Web Chat - Support the Customer, the Agent and Supervisors

3rd Oct, 2014
Read time: 3 minutes

Consumers are evolving their communication preferences, methods and expectations. Just over 53% of adults are now reported to be 'multi-taskers' as they 'mesh' and 'stack' media; 49% of adults report that they conduct unrelated media tasks while watching TV. It seems logical that the incremental growth in tablet and smartphone use will continue to accelerate the changes in the way users consume media.


73% of customers report being satisfied with live web chat as a service channel (see graph) and 83% of European customers say that live chat is 'useful to extremely useful' when making purchases online.

The overall web chat experience is quick and simple. Research¹ indicates that it is popular because it brings very few interruptions to the customer's online experience and they continue to browse and view other online content while chatting. Where they are making a purchase the advisor support continues until basket completion and checkout.


UK contact centre managers reported that in 2014:

  • 16% have web chat as a top three investment priority
  • 52% are looking for a web chat solution

At a Netcall, Professional Planning Forum (PPF) and Sentiment Metrics webinar on 26th June 2014, 94% of respondents believed they would have a web chat solution by 2015.


Sharing the learning

At recent discussion forums and unconference (#channelshiftcamp) events we have shared some best practice considerations to support contact centre managers in optimising the efficiency of their web chat for operational best practice, agent best practice and finally common errors and how to avoid them.

Below we provide some ideas on how to improve operations for the customer, agent and supervisor.

For the customer

  • Visibility of chat feature - provide an accessible way for browsers to find web chat. If the icon is too distracting it will pull them away from the web text, however using simple branding and a pop-up function means it can be available only when needed
  • Tip - conveniently pin the general chat button in one of the corners of the page. The bottom left hand side could encourage western readers to look across the page
  • Operational hours - provide clear signposting of when web chat is available and offer an alternative if no agents are present
  • Tip - when chat is offline offer 'email us now' or 'callback' instead
  • Message interactions - display when an agent is typing so that the customer can see progress. Manage opening answer response expectations of near real-time (30 seconds to 1 minute) by resourcing using your workforce management tool
  • Tip - continue to provide chat participants with an ongoing likely response time if there is any delay, and indicate their position in the queue if multiple chats are on-going

For the agent

  • Routing of chat – assign skill based routing to all key topics and route the chats to appropriate queues, therefore empowering agents to deliver customer satisfaction
  • Tip - analyse web pages that have the biggest impact on contacts or sales and route these to agents as a higher priority
  • Dynamic availability – provide chat as soon as agents are available, allowing them to log in and out to support changes in demand across multiple channels
  • Tip - reduce available chat during peak call times in order to balance the work load
  • Multiple concurrent chats - allow agents to handle up to a maximum of four chats at once. This improves the amount of data processed and avoids tying up an agent if/or when visitors are not responsive
  • Tip - asking for credentials using a chat initiation form can speed up the process. Be careful to balance the detail required in your online form with a rapid chat response, as this is what the consumer is wanting

Supporting your supervisor

  • Detailed information - have a clear real-time dashboard that highlights the time waiting for each chat so that the supervisor can dynamically allocate resource to media types, moving agents between calls, chats or emails as the work load changes

Supporting feedback

  • Chat transcripts - provide a valuable way to connect with the customer. Ensure that you can save the transcript in the contact record for later referral and email the transcript to the customer for their records, along with a feedback survey to ensure you get information your agents need for continued motivation

Web chat engages customers and improves the customer journey delivering improved customer satisfaction, loyalty and repeat purchase. Watch out for part two "Good Practice Guidelines for Standard and Proactive Web Chat".

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