How to Deliver a Successful Chat Program for Telecom Customer Service

Today’s Communications Service Providers (CSP) are facing a fast-paced evolution in the availability of the products and services they provide. Connectivity and cable TV are considered nearly ubiquitous to customers. As such, the expectation is that the carrier’s services are always there, available and performing as expected.

Unfortunately, it’s often the new devices that create the “wow” factor for customers, not the wireless services or connectivity provided by the CSP.

Digital customer care, offered in the channels that customers prefer, can provide a way for CSPs to improve the customer experience “in the moment,” resulting in increased satisfaction and higher loyalty that helps them stand apart from competitors. One of a CSP’s highest priorities is to increase both customer retention and average revenue per user (ARPU) or account (ARPA).

Chat enables the CSP to offer support for sales and service in the channel the customer is in, reducing the need for them to switch channels or abandon an unsuccessful interaction with the company altogether.

According to research conducted by LivePerson, 58% of calls to the contact center are initiated by customers who tried self-service and failed to achieve their goals. Just as importantly, 62% of Generation Y prefers digital service over calling the contact center. If you think the need for chat is minimal, consider that the research also shows that 83% of customers need some form of support during their interaction and 93% of consumers see real-time help as being beneficial.

Five Components for a Successful Chat Program

The components of a successful chat program must all work interactively to result in a customer experience that serves to delight customers and increase lifetime value. Without a foundation that supports operational excellence, a chat program can backfire, leaving customers frustrated with a fragmented experience.

By integrating team, methods and technology, your chat program is primed for creating successful experiences in the eyes of your customers.

  1. Train the right people. Recruiting and training the right people is paramount for success. The objective is to increase agent skills in order to reduce customer effort. Industry studies show that when organizations force customers to work harder, customer experience suffers. In fact, nearly 80% of customers with low-effort interactions are likely to continue doing business with the company and would recommend it to others. The skills required to thrive in a chat environment include fast, accurate typing, conversational competence, product and services knowledge, empathy, and the ability to multi-task to respond to concurrent chats in real-time.
  2. Provide the right workspace.  Placing the right people in the right workspace will move the needle on performance KPIs. Sykes compared productivity outcomes from a chat program using voice-centric workspace setup with a chat program using chat-centric workspace configuration.

Designing an optimal work environment based on chat support attributes allows improvements to be derived through verbal collaboration among agents since there are no voice limitations with chat. To operationalize this benefit, seating was changed from cubicles to round tables in an open environment to maximize agent knowledge sharing capabilities and enrich program coaching.

This redesign for a chat customer support program also included upgrading to a faster internet connection with low latency, faster memory and processing computers with larger screens to accommodate running chat and web applications in parallel.

  1. Deploy the best platform. The best scenario is a platform that enables both reactive and proactive chat interactions. For reactive chat—that initiated by the customer—the  button to activate a chat should either only be visible when chat agents are available or, if always visible, should indicate whether or not agents are standing by. For proactive chat—that initiated by the company—an intelligent, user friendly rules engine should be primed to help agents identify customers in need of assistance at critical times during their interactions on the website.
  2. Develop the best results. The primary productivity metric for a web chat is the chats held per hour. Contributing factors to increasing the productivity KPI include chat concurrency, length and agent occupancy. These productivity metrics, in combination with quality metrics, will have an impact on the overall program outcome in terms of CSAT, NPS and other business metrics.

An outsourcing contact center provider with domain expertise brings an enhanced operational structure that includes an analysis of agent behavior and skills to identify areas for improvement, analytics and trend identification for consistency in service delivery, and chat-specific KPIs that validate on-target performance, as specified by the client.

  1. Customize to meet customer needs. Customization is dependent on identifying the objectives the CSP has for chat program outcomes. Examples include:
    • Supporting home page and self-service business objectives
    • Improving customer experience by providing digital care alternatives
    • Helping customers to navigate and complete transactions, such as making purchase decisions for bundled offers
    • Helping customers with resolving service issues such as password resets or to understand feature use.

Chat is experiencing a renaissance today.

The renewed and growing interest in chat is largely due to the immediacy of interaction that email cannot provide, and the online nature complements very well the growing use of social networks and community forums. Gartner research shows that chat deflects an average of 12% of voice and email contacts, while accounting for 18% of contacts with new audiences.

In a competitive environment where switching is usually the path to new customer acquisition, a successful chat program can add value for CSPs struggling to differentiate a service their customers just expect to be there.