Case Study: Real-Time Deployments of Online Customer Service Chat

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Information about Case Study: Real-Time Deployments of Online Customer Service Chat
Business & Mgmt

Published on February 17, 2014

Author: svelasco1



In just a matter of months, it is possible to significantly increase agent productivity and customer satisfaction with affordable website and mobile chat solutions.

Real-Time Deployments of Online Service Facilities Customer Frustration and Satisfaction Though it's long been thought that customer service by means of online text chat is too expensive and inefficient to deploy, it's starting to become a useful business tool, according to new research. In just a matter of months, it is possible to significantly increase agent productivity and customer satisfaction with affordable website and mobile chat solutions. Decipher, Inc., an independent online market research firm in 2006 said, two-thirds of the people who use online chat for customer service have had a positive experience versus using the telephone for customer service. When it comes to resolving customer support issues, 95% of customers plan to use online chat in the future. Decipher, Inc., said, “Associated with a growing preference for online chat is the fact that consumers are frustrated with using the telephone for technical support inquiries. Top telephone frustrations expressed include: 1. 2. 3. 4. Waiting on hold -- 92% Having to repeat the same information on every call -- 64% Being told to do things I've already done on my own -- 52% Having to call multiple times to get my problem resolved -- 51% In 2005, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) used the Web-based communication tool to service its online account customers, answering questions about billing, account information, and other service issues. "Use of our chat channel has more than tripled since it was debuted, which proves to us that customers like the convenience, and the high scores on our satisfaction surveys prove they're happy with their chat experience," said Mike Chase, Director, Web Channel at PG&E. The company tracked customer satisfaction with the solution's integrated and customizable exit survey. Customer tracking in 2007 showed very strong results using a survey scale of 1-5 (1 for strongly disagree and 5 for strongly agree): 1. 2. 3. 4. "strongly agree" that the chat feature was easy to use (average score: 4.8) "strongly agree" that the PG&E agent provided responsive and timely service (avg score: 4.7) "strongly agree" that they will use the chat feature in the future to correspond (avg score: 4.6) "agree" that the chat allowed them to resolve their issue without further contact (avg score: 4.3) Bridging Generations Chat has a fairly long history with corporate companies. In 2003, REI began to offer chat to its customers. "Chat offers REI representatives the ability to easily manage up to five simultaneous chat and email sessions from one easy-to-use agent console, greatly improving our response rates and overall customer satisfaction," said Noel Nelson, Director of Online Sales, REI. REI’s chat vendor is used at over 600 sites that average over 50,000 total chat minutes per day. "Clearly you look at the older generations, and in a lot of cases, they want to pick up the phone and talk to a live person because that's what they're accustomed to," says Rob Bois, research director at AMR Research. "Increasingly, it's the consumer generation that's demanding more and more technology to be incorporated [into] how they're serviced." This is most prevalent in Generation Y--born between 1977 and 1994 which representing 72.5 million people in America, according to Census Bureau data, only slightly fewer than the 75.8 million Baby Boomers. At destinationCRM 2008, CRM magazine's annual conference, Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies, explained in a keynote presentation that "Generation Y's worldview is digital; they grew up with nothing else and have no correlation to analog anymore." Clearly we see a trend and demand with real-time businesses using live-chat, forums or call-me-back facilities, with 90% of (British) consumers wanting this type of communication. Another survey states, 30% of consumers from the UK prefer online businesses facilities from business they currently use. For customers who prefer to "IM" their way to a solution from their cell phone, Thumbplay offers mobile chat customer support service to it’s cell phone or iPhone customers. This allows customers to connect to customer service representatives through Thumbplay's mobile phone Instant Message (IM) service. Subscribers visit from their mobile devices and click the "live chat" URL under the "Help" area. This service is available on all of the more than 2,000 phones supported by Thumbplay.

Success Factors to Boost Productivity Success with chat for business stems from knowing where it makes sense to implement and then providing the proper training to employees. Petz Enterprises, for example, provides consumer product chat help for TaxBrain. For consumers doing their own taxes online, 20 reps are dedicated to making chat service available 17 hours a day, and 99 percent of the inquiries come in that form. We also see customers prefer to pick up the phone with the company's more complex product, reasons Chuck Petz, vice president of product development, Petz Enterprises. In 2008, stated, the [chat] service has already increased the number of interactions with customers by 20%, despite a 30% reduction in incoming emails. went live with Chat in 2008, and held 770 live chat sessions with visitors on the first day. Collaboration features allow agents to push web pages to customers in a live session, or co-browse the product websites to help the customer find exactly what they are looking for or interactive guides on how to open an account. When asked specifically about the use of online chat for resolution of more complex technology problems, Decipher, Inc., said, “Chat is again closing the gap with the telephone as the first point of contact for consumers as 32% of those surveyed said online chat would be their first choice to receive a favorable outcome. This group trails just behind 40% of those surveyed that said the phone remains their first choice for resolving a complex technical issue. Moreover, almost 47% of those using online chat to resolve complex technical problems believe that it can help them get to an answer faster than the telephone, while only 28% thought that resolutions via the telephone would be faster than online chat.” Live chat can help boosts agents' productivity by allowing them to handle more than one customer simultaneously. By multitasking, agents could serve 3 chats simultaneously which significantly boosts productivity and customer contact for simple interactions. Juggling multiple conversations and adjusting to a new medium is no easy task for customer service agents. The reason is that agents neglect each individual session to some extent. "The challenge companies face is the reality that agents can't really handle more than two chats at a time. They can, but it compromises the level of service," says Zack McGeary, associate analyst at JupiterResearch. "We find a more realistic number of inquiries are actually less than 2." "A lot of it is cut and paste to get consistent answers," Petz explains. "A single rep is able to maintain six chats simultaneously, so we're able to get a big boost in productivity. Training is making sure they are typing in complete sentences and not using live chat shortese." Companies considering chat might want to provide cross-training and observe their agents on a trial run to handle both phone and chat correspondence. Typing by touch is an important skill to learn, according to Mike Sabbatis, executive vice president of global sales and marketing at CCH. Agents should be able to type fast enough to key as they think or cut and paste common responses and answers. Although it's not uncommon for reps to handle five or six chats at a time, if one person gets overloaded, another rep can take over. Plus, the new rep picking up the “call” can see the conversation that's already taken place; unlike when someone is transferred on the phone and a possibly angry customer is forced to repeat everything. Conclusion Customers with similar real-time businesses using live-chat, forums or call-me-back facilities deployments include Aetna, AOL, Canon, Citibank, Comcast, Dell, Ford, University of Notre Dame, Microsoft, Pitney Bowes, Siemens, Sony, VeriSign, H&R Block, Spiegel, Intuit, McAfee, US Airways, DISH Network, and Sprint. At Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), "The driver for offering chat was, and still is, to help improve online customer service," said Mike Chase, Director, Web Channel at PG&E. "With over a million customers online, it is imperative that we offer a highly scalable, easy-to-use self-service communication channel to help resolve issues, without increasing our inbound phone volume." The hope of managing 20% more successful customer contacts to allow customers to get the answers they want in the shortest amount of time via the medium they prefer is answered with a real-time deployments of online service facilities.

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