reach out on high-profile pages
While cheaper and quicker in many cases, chat is quick but it is not effective for everything. If a customer is chatting about personal information or a credit card number, she is probably going to get redirected to call. We know that 84% of customers simply want their issue resolved as quickly and easily as possible and are willing to be directed to the best option to achieve that outcome. Just make sure that transition is seamless and easy for the customer--they should not have to repeat any steps.
Don’t forget about the soft skills, either! Having your agents keep it light, personal and adding a photo or graphic to their profiles can help make personal connections and ease customer tension. After making a photo required on agent profiles, we saw a small uptick in CSat and fewer escalations.
Think about the interactions your support organization receives and which types best align with chat as well as the integrations you will need to ensure a smooth transition across channels. Fortunately, chat is fairly easy to tune as your needs change. Regular reporting reviews and agent feedback sessions should help align workflows to your customer and your agent’s needs.
In what ways have you seen wins via chat?
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