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Live chat: how to get it up and running in a few weeks

A long time ago getting personal customer support was straight forward. Customers went directly to the seller and received a swift answer to their questions. For non-urgent support, mail was a slow but acceptable way of communicating. Then there was the telephone which was a great new way of having fast personal live support without the time-consuming travel. But when the number of customers increased, companies had to create call centres to keep up, which created long waiting times. Eventually, mail was first replaced by email and later on by webforms and generic self-service FAQ’s, which eliminated any form of personal customer support.
To handle the load and to keep providing personal and qualitative answers, customer support was dreaming of an automated support system. A solution which could manage a huge load of questions and provide perfect answers at a blazing speed with a “human” touch. Of course the solution had to be cost-friendly in set-up and in maintenance. 

Thanks to the technical advancements of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing in 2017, we thought we nailed it when we introduced chatbots as the perfect solution. Now, 3 years later there is not much left of the chatbot dream. Most of the chatbots today are still dumb, annoying and miles away from a human personal support feeling. We’ve learned that creating a successful chatbot is not only defined by the quality of the technical solution but also by the effort that was put into it during the creation and after the deployment.

For instance, in training the bot, making a good dialog design, mapping the customer’s expectation, introducing the tone of voice and so on. But it boosted the idea of an in-between solution: providing personal live chat support with assistance of advanced automation. In that way you could handle the workload and help operators in their support offering.


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>> Interested in using live chat for your business? Also check out the webinar on the subject. >>

Why should you start using live chat?

1. It’s faster and creates a higher chance at conversion

There are a lot of obvious reasons. People like chatting more than calling or emailing. The live chat response time is on average 2 minutes and much faster than social media (10h) or email (17h). Your prospects or customers are initiating the chat on your website or app which allows you to assist them in real time and with the correct mindset. This makes it much easier for you to assist and inform them and in the end to increase sales and make them convert. 

2. It’s more efficient

We all know customer support is expensive. Live chat can help you reduce the number of telephone calls your customer support is receiving and make them work in a more efficient way. For instance, operators can answer about 5 simultaneous chats, which is impossible to do with phone calls. Some operators are even able to combine telephone and live chat support.

3. It's a great way to gather feedback

Having a direct connection with your customers provides a continuous way of user testing and gathering user feedback. If you did an upgrade on your website or app, live chat will be a great indicator if your audience likes it or not. By analysing all incoming chats, you will be able to detect usability issues, trends and even malfunctions. A live chat client told us that they found out there was an issue with the login mechanism on their website even before the IT department did. If implemented well, live chat could even be used for A/B testing, a new functionality or an important change. It will allow you to understand your customers better without having expensive end users’ audits and tests.

4. Customers expect you to have one

And of course: your customers expect you to have a live chat on your site/app. Just like having a support telephone number. It makes them feel that you really want to listen to them, support them and trust their demand.

What to take into account when starting up a live chat?

1. It’s a channel that needs follow up

A live chat is a channel, which support centers must populate, maintain and manage. In some cases, live chat support must be provided by the social team and is providing extra workload. In addition, they not only have to respond to chats initiated from the website, but from the social networks like Facebook Messenger also. Keep in mind that your biggest investment will be the human operators not the implementation and license cost of the live chat tool.

2. Customers expect fast answers

The reaction time of the support centre in a live chat is critical and very noticeable to the outside world. Internal SLA’s (Service Level Agreement) regarding response times will have to be respected and could generate extra stress.

3. It’s not a 9-to-5 job

Live chats operational hours are in many cases broader than the usual business hours. People chat all day long and expect to have support in the evening and weekends while they are browsing the web in their free time. You can close your chat but then we prefer you still capture all incoming chats and reply them via email if your live chat platform supports it. The next working day all these mails must be answered preferable by the same team in combination with new incoming live chats and this will provide extra planning.

4. Integrate live chat in your CRM

Live chat provides a much higher value for you and the customers when integrated in your CRM, ticketing support and FAQ system. But all these systems must be connected with each other by the IT department and this could take some time and are creating new points of failure.

5. There’s no way back

Once you offer a live chat and your customers are getting used to it, it’s difficult to stop providing that service. But in some cases, you will have to if there is an unexpected overload or there are only limited resources available. You have to think about fall back scenario’s if these things happen.

6. Find the right operator

The learning curve of using live chat tools is low, but the operators don’t need technical expertise only. A good chat operator has empathy, is precise and has a commercial feeling. The communication, multitasking and typing skills must be excellent. Usage of emoticons, typical chat slang and so on, must match the overall company image.

7. GDPR

Live chat tools could store old chat sessions and private data. In order to provide a good service to your customers your live chat will need to store personal data like email addresses, phone numbers etc. to work well. It is essential that you respect the GDPR rules and this implies new liabilities and actual monitoring of all data incoming and outgoing data.

So, how to start?

Setting up a live chat can be done in a few weeks (depending on the level of complexity you want to add to it).

Here you can find our suggested planning to set up a live chat in 5 weeks:

Week 1: Intake meeting and capturing the requirements & KPI’s of the call centre.

To really understand what your needs as a support center are, The Reference has created a list of about 50 questions that must be answered. This will give you a clear view on what value the live chat must provide. The list includes organisational questions like team composition and availability, functional requirements such as specific automated flows and technical dependencies such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system connectivity. For accurate reporting you need a clear view on the requested KPI’s that must be reached.

Week 2: Test environment: configuring, integrating and setting up the live chat.

Based on the intake meeting, the live chat environment is completely configured and integrated into the website or app. The integration could be quite simply done by just embedding some JavaScript, or even via Google Tag Manager. For native apps, a WebView or a native library must be implemented. 

It becomes more complex when you want to make several segmentations of chatters like users (prospects) that did not login yet and users (actual customers) who are logged in. Segmentation allows you to target these chatters with a specific operator team, messages, automated flows and even have a separate reporting on them. The integration of a live chat could be done in a few hours or in a few day’s based on the functional and technical requirements.

Week 3: Test environment: testing and tweaking the live chat.

Once the live chat is set-up, you can start testing it internally with a test audience and one or more operators. Check if the functional requirements are met and that all technical integrations are working properly.

Week 4: Test environment: training operators + go live on your public website/app

It’s time to create a specific manual and train the operators, that will manage the live chat, for an hour or 2. Don’t forget to have a kill switch ready when things are not going as planned, such as maybe a technical issue or an overload of incoming chats. Think about how to resolve these issues before you go live.

Week 5: Public website: first evaluation of the operators and some tweaking if necessary

A few days later the operators can provide their feedback on the live chat. It is essential that the operators have a good feeling about using the tool, the questions that they could receive and the general flow, because they will be spending a lot of time in the tool. 

Three weeks later, it’s time to evaluate the live chat reporting with all stake holders and operators. The first performance reports are generated and when there is a need for it, some tweaking is done to optimize the proof of concept.

Three months after the initial launch, the live chat is evaluated again. At that moment you will have a clear view on the live chat results and if the initial KPI’s are met. At that point you can decide to move from proof of concept to a permanent solution, add more languages, operators and start automating the flows.


A new trend to take into account: co-browsing

“A picture says more than a thousand words.” This statement is very true for live chat. One of the pains when using live chat is that the customer needs to explain what he sees or does on his screen. Although the operator sees on which webpage the chat is initiated, he has to guess what the customer sees or does. To solve this issue, more and more live chat tools are offering “co-browsing”, this means that if the customer gives his consent to share his screen, the operator can see what the customer is doing and can even take over the screen. This will allow a less cumbersome support and a faster result.

Conclusion

If you’re taking customer support seriously, providing a live chat is becoming more and more essential. A chat is the channel your target audience prefers, uses on a daily basis and also expects you to have. On your part, you can give them an unforgettable experience, a tool to increase your average order value and a direct connection with them. With live chat you can feel, real time, what their needs and problems are when using your services. It will also reduce your telephone support costs, bottlenecks and waiting times.

Setting up a live chat is not complex or expensive. In fact, it is much easier than integrating a chatbot. Via automated scripts you can get quite close to a chatbot without having the heavy training and maintenance and with lesser risks.

In short: test live chat for a few months and you will see it will provide added value for your business. 

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