This fine tuning session is about implementing chat support, including:
Customer Success Consultant Sam Gervolino has been with Zendesk since January 2012. He brings an array of knowledge, both as it relates to the families of products and customer use cases, from his previous role as an account manager during his first three years at Zendesk.
To find more fine tuning articles, see Fine tuning resources.
Part 1: Testing the waters
“We want to offer it, but we don’t know where to begin,” is an all too common response I hear when speaking with customers about their chat support strategy. Rolling out a new channel, especially one that has an average first reply time of 23 seconds, can be daunting. In this first section, I’ll explain a few strategies you can adopt to make this implementation as seamless and worry-free as possible.
Location, Location, Location
When customers are just getting started with chat support, the first piece of advice I give them is to start small. Whether it’s for retailers on their checkout page, internal help desk teams on their employee portal, or business-to-business organizations on their product plan comparison page, this technique can be applied to almost every use case.
And if you notice the examples I just used, they all have something in common. All three suggestions involve a business-critical point of the customer journey that each team supports. By implementing this same idea, you’ll provide your users with a support experience proven to be higher in satisfaction than any other channel and when and where your customers need it most.
Another technique that can be used when rolling out the chat channel is limiting the user base who can access it. Similar to restricting this support experience by location, doing so by user will limit the number of requests being sent, thus decreasing the burden of not having enough staff to handle the volume. Check out our help center article explaining how to embed the Zendesk chat widget in your website experience.
An example that comes immediately to mind in my own life is my credit card company. Although I’m not presented with the option to live chat while browsing their general website, as soon as I log into my online account, I’m only a click away from chatting with a customer service agent. Clearly, this organization values its paying customers and wants to provide a support experience that is easily accessible and there when you need it most. Another example of access by user type is Zendesk’s very own Support Advocate team. Although we do not provide live chat support to all customers of our Zendesk Support product, if your account is on a qualifying plan, then you’re also only a click away from in-product chat support.
To summarize the first part of our discussion today, it’s okay to feel apprehensive about rolling out chat support, but by starting small and providing it to business-critical areas of your customer experience, you’ll have taken the first step to succeed with a must-have channel. Furthermore, by limiting your chat support presence at the onset, you’ll be able to monitor user engagement more, implement changes as volume or issue-type trends arise, and keep critical agent resources aligned with other channels until the time is right. Best of all, this new channel adoption goes from something you initially feared to welcoming with open arms.
As a consumer of various products and services, when do you find the option to live chat most beneficial? If you’ve rolled out live chat as part of your larger support strategy, what tips would you recommend to get others over the “hurdle?” Make your voice heard in the comments section below!
Then, in Part 2 of this fine tuning article, I’ll be moving onto covering actual implementation of the chat channel and three critical stages of this process.
Part 2: Implementation & workflow
Once your team has determined where and to whom you’ll be offering live chat support, it’s time to implement. To some, this exercise may seem even more daunting than determining where to provide the channel in the first place. So, let’s cover the three most critical stages of implementation: determining staffing requirements, training agents, and building a chat workflow.
“But Sam, how many agents will we need to staff the chat channel with when we roll it out?” This is a question I get time and time again when discussing chat support strategies with customers. Although it’s going to be slightly different for each organization given their unique requirements, we suggest you ask yourselves the following questions below to begin to unearth this number, courtesy of Zendesk’s very own Getting Started With Live Chat guide.
- How many website visitors do you expect during the period that chat is available?
- Will chat be reactive or proactive?
- How many hours in the day will chat be available on your website?
- How long would you like agents to spend on a single chat (in minutes)?
- How many chats will an agent serve simultaneously?
By answering the above questions and taking into account your existing organizational structure (i.e., breaks, multiple shifts, etc.), which is just as important, you can discover an answer to the question I opened this section with.
Another resource you can lean on to determine staffing needs is Zendesk’s own staffing calculator. This is a great tool to determine what is required of your team, given your current customer engagement, and allow for forecasting of future staffing needs as your business and strategies evolve.
Once your team has determined staffing needs for the chat channel, the next step is to ensure they’re trained on the product or service and internal team procedures. What are the expectations around response times, escalations, etc.? This is a great opportunity to leverage an internal knowledge base portal that agents can use to educate themselves and new agents down the road who are just onboarding.
Training of your staff shouldn’t just revolve around product or service knowledge and internal procedures but also general chat etiquette as well. This can sometimes be a fine line, given that a chat interaction isn’t as formal as an email request but also not as informal as your family’s group text thread. A Zendesk Chat feature that can be leveraged to ensure agents stay “on brand” for more common, frequent interactions is shortcuts. Similar to macros in a Zendesk Support account, shortcuts are pre-defined responses agents can use during chat conversations to save themselves from repetitive typing. Also, refer to these six best practices to keep expectations your customers have of you in line with what you’re teaching your staff.
Lastly, make it a routine practice to review satisfaction survey ratings and chat transcripts to ensure the knowledge being shared through existing content and the chat etiquette your team is fostering are upheld. If you've enabled customer satisfaction ratings in your Zendesk Support account, tickets created from chats with ratings will have the rating updated by the most recent chat rating when the ticket is created.
Now that you have the appropriate number of agents staffed to the chat channel and they’re trained on how to support it properly, it’s time to hammer out your workflow. I could write a novel on this subject alone (and would be even more flattered if you actually took the time to read it all), but instead, I’ll focus on two areas - triggers and operating hours.
As the volume of chat requests increases, it’s important to have processes in place that can drive automated functions amongst the team. This is where Zendesk Chat triggers come into play. Similar to triggers in a Zendesk Support account, triggers allow you to drive automated actions when certain conditions about the incoming chat request or user are met. Specifically, they’re a great mechanism to assign requests to smaller departments or singular agents based on information collected in the pre-chat form or information about the user. This allows the customer’s request to get in front of the most knowledgeable agents in the shortest time.
Another valuable function of triggers is their ability to drive an automated proactive chat experience. You might be saying, “Ehh Sam, I’m not so sure about this. Doesn’t it seem too intrusive to my customers?” It doesn’t, and here's why: Over 44% of US online consumers said that they like having a chat invitation appear during online research or a purchase, and 94% of users who took part in a proactive chat were somewhat or very satisfied with the experience. Not only do users welcome this experience during critical stages of their research or purchase journeys, but their satisfaction after the experience meets their expectations. To help get you started, I’ve included an example of a trigger below that can be implemented for those critical junctures of the user experience.
Given that 60% of customers dislike waiting even more than one minute for support, it’s important to properly broadcast when your team is and is not available to chat. A key tool that can be used to communicate this is Zendesk Chat operating hours.
When an administrator enables operating hours, your widget can only be online during your set operating hours. You can select either a single account-wide schedule or a department schedule. The latter lets you apply multiple schedules to a department or apply multiple departments to a single schedule. And even if agents log into your account outside of operating hours, their status will be automatically set to invisible, and they will not allowed to take new chat requests.
You also have the ability to display your operating hours to visitors on the chat widget when your team is offline by selecting the Display Operating Hours checkbox. You will first want to make sure you have configured your Offline Form to appear (Settings > Widgets > Forms > Offline Form).
Most, if not all, organizations have set hours of operation, so why shouldn’t your chat support experience mimic those and, more importantly, set proper expectations with your customers as to when they can expect a response back?
How do the above implementation strategies compare to the manner in which you’ve rolled out other support channels? And if you’ve rolled out chat in the past, would you go back and change how you did anything? Make your voice heard in the comments section below!
In Part 3 of this fine tuning article, I’ll explain the tools and techniques you can leverage to begin measuring this new support channel's effectiveness and (soon to come) success.
Part 3: Measuring success
Now that you’ve (1) determined where and to whom you’re offering live chat to, (2) properly staffed support of the channel, (3) trained your agents, and (4) built your chat workflow, you can just sit back and watch the successes roll in right? Au contraire, my friend! Although most of the heavy lifting is now complete, quite possibly the most critical piece is just underway - measuring the effectiveness of this newly adopted support channel. In this section, I’ll be diving into tools and techniques you can use to knock this exercise out of the park.
Zendesk Chat Analytics
The first place I direct any customer to is Zendesk Chat’s native reporting tool when they want to begin measuring the success of this new channel. The Chat Stats graph gives insight into your busiest periods by displaying visitor wait times, response times, and the number of chats served at any time. You can also compare metrics like the number of served or missed chats with the previous period you’re currently reporting on via the up/down arrow next to each metric.
This reporting interface also provides visibility into the percentage of chats rated Good and Bad, as well as a breakdown of the length of chats and how long visitors have had to wait for a chat in the Chat Timings section. If your team has recently made changes to the staffing of the channel or more autonomous routing of requests via triggers, review these reports to gauge the effectiveness of said changes.
If your account is on the Premium plan, you also have access to the Agent Reports tab. Here, you can compare the previous metrics from the Chat Reports tab with the number of agents logged in for a given period. You can also begin to compare the performance of your staff and stack rack them via the Leaderboard tab. You can even drill down to report on a singular agent’s performance as it relates to, say, total time serving chats, as well as compare this same metric to the larger pool of agents or a specific department. This area of the analytics tool is a great resource to use during one-on-one sessions with an agent or during scheduled performance reviews.
Google Analytics & conversion tracking
Another avenue I suggest to customers when measuring the success of their chat support operations is the use of Google Analytics. If you’re unfamiliar with Google Analytics, it’s a suite of powerful analytics products that can be used to understand your web traffic and customers better.
You can use the Zendesk Chat embed script to automatically report events to Google Analytics, as described in this Help Center article. You can then begin to measure such actions as the number of times visitors clicked on the chat widget. The ability to drill down further and show a breakdown of your agents sorted by the number of chat sessions they’ve handled or the departments visitors requested to chat with now presents itself.
Now, if your team is curious as to whether this new channel is driving the additional conversion of online sales and lowering cart abandonment, Zendesk Chat’s conversion tracking tool may be for you! This Help Center article covers creating a URL goal, viewing conversions in chats, and measuring conversions in Analytics.
Zendesk Chat monitor
The ability to report on your team’s performance and (inevitable) success with the chat channel is great and all, but what if you’re a Manager or Team Lead who wants to know what’s happening right this second with your chat operations? That’s not possible with the native Chat Reports and Agent Reports tab. However, with Zendesk Chat Monitor, that is now possible!
This tool provides an overview of customer wait times, queue size, satisfaction, and agent activity all on one screen. As an administrator, you can even customize what statistics appear in Monitor to view the most important metrics more easily. The ability to filter down by one or more individual departments also presents itself when accessing this tool as an administrator or agent.
Now, the guessing game of appropriately staffing this channel, given current demand, is thrown out the window with Monitor. As a Manager or Team Lead, you can now appropriately beef up or pull back on agent resources aligned to this channel before it’s too late.
Given Part 3 was all about reporting, how do you measure the success of your other support channels and how can that be applied to this newly adopted channel? If you are already using chat, what other tools do you use to ensure your team is knocking it out of the park?
Share your Chat tips in the comments section!