Evan Herman, Sr. Director, Data and Technology, 614 Group
In almost all facets of your life online chat has replaced voice-based communication for informal communication. Why is it then that most people dread opening a chat box on a given website or app to communicate with a brand for a question and instead feel they must either pick up the phone, or resort to a level of public shaming by interacting with the brand’s public social media feed?
By and large, the experience interacting with a brand’s online chat systems can be summarized as slow, repetitive, frustrating, and unfulfilling. It doesn’t have to be this way however, as companies can and should do a better job with combining their CRM database into their chat experience to expedite service and bring a positive resolution more readily to their customers.
Imagine for a moment an experience where opening a chat window begins with the agent or bot being fully informed of your prior history with that brand. If you’re asking about a return, they will know all of your orders, so you can say “the shoes I bought last week” or “the headphones I bought in December” instead of having to type the exact order number, which you may or may not have readily accessible.
Alternatively, if you are talking to a manufacturer of a product instead of the retailer, why should you have to enter the serial number of the product in question when requesting a warranty repair? The brand already has this information from your registration of the product when it was purchased and should be using it to expedite the chat process.
There will always be cases where a chat agent can’t resolve your issue immediately.
Improving a consumer’s support experience with any brand via online chat should be thought of more as basic hygiene and not rocket science
This is where automation can truly aid with improving a brand’s interaction with a consumer, as an email can be sent periodically with an update on the pending issue. Whether it’s hourly, daily, weekly, or some other time period depending upon the expected resolution timeframe, the consumer will always know how things are progressing without having to re-engage in a new chat. This also should be expected to have internal escalations for when resolution timeframes exceed normal amounts.
I think back to a recent experience I had with a major delivery service where my dry cleaning came back with a shirt still stained. This service only had online chat as a customer support option with no listed phone number readily accessible. Upon engaging with the chat agent, they first needed me to enter the order number, which thankfully was simple to copy from the orders page, and even more thankfully could be navigated without losing the chat window. Several minutes after the “let me look into this” message, the agent came back saying they were unable to reach the vendor and they would follow-up with me once they had resolution and the chat ended. A week later, with no word from the service, there was no progress so a second interaction was necessary. Once again, “please enter the order number” was the first question from the agent. Several more minutes later, “we still are unable to reach the vendor, but we will pay for it to be remedied”.
There were several opportunities for this experience to be improved. First, once the issue was identified and confirmed, the consumer should not have to stay in the chat as the agent would have all the information necessary to perform whatever task would be necessary. Second, the consumer should always be kept informed of how its issue is being resolved. One or more follow-ups to ask for an update is never acceptable. Finally, when the follow-up was performed, the agent should know there’s an open item and start from there, it shows the consumer that the brand cares about their business.
Also, the general experience of a chat window is jarring. The sound notifications don’t always work as expected, so the user feels like they have to keep it as the active window at all times to avoid missing a message. This then leads to the users’ focus being on how long the resolution is taking, directly harming their perception of the brand in the process. Thankfully companies like Apple are bringing new ideas to the table by migrating the chat from a web layer to the user’s messaging applications. This makes a consumer’s interaction with a brand feel more like any normal interaction with friends or family, something where asking for an RMA of electronics is no more difficult than deciding between sushi and pizza for dinner.
Finally, note that in all cases while this helps the chat process, it shouldn’t be lost that all of these improvements will help call centers as well with expediting their support efforts. Improving a consumer’s support experience with any brand via online chat should be thought of more as basic hygiene and not rocket science.