Dale Holub

How Chat’s Challenges Parallel Contact Centers’ Struggles With IVR

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Now that chatbots and live chat are reaching maturity as a viable customer service option, it’s time to take note of an elephant in the room – or, more accurately, in the contact center: The operational challenges of live chat are very similar to those of the traditional customer service phone queue. You need an effective solution for streamlining and monitoring your chat channel just as much, or even more so, than you need one for modernizing your IVR.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Let’s start with the recognized strengths of the chat channel:

  • It doesn’t require some of the more dated features of the voice channel, such as
    hold music or clunky IVR menus
  • Customer perception is that chat is available “instantly,” at their convenience, 24/7. These perceptions could be responsible for reports such as Microsoft’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report, where 66 percent of customers
    worldwide said they begin their search for help with online self-service.

However, research is also showing that when it comes to the challenges of chat, it’s a case of “second verse same as the first”:

  • Customers resent waiting in any queue, and
  • Their perception of how long is too long to wait continues to shorten.

Perceptions vs. Realities

Let’s take a closer look at the perceptions and expectations around chat for both customers and the companies that implement it:

Consumers Companies
Get help immediately Satisfy basic customer
demands
Connect digitally Optimize operational outcomes
Minimal effort More efficiently
satisfy customers
Ability to multitask =
less time wasted
3-5 chats at once =
decreased handle time

However, chat’s downside is that it has an operational queue just like the traditional phone channel. Anytime you have a queue, you have the potential for wait time. And, as mentioned above, if there’s one thing customers have indicated repeatedly for decades, it’s that they are quickly frustrated by having to wait on hold. Figures from a 2017 Google Consumer Survey indicated that two-thirds of survey respondents said they would wait only two minutes or less, and 13 percent said that no wait time at all is acceptable.

In addition, customer service via chat is becoming mainstream, and customers are no longer impressed by the mere existence of your chat channel. They expect it to offer relevant, customized information exactly when they need it, and they expect it to work just as effortlessly as any other channel, if not more so.

When reducing customer effort and frustration is key to increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty, your customers who get help efficiently and effortlessly are much more likely to become repeat customers than frustrated ones. Clearly the KPIs for your chat channel must be monitored just as carefully as the ones for your voice channel. Contact centers often aim to answer 80 percent of their calls in 20 seconds; the goal for live chat is often 80 percent of chats answered within 40 seconds. Zendesk reports that calls and chat also have similar benchmarks for first-contact resolution rates (75 percent and 70 percent, respectively), contact resolution times (4 minutes and 3.9 minutes, respectively), and abandonment rates (12 percent and 13.1 percent, respectively).

If you’re not sure how to get your contact center KPIs for both channels to those levels, read on.

Two problems, plenty of solutions

The same solutions that took the frustration out of IVR also make your chat service truly cutting-edge.

At the most basic level, any queue-based channel benefits greatly from a callback solution whereby your customers can bypass the wait and have an agent call them at the time of their choosing. VHT Callback has expanded to include VHT Digital, which allows your customers to request a callback from any digital channel and easily transfer – with all their data – to your voice channel. No more service dead-ends, no more entering their customer data over and over.

What’s next?

If chat has such similar challenges to voice, it makes you wonder – what will the next big channel transformation be, and which existing channel will it mimic, expand, or even replace?

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