Contact center chat

What You Need to Know to Sell with Online Chat

Countless articles tout the benefits online chat brings to the sales process. The question for many organizations now centers on how to combine the customer service aspect of live chat with conversational selling.

Companies can get lost in the vast array of strategies and approaches for integrating online chat into the sales process. When implementing a chat initiative, keeping true to the basics is central to your success.

Here are the four steps you need to follow to sell with online chat.

  1. Pick the Right Metrics

Online chat that focuses on customer service often also opens the opportunity for software sales. However, without appropriate metrics in place, it’s difficult to know when success is being achieved.

KPIs for live chat sales conversations must include the following:

  • Engagement to lead
  • Lead to qualified lead
  • Pipeline amount (quantity and dollar amount)
  •  Sales (quantity and dollar amount)

Similarly, chat agents must strive to provide a great experience for everyone, be they customer or prospect. Therefore, customer service teams need to measure customer response during and after the conversion process.

Important online chat metrics regarding customer experience include:

  • Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Response time
  • Agent Availability measurements

Be aware that customer success metrics like Average Handle Time (AHT) might fall lower in the ranks of importance. Companies should not put much stock in the total length of chat discussions.

Customer service agents need to strive to make visitors happier when they leave than they were when they arrived. If customer success agents can do that in 30 seconds, great. However, if it takes eight hours, that’s fine too, as long as issues are solved, and the level of customer satisfaction opens the way to further transactions.

Train live chat agents not to dwell on non-business-related conversations but to spend all the time they need to solve the problem. That way, they will complete the chat session in a timely manner and to the visitors’ satisfaction.

  1. Extend Your Online Chat Agents’ Duties

Limiting live chat agents’ roles in directing visitors to the content they need can result in your business leaving money on the table. Customer success agents must seek out potential lead opportunities in addition to providing assistance.

Chat agents could offer to pass prospects to an inside sales person for more in-depth discussion. Alternatively, they could find a means to collect prospects’ contact information, for example by directing the customer to a video that requires registration.

 

Chat agents should be given the opportunity to train and partner the sales team to better understand the product and solutions they are supporting. Often, the first interaction a prospect will have with a company is with the customer support team, so it’s essential that they can effectively triage product related questions and recognize lead opportunities.

Empowering customer service agents with the metrics that focus more around empathy and customer satisfaction rather than chat length is the key to live chat lead generation. Again, it comes back to fostering directed dialogue rather than focusing on how quickly customer care agents complete an online chat session. From training to performance review to the behavior of leaders, organizations can nurture an environment that uses empathy and understanding to drive toward success.

  1. Demonstrate Commitment to Live Chat

Chat implementation can be relatively simple. Just a few lines of JavaScript and away you go. The key to success, though, is a commitment to the program and ongoing training, optimization, and monitoring.

The pitfalls to employing chat usually center on taking an uninspired approach to the medium where the code is thrown up but then not adequately staffed and aligned with appropriate goals.

For true success, implement personalized, interactive, data-driven training programs and provide updated education at regular intervals. Additionally, integrate the management structure into this initiative by having agents give themselves a quality score that they can share with coaches on a weekly basis. Self-evaluation can be a great way to create the opportunity for constructive critique and conversations about improvement.

  1. Don’t Rely on Chatbots To Be Your Brand Ambassador

Chatbots certainly have their place, especially when it comes to directing customers to content that can answer high-level, basic questions. At the same time, chatbots in no way replace the human touch once questions get a little deeper.

Converting visitors into loyal, high margin customers requires a host of conversational skills. A strong live chat agent needs to read between the lines, assess the bigger picture of the sales opportunity at hand, hold multiple parallel discussions at once, and respond to their conversation partner with timing, wit, and emotional intuition.

Moreover, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. The best way to get someone to connect with your customer support agents is for them to develop a relationship with one another.

When salespeople have rapport with clients, they create a mutual base from which to partner and support each other’s goals. Although IBM Watson has drafted ads for Toyota that helped them close some business, chatbots are often inadequate for complex sales applications. Unlike writing copy, customer care requires the dynamic art of two-way conversation.

Chat strategies that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) can serve customer service agents well, but only by augmenting human agents. Through deep learning, natural language processing, and multivariate analysis, organizations can analyze more variables and more extensive data sets than is humanly possible to help customer care agents perform better. Thus, the goal of these systems should focus on arming humans with information they can use to engage the customer more effectively.

Creating the Most Successful Online Chat Scenarios

The very best live chat agents aren’t the ones who are naturally gifted at charming the customer. They’re the ones who record metrics for constant improvement, possess superior situational awareness, and use AI to supplement their instincts and experience as needed. The combination of these traits will pave your way to successful customer care.

About the Authors:

Dean Shaw is the Global Chat Program Manager for SAS, Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. Dean leads SAS’ Chat Program that focuses on enhancing the customer experience, drive leads, and generates robust Voice of Customer analytics.

Tony Medrano is CEO and Co-Founder of RapportBoost, the leader in applying artificial intelligence to optimize live chat conversations in order to drive dramatic and sustained improvements in conversion rate, order size, customer satisfaction, renewal rate, average handle time, first contact resolution rate, agent retention and happiness and other critical contact center metrics. He can be reached at tony (at) rapportboost.ai.

Customer Journey KPIs Every Contact Center Should Track

 

The customer journey can be a difficult thing to map and understand. With so many touchpoints along the journey, the map isn’t predictable and linear, yet it’s still necessary to monitor and analyze. These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will help you gain insight from the customer journey and move on to improve it.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Even if a customer prefers self-service to live agent support, they don’t necessarily want to put a ton of effort into solving their own issue. Self-service shouldn’t be a difficult-to-implement alternative to normal customer support. Instead, it should meet the needs of the type of customer who seeks out self-service via quick, easy-to-find answers and the ability to make changes sans agent assistance.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Some of the most important customer journey touchpoints will occur when the customer interacts with a support agent. CSAT is the measure of the customer’s satisfaction before, during and after they contact customer service. If CSAT scores are dropping, it may be time to look closely at agent productivity, ticket management and self-service options.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The NPS will tell you if your customers are going to recommend your products and services to others. You have to go deeper here, though – why will your customers recommend your products and services, or what it is that’s keeping them from doing so?

Customer Churn / Retention Rate

Customer support teams for subscription-based products and services have to pay special attention to retention rate. If you see a lot of customers leaving around renewal time, it’s necessary to figure out why you lost them. What part of the customer journey is causing customers to change their mind? There’s a snag somewhere.

Customer Success

Customer Success isn’t a single KPI, but instead a customized KPI program based on your specific business, customers and goals. A Customer Success strategy may include Up- and Cross-Sell Rates; Average Revenue per Customer; or Rate of Adoption, which starts with defining beginner, intermediate and advanced customers or users. You may also want to include Retention Rate, NPS and CES in your customer success KPIs. Think of Customer Success as an overarching customer journey strategy based on what success means for you.

Customer journey KPIs may be difficult to track, but they come with a big benefit – often, improving one will have a positive impact on another.

How Bots Help You Learn What Customers Want

There are many reasons why businesses increasingly turn to artificial intelligence (AI) to augment and enhance their customer communications. That everyone else is doing it too isn’t a good enough reason for you to jump on board any ship, so we’ll just tell you why your contact center should be utilizing AI and cognitive technologies: AI can learn exactly what your customers want.

In a typical call, a customer is greeted by an IVR menu that offers that all-too-familiar range of options (e.g., “Press or say 1 for billing… Press or say 2 for support… Press or say 0 to speak to a representative….”). Although efficient for routing callers to appropriate agents and service departments, automated phone menus do little when it comes to learning the true purpose of a call.

In stark contrast, an AI-enabled contact center can ask the customer a direct question (e.g., “How can I help?”) and the customer can blurt out a specific answer (e.g., “My laptop broke.”). There’s no need to offer options and divine why customers called based on their choices or levels of abandonment.

With just the customer’s answer, the AI-driven contact center can zoom in on keywords, gain information about products or services, detect emotional weight and sentiments, perceive subjects of conversation, use natural language understanding, and so forth—all while recording the conversation and storing data.

The same goes for chats and SMS conversations. Chatbots can skip past all the pleasantries and get to the heart of any issue by simply asking, “What do you want?”

The data gathered from that one question is gold. The next time your customers contact you, let them feed you the very information that empowers your business.

Learn more about how AI assistance and bots can transform your contact center practices.

4 Trends that Improve the Customer Experience

When customer service teams want to differentiate themselves from the rest, they focus on improving and optimizing the customer experience. Companies are more than willing to go above and beyond for the sake of meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Here are four trends that will help distinguish your contact center.

Relying on Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere, from video games to the automobile industry. Customer service has been impacted by the increase in AI, too. This technology can be used to chat with customers about easy-to-solve issues, which frees up live agents for more difficult and complex matters. Automation with AI can reduce customer wait time, interact with customers and collect important data for the contact center to later analyze.

Implementing an Omnichannel Strategy

One major gripe that customers have is repeating themselves to various customer support agents in order to get an answer or have a problem solved. Channel integration isn’t the same as omnichannel service. Today’s companies can’t just respond to a customer, they have to know as much as possible about the customer and their problem beforehand in order to provide customized, relevant support. Customer service requires empathy and a human touch in order to connect meaningfully to the customer.

Analyzing Big Data

While much of the customer experience is about interaction and communication, big data still has a pertinent place in understanding customer behavior. Big data can actually help the contact center connect on a more personal level with customers. There’s so much information that can be tracked now, from customer behavior at every point of the journey to customer preferences regarding any number of attributes. Data helps customer support do things like figure out what a customer is going to want before they even ask for it and determine the best way to reach a customer on the channel of their choice.

Providing Real-Time Communication

Using things like AI, which can automate several processes, and ominchannel strategies, which can cut down on the length of time it takes to solve a problem, gives customer support agents the extra time to handle some queries personally. Real-time communication, specifically via mobile and social media, is in demand, especially by younger generations who are used to communicating in these ways. Being able to provide immediate support improves the customer experience and builds trust in customers.

Live Chat vs. Virtual Agents: A Story of Overcoming the Divide to Work Together in Perfect Harmony

live chat vs virtual agent

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO, Creative Virtual

In the not too distant past it wasn’t uncommon to come across organisations struggling to decide between using live chat or a virtual agent on their website for customer support. The customer service marketplace took a very polarised view of these technologies with proponents of each making strong arguments for why their preferred solution was the best for cutting costs, boosting revenue and bettering the customer experience. Even today, some companies still view this as an either-or decision: either they give customers the option to get support online from human chat agents through live chat or they provide a virtual agent so that customers can self-serve online through automated chat.

However, this view is changing and the divide created by the live chat vs. virtual agent debate is disappearing into a discussion of how to bring these two technologies together to work in perfect harmony. Before going any further, let’s take a quick look at each of these solutions individually:

Live Chat – Live chat, also sometimes referred to as web chat, enables organisations to offer customers and prospective customers a one-on-one conversation with a live chat agent. Initially live chat was just used on websites, but now it is also utilised on other engagement channels such as messaging apps and SMS. In the past, supporters of this technology would often highlight the importance of the human touch provided by live chat as a key argument of its superiority over virtual agents.

Virtual Agents – Over the years these automated conversational systems have been given a variety of names, including virtual agent, chatbot, avatar, virtual customer assistant, bot, virtual assistant and chatterbot. In its infancy this technology was used by organisations as basic FAQ systems on websites, but today’s virtual agents are much more advanced and capable of engaging users in sophisticated natural language conversations across many contact channels. In the live chat vs. virtual agents argument, advocates of virtual agents would draw attention to the significantly lower cost per conversation, consistent responses, the ability to have unlimited concurrent conversations and the 24/7 availability of support.

A view within the marketplace of these two solutions being joined up certainly hasn’t happened overnight. Forward-thinking companies seeing the potential of bringing live chat and virtual agents together have set the stage for this change. For example, back in 2012 Creative Virtual was shortlisted for an Econsultancy Innovation Award in the category of ‘Innovation in Customer & User Experience’. Our entry showcased the integration of the virtual agent we provided for a leading telecommunications company in the UK with the live chat product offered by one of our partners. The integration provided a seamless handover from the virtual agent to a live chat agent within the same template. This handover was also signalled by the virtual agent avatar ‘walking off’ and a different avatar representing the live agent ‘walking on’. At the time, this was an extremely innovative approach to combining self-service with human-assisted service in a way that created an improved user experience. Around the same time another Creative Virtual customer, an online financial services company in the US, deployed a virtual agent in front of their existing live chat offering. Their goal was to reduce repetitive questions being handled by live agents which they easily achieved through an 80% reduction in live chat volumes.

These are just two early success stories that helped to draw attention to the potential benefits of bringing these technologies together. This narrative has also been greatly influenced by the evolution of customer expectations. While customers were once ok with simply having the options to communicate with organisations via multiple channels, now they still want those engagement channel options but with a seamless, omnichannel experience.

Widespread adoption of technology, such as smartphones, along with generational changes are having a big impact on how customers want to engage with brands. The future of the contact centre lies in a combination of virtual and real support. Organisations still viewing live chat and virtual agents as an either-or decision and as stand-alone tools instead of as complementary solutions are going to struggle to provide quality digital support experiences for their customers.

In order for live chat and virtual agents to work together in harmony, they need to be powered by a single knowledgebase and backed by a central knowledge management and workflow platform. This gives organisations the ability to keep information up-to-date and consistent across all self-service and human-assisted support channels which builds confidence with customers. Implementing a feedback loop that’s linked with the centralised knowledgebase and workflow enables live agents to provide real-time feedback on content that can easily be reviewed and used to action updates. Live chat agents become knowledge experts sharing the responsibility of keeping self-service channels up-to-date.

There is no doubt in my mind that the future of customer engagement is a blend of artificial intelligence (AI) and human thought. The combination of virtual agents and live chat powered by a single knowledgebase is defining current best practices and, with continuous innovation, will influence the future of customer engagement for organisations around the world.

Curious about how live chat and virtual agents can work together in perfect harmony for your organisation? Register to join me for CRMXchange’s upcoming Tech Tank – Customer Delight: Live Demonstrations of Breakthrough Innovations.

How to Improve Your Website’s Live Chat

In order to provide your customers with the level of service they deserve, it’s necessary to know what they expect from live chat. Every customer wants to have a personalized chat session with an agent who’s capable of solving their problem as thoroughly and quickly as possible. According to Zendesk, “Customers who chat are three times more likely to make a purchase than customers who don’t.” Here’s what you should know about offering a live chat option on your website.

1. Be Proactive and Anticipate Customer Needs

Proactive customer service means that the agent can anticipate a problem in advance and reach out to the customer at the exact moment – or even before – they need help. To do this, you need to understand when customers frequently need help. Often, customers could use some guidance before the purchase when they’re deciding whether or not to move forward. If you’ve noticed that a customer is clicking certain products on your website and adding them to their cart, you can have a live chat window pop up that asks if they need help.

2. Offer Omnichannel Support on Multiple Chat Apps

While live chat will most likely live on your website, there are all sorts of additional live chat apps available, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat. If your customers are using any of those apps frequently, you’ll want to offer live chat support there as well as on your website. Make sure that customers can switch from one messaging app to the other without having to restart their query.

3. Be Smart About Widget Placement

The live chat widget should be easy for customers to find. If customers have to hunt around for it, they may opt to call to speak with a live agent instead. Note that placement is influenced by the purpose of the chat window. If the goal is to increase conversions, chat should be on every page of the website. If it’s to cater to customers who have an escalated problem, it can go directly on the support page. If it’s to help customers better understand technical products, it can go on the product page.

Live chat is an excellent way to connect with customers while increasing brand awareness and company reputation. Contact centers that manage a high number of calls can also offset some of that communication, which lowers cost.

A Vision of Seamless, Fully-Integrated, End-to-End Customer Engagement

V-Person Live Chat

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

Today is a truly momentous day, and a very proud one, for all of us at Creative Virtual. Our vision has always been to offer organisations the technology to enable seamless, fully-integrated, end-to-end customer engagement, and to back that technology with the experience of an expert, knowledgeable team. Once we established ourselves as independently recognised leaders in the virtual customer assistant (VCA) space, we underpinned all our channel support with our critically-acclaimed V-Portal™ (knowledge management, workflow management and business intelligence) platform. Today we realised our vision with the official launch of our newest product: V-Person Live Chat™.

Defining industry best practice

V-Person Live Chat completes our customer engagement jigsaw because it successfully blends virtual and real customer support in a way that no other vendor in the marketplace can provide today. Our many years of experience with integrating our V-Person virtual agent technology with other live chat systems made us realise that there was a huge opportunity for organisations to benefit from a deeper blending of the two technologies. This inspired us to develop our own live chat product which is now defining industry best practice through the tight integration of a single knowledgebase for both virtual and real agents, a unique feedback loop and a customisable workflow provided by V-Portal.

At Creative Virtual we closely monitor developing trends and the evolution of engagement touchpoints in order to provide enterprises with cutting-edge Smart Help solutions. It is clear to us that the contact centre in its current form is finished. As there is a transition to more automation, combining virtual and real customer support with a central knowledge management and workflow platform will be key for organisations. We’ve addressed this contact centre shift with the deep integration of virtual agents and live chat, particularly with our unique feedback loop that allows live chat agents to help keep content accurate for both virtual and real agents just by doing their normal jobs.

creative.virtual.self learning lightbulbA complete approach to learning

Our V-Person technology utilises a hybrid approach of human curation of content and self-learning to give organisations a predictable and reliable customer self-service option. We have developed this approach based on our extensive experience and our partnerships with some of the world’s largest organisations. We understand how enterprises want to use virtual agents and chatbots to deliver effective self-service today and how the customer support landscape is evolving for them in the future.

Human curation of content allows organisations to be absolutely sure that their VCA is responding to users in a predictable way. At any point in time, designated content editors have full access to the knowledgebase to make updates that can be deployed instantly to the virtual agent. Organisations never need to wait for the system to ‘re-learn’ the new information. This human element is combined with the virtual agent’s ability to become more intelligent and adapt through self-learning.

V-Person’s statistical algorithm processes user journeys to return a list of related questions that is a true reflection of how users asking for similar information engaged with the virtual agent. Organisations also benefit from our statistical approach to self-learning with tightly integrated business intelligence reporting. V-Portal brings together voice of the customer feedback and user surveys with conversational data in real-time, actionable analytics that are directly linked to the virtual assistant’s knowledgebase.

Now with V-Person Live Chat, we are able to complete our approach to learning with our unique feedback loops. V-Portal enables enterprises to implement feedback loops that allow live agents to provide real-time comments and suggestions on content so that they can improve the virtual agent just by doing their normal job.

This hybrid approach to learning enables V-Person implementations to adapt in a very predictable way. The combination of human and self-learning is important for continually improving the system while also enabling enterprises to maintain control over the reliability of the VCA responses.

Where we go from here

Seeing our vision of seamless, fully-integrated, end-to-end customer engagement come to fruition is an important milestone, but certainly not the end of the roadmap for us. We are looking forward to rolling out our new live chat product to our customer organisations and experiencing with them new levels of customer engagement success. By continuing our collaboration with them, we will look to make new updates to our workflow and do more development around the self-learning aspects of our technology. Our roadmap is all about combining best practices around knowledge curation and self-learning, and integrating V-Person with best-of-breed technologies to provide a world leading enterprise level end-to-end digital customer engagement platform.

Whether you are currently using live chat and/or a virtual agent to support customers or just starting to think about implementing these tools, the best way to see how V-Person Live Chat can benefit your organisation is by requesting a personalised demo.

You can also read more about how we are combining virtual and real support with a live chat solution that is defining industry best practice in our V-Person Live Chat Overview.