(The following comments are in response to comments and and article on the benefits of Live Chat. The entire thread is posted here as a convenience. Since this is my blog I am starting with the most important information – mine.)
Live chat, like most programs, can point to a stable of success stories. However, many people offering live chat, do not implement it well.
The reasons live chat does not work well in many instances include all the standard ones that a person experiences with a help desk ticket system, direct email contact and phone support. Those issues include: support not being available, support wasting a customer’s time with irritating questions based on a script, support not being properly trained and finally, unusually long delays in response time due to support attempting to multi-task customer communication or needing assistance from their supervisor.
In an article I recently published at www.stevereports.com details of study by Jupiter-Research show companies are slower and slower to respond to emails directed at customer service and an increasing number of companies do not even respond at all. Customer dissatisfaction with phone support is well known.
Live chat is another tool for customer support. The issues go much deeper than installing this technology. Most customers want accurate answers fast to their questions. The companies that figure out how to do that will be rewarded with people continuing to spend increasing sums of money on their products and services.
Steve Pohlit is a Business Consultant and publishes articles focused on helping companies increase revenue and profit.
Using Live Chat To Service And Sell
The Email Marketing Whiz – Erik James
Did you know that Forrester research recently reported that 1 out of every 2 customers on the Internet is unhappy with the service they are receiving?
Think about your own experience as a customer of these companies. How many times have you requested support, only to wait days for a response? How many times have you submitted a question by email and didn’t get a single reply?
Well now there’s a simple, cost-effective solution …
Live Chat software is the cost effective tool that helps you sell your product online and give superior customer support service. With just the tap of the mouse, your web site visitors contact your support team for live assistance through a live chat system.
I recently started using a Live Chat system, and many of you have sent me some incredible feedback.
Now you chat with my support team using our Live Support console right from your own web browser, and you get your important questions answered immediately by a real person, in real time.
The following article, written by Paul Demery, explains the incredible benefits of using a simple solution like Live Chat on your web site …
How Live Chat Increases Satisfaction and Reduces Costs
One thing the Internet didn’t do away with is the demand for customer service. Even though some early e-retailing visionaries saw a brave, new world where customers didn’t need to talk to retailers, that hasn’t happened. And so the challenge to online retailers has been how to fill customer service needs at an acceptable cost. Offering live telephone support is an expensive step backward from the lower operating costs that were part of the web’s promise. And in most cases, pure self-service doesn’t work.
Now a small but growing number of retailers are turning to live chat for customer service. “Live chat is right for the times because consumers still want that assurance of live communication,” says Jim Okamura, retail analyst with consultants J.C. Williams Group. “But it’s only starting to become really effective, so it has a lot of upside potential.”
Taking care of business
Forrester Research Inc. projects steady growth in consumer use of live chat in customer service. In 2003, 30% of online buyers turned to live chat for customer service, up from 19% in 2001, Forrester reports. Acceptance of live chat will grow “as online chatting teens grow up,” Forrester says, to 59% of online buyers in 2007.
“Live chat takes care of business,” says Scott Shulman, director of e-commerce at athletic shoe retailer K-Swiss Inc.’s K-Swiss.com. Although K-Swiss also offers self-service customer service options as well as easy access to telephone customer service agents, it offers live chat as a way of filling the gap between the two. With lower operating costs compared to using telephone call center agents, live chat enables K-Swiss to provide personalized service around the clock. “It makes our site more personal because customers can have their questions answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a
year,” he says.
The measures of the overall market use of live customer service chat may be small, but some retailers who have begun making live chat a prominent part of their customer service strategy say it has grown in popularity with customers. Although K-Swiss.com makes its 800 number easily available through a customer service link that appears on every page, the more prominently placed live chat button on each page is increasing as customers’ first choice for customer service. “Why not? All they have to do is click and get an instant answer,” Shulman says.
Simply making the live chat option more noticeable than an 800 number will cause more consumers to naturally move toward live chat, experts say. If you make the 800 number too available, the tendency of today’s consumers is to use it, but having a live chat button on every page instead will encourage
customers to use that.
Most retailers put live chat to work first as a selling tool, deploying it at crucial times, for example, when a shopper takes an excessive amount of time in checkout and appears to need help making a decision before abandoning a shopping cart. Now more are giving live chat double duty: as both a selling and customer service tool.
Serving and Selling
Customers in a live customer service chat session are greeted by customer service reps trained to respond with coordinated responses intended to both help and sell.
There’s a further way that live chat can be both a customer service and a sales tool, experts say. By using the live chat tool as part of a customer analytics system, K-Swiss builds customer profiles based on shopping behavior, click stream history and conversations recorded in past customer service live chat sessions and telephone calls, Tisdel says. “Then when the customer comes back, the system’s business rules proactively engage her with an appropriate offer in a live chat session,” he says. The offer might be a coupon for a product in which the customer has previously expressed an interest, or an offer for free shipping to satisfy a concern expressed about delivery costs, he adds.
In addition, K-Swiss has used live chat as part of the customer analytics system to turn customer service communications into a merchandising research tool. “For example, K-Swiss learned that many of its customers had a high demand for children’s apparel, which they now offer on their site,” Tisdel says.
Despite live chat’s multiple abilities to help serve customers, it’s still misused or underutilized by many retailers. “Some web sites have a live chat service that says ‘We’ll be right with you,’ but that makes customers wait too long,” says Elizabeth Harrel, analyst with Forrester Research. “That can be worse than not having live chat at all.”
Estimates vary widely as to the costs related to live chat and other forms of customer service, though several vendors estimate the cost of an average live chat session at about $1, compared to estimates of average telephone customer service calls ranging from $6 to $20. Costs vary widely partly because of the diversity in customer service needs related to different types of products, experts say.
Moreover, Harrel figures that live chat costs nearly as much as, or about 90% of, telephone customer service calls. While live chat will provide savings in the cost of telephone lines, they tend to require higher salaries, she says.
Others put the cost of live chat far below telephone reps, mainly because live chat agents are trained to handle multiple chat sessions simultaneously. “A live chat rep can usually do a minimum of three sessions at a time, but I’ve seen them do eight”, says Tisdel of InterSight. “But even if they do only two at a time, that cuts the cost in half.” He figures an average live chat session costs $3-$5, compared to $10 or more for an average customer service telephone call.
This article was written by Paul Demery.
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