Posted by Andy Soloman - 15 November, 2012
By Andy Soloman
Live chat is booming, and you want it for your ecommerce site. But have you thought about your live chat operators and what to consider when setting them up?
Online businesses are increasingly recognising the value and more customers than ever are saying it is their preferred communication channel when they are shopping online. But it's not just software, it's also about live chat operators.
It sounds so easy, but all too often simple mistakes are being made that can turn the live chat experience into a disaster rather than an opportunity.
Some online retailers and other ecommerce businesses think they can roll out live chat and fit it in around all the other tasks that their staff are having to complete every day.
I recently met the marketing director of a major multi-channel sports retailer. Their online business was growing rapidly and they could proudly report around 250,000 monthly unique visitors. The 30-strong customer services team was stretched to the limit fielding web enquiries and telephone calls. The idea, the marketing director said, was for a couple of the team to be live chat operators in between their other tasks.
Once I explained just how many customers would want to chat, Plan A when straight out the window. Depending on where live chat was targeted on their website, they should reasonably looking at serving more than 5,000 chats a month. There are many variables to be considered, but when you consider one live chat operator can on average handle around 800 chats a month, it is critical you get the right number of agents working on live chat. The reality is that most businesses lack the time, money, resources and expertise to implement effective live chat.
Outsourcing is the solution, as you can build your own team using a pool of experts that can quickly be trained as extensions to your existing customers services teams.
Reason Number One to Outsource Live Chat Operators
Dedicated and experienced live chat operators are needed, otherwise you will not be able to handle the volume of chat requests. No operators = unhappy customers.
This is so important. When you are engaging with people in real-time, you have to carefully manage their expectations. If a customer sees live chat on your website and clicks only to get a message saying no-one is available and to please send an email, they are likely to immediately abandon and go elsewhere.
Even worse is when live chat operators are logged in, but no-one responds to a customer requesting an answer to a question. The live chat operators have to be available when the customer needs them and not just according to standard business hours. From a business perspective, would you like to be able to help someone buy one of your expensive gifts late at night? Of course you would. Outsourced operators from a specialist live chat service would be available 24 hours a day.
Reason Number Two to Outsource Live Chat Operators
Live chat operators are not the same as other customer service representatives used to working on the telephone or on email systems.
Live chat operators need different skills to existing phone or email support teams. They need to be able to type fast, use perfect grammar and punctuation, and consistently project a gentle, friendly and helpful tone. They need to be able to guide a prospective customer through to a final purchase while at the same time promoting and reinforcing your brand values.
With outsourced live chat operators you can rely on skilled individuals who can then quickly build the essential knowledge required to engage with your customers. The majority of questions asked via live chat are quite generic, such as information on delivery, stock or returns. Over time your outsourced live chat operators will develop in-depth knowledge of your brand, products and services, but in the initial stages it is important to identify SLAs on when and how live chat queries are escalated. In these situations, a prospective customer becomes a hot lead that you can directly engage with via your existing customer services teams.
Reason Number Three to Outsource Live Chat Operators
It's cost effective. You avoid all the costs and stresses involved in recruiting, training and managing live chat operators. You can still have control, but without the hassle.
For many online businesses, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, the costs of developing a dedicated team of live chat operators would be prohibitively expensive. It is not just salaries, but recruitment costs, employment on-costs and, of course, the physical space and infrastructure needed to house and support them. By outsourcing your live chat operators, you can develop a flexible operation. Your partner takes care of the service provision details and daily management, while you can focus on ensuring the type and tone of engagement is exactly what you need to grow revenue and develop increased levels of customer satisfaction.
Support from outsourced live chat operators shouldn't be seen as a cost, but rather it is an investment that pays immediate returns. Even after all the bills are paid, you should be seeing an ROI on live chat that runs into the hundreds of percent. You will benefit from much higher conversions from live chat and increases in average order value.
Reason Number Four to Outsource Live Chat Operators
There is a science behind live chat. To get the best results you have to know what you are doing. A strong partner will work with you to ensure you hit the ground running.
As with any new service, it takes time to learn the best way to implement and achieve the desired results. By carefully selecting a partner for providing live chat services, you will be able to immediately benefit from extensive experience and the knowledge of knowing what works best and when.
There are numerous variables to consider, including:
- How to best use reactive click-to-chat buttons?
- What rules should govern proactive chat invitations?
- What about button or invitation design? What works best in different situations?
- How do you ensure chat invitations are welcomed rather than resented by customers?
- How can you best understand the numerous statistics and data that live chat generates?
A good partner will help you will all this and more. It should be a collaborative approach that focuses on getting brilliant results, all the time.
Reason Number Five to Outsource Live Chat Operators
While you focus on running your business, your partner can monitor your website and drive the continuous improvement process needed to ensure you consistently improve your live chat results.
Your partner can provide you the outsourced live chat operators, and probably also the software required to make everything work. For this they will receive fees, while you will be seeing increased revenues, higher conversions, bespoke campaign support and more happy customers. But while your time is taken up with the day-to-day requirements a good partner will be able to develop that impartial helicopter view that can help you identify and then resolve issues related to customer experience.
These could be any number of factors, but your live chat operators will be in the front line dealing with user experience issues that can make the difference as to whether someone completes a purchase or gives up. It may also be more practical and immediate support, such as quickly identifying problems with your website when they occur. The eyes of the live chat operators will be on your website 24 hours a day. They will quickly see when problems arise and be able to alert you to any problems.
Beyond that, constant engagement with website visitors will allow the operators to test how to achieve the most effective live chat engagements for your business.
About the author: Andy Soloman is Yomdel's CEO. He's passionate about delivering the best possible experience bringing together ecommerce businesses and their customers. He's also a long-suffering Charlton Athletic supporter.
- How to test your live chat service: Part 1 - Getting started
- How to test your live chat service: Part 2 - Defining test coverage
- 10 great reasons to use live chat in your business
- 5 mistakes to avoid with live chat on your ecommerce website
- How to set up a brilliant live chat service for your business