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Is Chat the New King of Customer Experience?

The way we communicate is constantly changing. In fact, if you just look at the past 30 years, you can see a drastic shift in how we communicate with one another. One big driver of this was email. The ability to send notes electronically within seconds instead of days revolutionized how we communicated.

But email just isn’t enough anymore. With the rise of text messaging and chat services, consumers have heightened expectations for fast answers and information. Such is the case for customer service, where rapidly, email has become an antiquated and frustrating method of communication. In [24]7’s recent Customer Engagement Index, we found that email has actually slipped to the third place when it comes to the most common ways customers reach out to brands. Taking its second place spot, chat services.

The New Kid in Town

While sending an email is certainly more convenient than picking up the phone and waiting on hold, many customer service teams’ e-mail policies make a customer wait a full 24 hours before receiving a response. In 2015, 24 hours feels like a lifetime. In a world where we are able to instantly call an Uber or order from Amazon with one click, customers won’t wait for service. According to our recent survey, 1 out of 3 consumers will break ties with a company if they are unable to connect. Of that group, 50% noted they would leave the same day.

Chat services offer the opportunity for customers to connect to a brand in-the-moment without the burden of long wait times.

Making the Move

So how can a business shift their communication model from email to chat without losing their customer base? It’s not as easy as simply implementing a chat solution. Doing chat wrong can in fact create more frustration for their customer. To do chat right, businesses should consider the following strategies:

Use predictive analytics to be proactive

There’s nothing worse than having a chat agent pop-up multiple times while a customer is on a website asking, “how can I help you?” In most cases, customers are first looking to find the answer on their own through self-service resources, taking the agent out of the picture. Having an agent pop-up every 10 seconds can be a similar experience to a department store assistant checking in each time you pick something up.  

Instead, businesses should leverage chat services to catch customers at critical moments in the purchase process – points where they might be confused, frustrated or have tried to use self-service resources without success.  By leveraging predictive analytics, businesses can be more proactive in how they choose to engage. Using information on a customer’s purchase history, for example, a chat agent can go from “can I help you?” to “I see you’re looking at a new lens for the camera you recently bought, do you have any questions on how it differs from the one you already have?”

Be there, when and where your customer needs you

Chat agents should function in the same way a conversation with anyone else would. If a customer has an interaction with an agent on their mobile device, they should then be able to log onto their laptop hours later and continue that conversation without having to repeat information. This kind of service is critical to the success of automated services as it gives customers an effortless, seamless experience.

Today, consumers also expect brands to be everywhere they are. To accomplish this, businesses need to think about how best to reach consumers on each platform. When it comes to mobile services, chat solutions should not only be provided through a mobile app, but through the mobile website as well.

Gain insights to continuously improve the customer experience

As I mentioned earlier, implementing a chat solution alone isn’t enough. To truly ensure it remains effective over time, businesses need to leverage insight from customer interactions and agent performance in order to make future experiences that much more efficient.

Analysis of customer conversations not only helps a business to learn about its individual customers but enables them to better identify how the needs of their whole customer base are shifting. If a business finds that customers frequently ask chat agents about 2-day shipping, this may be an option they need to make available to customers. Absorbing these insights improves efficiency for the customer service team and also improves overall satisfaction and retention.

With the rising number of ways people can get in contact with one another, businesses need to be sure that they are also available. The first step to this is examining what communication methods are the most conducive for each and every interaction with a consumer. While in some cases the use of email may still be valuable, when it comes to customer service it’s time to ditch email and make the switch to chat.