Zendesk on Zendesk is a day-long discussion about a specific topic and how Zendesk Support uses Zendesk. Each session is hosted by a member of our Support team.
In this month's Zendesk on Zendesk, Ana details how we rolled out Zopim chat as a support channel, including training, staffing, and other considerations.
This session is hosted by Ana Wiechers, a Tier 1 Support Manager covering US and LATAM based in our Madison office.
See all of the Zendesk on Zendesk series discussions.
Part 1: Why chat?
What gave us the idea that chat might be a solid option for our customers? We’ve all read the same white papers and case studies about why consumers, both B2B and B2C, like chat. We've read that it decreases handle time exponentially, increases satisfaction, and all kinds of other silver bullet-like qualities. However, this was not our first foray into chat, or a new channel for that matter. Based on our past experiences, we were acutely aware that the implementation would be the "make or break" moment for Zendesk specifically. I'll lay out some of the ideas that spurred us into trying it out.
Direction the industry is moving in
Chat is the new frontier of support. For years, I remember my bank having live chat support (albeit, on a not very UI friendly system) and that was about it. Suddenly in the past year or so I see it popping up everywhere which, as a consumer, I love! We have had chat in the product for years, both Zendesk Chat and Zopim, and while we've tried it before internally, it just never stuck. We knew that customers looked to us as industry leaders given our platform, we wanted to be where our customers wanted us, and it seemed like a good idea. By starting with a smaller segment with no expectations (see XXX section below), we were able to test if chat was really a good idea for our customer base and our product.
Again, we'd read the white papers that touted great gains from productivity but we needed to understand what that actually meant for us. There are the theoretical productivity numbers and the actual numbers: for example, we've found that the average chat takes us around 21 minutes, which is about 5 minutes longer than an email ticket for our Tier 1 team. However, unlike with other channels, one advocate can take on multiple chats at a time. For details, see the Concurrent chats section below.
From an advocate perspective, chat is more sought after than our other synchronous channel (Voice). Not only do we get more tickets solved per person, it's also a less stressful channel for our team. Win-win!
Part 2: Testing the waters
Just like with launching any new channel, there were a whole slew of challenges and considerations with rolling out chat. We knew we had to do testing for chat correctly and in a way that gave us meaningful data. We had to be cognizant of the fact that once we pulled the trigger on chat, we'd be setting a precedent for any of our plans, even if it wasn't technically on the Pricing page. Any changes we made, even just adding a widget in the product, would have a real impact on workflows. Being a business, there was also a sales aspect to it: where could we make a difference in revenue?
Luckily, we have a group of accounts that have no prior experience with Zendesk that we'd be changing, no expectations for what we support, and is working with setting up and optimizing the product all the time: our trial accounts! With a ridiculous amount of help from Online Business Unit setting up our widget, tracking conversions, and helping with technical challenges, we launched chat support for trial customers.
To start, we wanted to keep messaging tight and be available on a consistent schedule. We leaned on the support team in our Madison, Wisconsin office, since they have the largest group and cover the most hours. When determining what hours to be available, we decided to mirror our busiest times for other channels, so we settled on being open 9-5 CST. This allowed for a solid chunk of time during US hours and let us get enough data to be useful. In addition, we had enough staff available at this time that it wasn't a huge strain on our other resources. Zopim made it easy to keep a consistent schedule using Operating hours .
An important part to remember with chat (or any synchronous channel) is that customers expect it to be consistent. They expect that if they accessed it once at 9:30 AM, they should be able to access it the next day at the same time. This need for consistency is the major contributor to the hours we staffed chat. We wanted to understand volume and be able to scale up or down quickly as needed.
What data is important?
With Zopim, you can process tons and tons of data about your customers, some of it built-in and some of it by custom coding and working with the API. You should constantly be asking for feedback from your team to understand what is useful and what isn't. Giving your team the tools and data they need to help customers fast will increase your ROI: not only from a CSAT perspective, but also from an advocate productivity standpoint. The more quickly your team can get what they need, the more quickly your customers will have an answer.
Some key pieces of data for our team were:
- Zendesk subdomain
- A link to easily jump into their account
- Details about their account (# of employees, what plan, their role)
- Previous tickets they've opened
- Number of past chats
- Zendesk user or organization tags
- What page they opened chat from
Zopim can expose quite a bit of this data out of the box. The only two items we custom built from the ground up were the subdomain integration and the link to jump into their account, as those are both very specific to our workflow. The rest of the data was already built into Zopim and used either right out of the box or with very slight tweaking for our needs, such as tags.
For us, we found the sweet spot was three concurrent chats. In theory our team should be able to take between six and nine ((60/20)x3 or (60/30)x3) chats an hour, depending on which way you round that 21 minutes. Compare that to an average three to four concurrent issues on any other channel, and you might be tempted to move all your support to chat immediately! However, the tricky part is that that calculation makes a lot of assumptions: you have the perfect number of chats coming in for the amount of people you have working, each chat begins the moment the previous chat ends, you stick to your average, and all the chats take the same mental effort. When you factor all of these variables into the equation, you'll find your number is actually quite a bit lower. For us, however, even though we're not hitting six to nine chats, we still handle more chats per hour than any other channel.
You might be wondering how we came to our magic number of three concurrent chats. Good question. Unfortunately, there's no magic formula I can share! The main indicator we used was listening to our people. We followed up on that by looking at CSAT data and wait times compared with number of chats. The data validated the initial advocate feedback and we've stuck with three as a best practice since. Of course, this number is just a guideline and we want to empower our advocates to do what's best for their quality of life and the customers: an advocate might take four if they feel like another chat is wrapping up, or two if they're both crazy.
Bite the bullet: try it out
One thing we're not scared to do here at Zendesk is to try different things, especially from a support perspective. We use Zendesk and a ton of its features internally and our customers look to us to be industry leaders in terms of what channels we use. We knew it wouldn't be perfect, but it would definitely give us good data one way or another. For us, about six months into our test was when we knew it would be a winner and decided to expand our offering. Your timeframe might be more or less or you might find that, for whatever reason, chat isn't right for you.
Part 3: Rollout and beyond
Scaling Zopim to expand our offerings, purely from a support perspective, was quite easy: once we had the infrastructure built out from our testing period as outlined earlier, it simply required adding agents and expanding the plan types it was available to. As I mentioned earlier, there was a decent amount of development work that went into our custom widget and restricting by plan types. However, I'm not going to get into those nitty gritty details as our rollout was not one that's likely to be replicated by many.
We knew that once we rolled out chat globally and needed vastly more advocates, we had to put together a proper training program. Prior to this, while we were testing chat with trial accounts, it was a very ad hoc process. Once we had someone who was "ready", we would do a one-on-one training with one of our team leads and do some shadowing and be there and available for any questions quickly.
Now that we were looking at a global scale, we needed to be able to future-proof our training, so it could be handled in any region. To that end, we put together a training deck with a breakdown of how we were going to be using Zopim, complete with videos. It took us about an hour to go through, mostly because our advocates were already familiar with Zopim as a product. If you were teaching your chat team from the ground up, I'd be ready to commit two to three hours to ensure the product knowledge is there. Also keep in mind that if you’re training new advocates who haven’t done customer service for your company in other channels, In addition, we only put advocates on chat once they're fully trained for other channels, you might need to spend additional time on soft skills, brand guidelines, etc.
After we went through the slide deck, we did two hour blocks of side-by-side work with someone who had been doing trial chat. We used two approaches for the two regions outside of the U.S.:
- For our APAC team, where one office was very familiar with Zopim and the other office was quite a bit smaller, we did this remotely with folks staying in Madison to help out, just working a bit later.
- Our EMEA team was much larger and didn't have the same background in Zopim and providing chat support. We sent one of our team leads, who was also a Zopim Product Champion, to do training in person. This allowed for much more hands-on time and more opportunities to pick his brain and find processes that needed to be clarified. We got really great feedback from both approaches and it helped us hone in our training.
Now that we have the bulk of our advocates trained on chat, we only have to do it as part of onboarding. Usually we get folks into chat once they’ve been with Zendesk around two months mark and follow the same process as above.
Reporting and monitoring
Zopim has a beautiful built-in dashboard that covered nearly all of our needs right out of the box. To start, we needed to understand how many chats we were getting. We broke it down by hour, day, and week depending on if we were looking at staffing plans for a particular hour or if we wanted to understand growth or anything in between. As shown below, the Zopim dashboard makes this data very easy to visualize and access.
We also wanted to understand how long chats were taking on average which, again, is built right into the core product. I outlined earlier how we came to our magic concurrent chat number, but it bears repeating - this is, in my opinion, the most important metric to really nail down. If you get it wrong in the long term it'll be a bad experience for both your advocates and your customers.
Monitoring is done the same as any other channel as we have all of our Zopim chats automatically created as tickets. For us the only major difference is that we look to ensure there is a timely response to the customer's questions which is more important on chat than say email. 30 seconds waiting for someone to type something to you when you know they're staring at your question is a long time. Try it out if you don't believe me.
There were a couple key challenges to our rollout.
The first challenge that comes to mind is actually quite a good problem to have; if you have a happy team, they will overperform every single time. I'll give you a quick idea of how that looks with chat:
We have a relatively complex product (as evidenced by a handle time that might make some retail customers faint) and we knew that not all questions were created equal. One question might be a super easy "How do I reset my password?" whereas another might dive into apps/integrations, trigger and business rule set ups, and throw in a random question about the meaning of life. When we first started we didn't necessarily have guidelines in place for how many you should take. Sometimes our advocates took 2 chats, sometimes 4, sometimes 11 (way too many, one of my now Team Leads did that, too much!), it was kind of whatever works. We knew to scale that globally and 24/7 we would need to put a number on it for forecasting and, more importantly, advocate quality of life. Can most of our advocates do 4 or 5 concurrent chats? Sure! Would that get grind-y and would advocates start to hate it? Absolutely. One of the most important things to our Support Leadership team is to keep our advocates happy and protect their quality of life. If they're not happy our customers won't get the awesome service they deserve, we'll have high turn over, and it'll impact the business.
The second large challenge for us was to find the right balance between staffing our various channels. Currently we support Chat, Voice, Email, Webform, Twitter, and Facebook. For the most part email/webform is very similar and has almost no difference from an advocate perspective. Chat, Voice, and our Social Media channels on the other hand demand a synchronous approach. We had to understand what the capabilities were for our advocates to manage multiple channels, whether they be asynchronous or synchronous. During some times of the day an agent could answer email tickets while also chatting. Other times, there's no way. Globally our goal is for an advocate to only cover one synchronous channel at any given point. Of course, sometimes based on volume we do more but I personally think as we expand to more and more chats we will see that window go down.
Zopim, both as a product and in terms of our own use, is constantly evolving. As we continue to understand key metrics and listen to our agents and customers, we will continue to roll out chat to more and more customers. We'll have successes and also make mistakes. We look forward to to sharing our continued experiences with you!
What experiences have you had with rolling out chat? Share with us in the comments below!