4 Tips for Implementing Chat as a Support Channel

4 Tips for Implementing Chat as a Support Channel

Today’s consumers have an expectation of channel choice in how they interact with companies, including phone, email, web, social, and my favorite, chat. If you’re looking into offering chat as an exciting new channel, there are a few things you need to consider before getting started:

1. How to Train Your Chat Agents

One of the first things to do when implementing chat is identifying which agents you will use for staffing. You want agents that excel in written communication as well as multi-tasking. If you are also supporting an email channel, those who consistently are your top email agents will often make good chat agents. The ability to multi-task is important, as one of the primary benefits of adding the chat channel is the ability for agents to conduct multiple chats at a time. It is important for agents to understand that supporting chat is not the same as texting their friends and that slang and acronyms may best be used elsewhere. Be sure during training to not only train on the product, but also on the acceptable etiquette and acronyms for your agents to use and avoid. Usually you will want to limit the number of chats an agent takes when they first begin to support chat. As they become more comfortable over time you can increase this number.

2. Start With a Soft Launch

Another important consideration is how your customers are going to initiate the chat. For this, I’d recommend a “soft launch” of sorts. Eventually you will want chat to be launched along the main ‘Contact Us’ page you have for other channels, but oftentimes it is easier to ease your way into it as you figure out staffing and agent skills. For this you have a few options: The easiest is to identify a product or two and strategically place your chat launch button where people may need assistance for those products — within those product pages or knowledge articles about that product.

One key feature of Service Cloud Live Agent is you can present the chat button only when you have staff available to take the chat and have it completely disappear based on queuing settings you configure. Another option is to leverage proactive chat, where you configure rules on when to present chat, possibly around how many pages a customer has viewed or how long they’ve spent on those pages. This form of chat is often a preferred method when supporting pre-sales questions and can help drive an increase in sales.

It’s important to note the above recommendation should be a temporary solution. As your customers engage in chat they are going to come to expect it for additional products. Once you have a handle on staffing and your agents are comfortable supporting multiple chats at one time it’s time to roll it out on a larger scale. This will include a more prominent place on your website as well as defined business hours you will support chat.

3. Set Your Agents Up for Success

Additionally, you will want to consider what information an agent needs to quickly service the customer. By leveraging a pre-chat form, you can have the customer fill out information about who they are and what type of question they have. This is then presented to the agent to quickly get up to speed and immediately begin working on the problem.

4. Anticipate Volume

As you look to implement chat, consider the following when estimating what your volume may look like:

  • Who is your clientele and how tech savvy are they? The more likely they are to use new technology the more likely they are to prefer chat.
  • What percentage of your customer cases visit your support site before contacting you? If everyone is calling an 800-number from a manual, they are not likely to find chat. If they often visit your support site prior to contacting you there is a good chance they will use chat.
  • What is your average handle time on phone? Do you often require multiple troubleshooting steps or is it simple tasks? The longer your handle time on phone, the longer it will be on chat. Chats will take longer than phone calls as responses by both the agent and customer will not be immediate. Often customers view this as an advantage as they can multi-task while chatting with the support agents.

Finally, you will want to consider contingency plans for potential high volumes of chat. One option many companies choose is to display the place in the queue in the chat window so customers have some idea of how long the wait may be. During the soft launch you can easily hide the option to start a chat either when all agents are busy or when you meet a pre-determined queue length. The harder part is what to do when you have fully rolled out chat and have extreme spikes. Usually you’ll want an action plan that includes updates to the support site about known issues along with expected waits for the various channels.