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What’s it going to be? Chat or email? Why not both?

Written By: Dave Campbell | Date: Tue, 08 Jan 2013

You may have read last month that Best Buy chose to ditch email support in favor of live chat. A brave move and, according to the article (on the STELLAService blog), it’s part of a strategy to overcome customer service problems that plagued the electronics retailer in the past.

So, as a live chat company we should be completely on board with a decision of this kind, right? Not necessarily. There are many factors at play that determine whether or not this would be a good idea. Consider the following.

What is your website visitors preferred way to contact you? It’s important to note  a large percentage of consumers still choose email as their preferred method of contacting customer service. (Even if etailers aren’t particularly good at answering them.) Find out how your visitors want to contact you and then do it! And maybe add live chat as a compliment to email.

Do you have an email problem? For this instance, an email problem would mean a backlog of emails making it impossible to answer customer support inquiries in 24 hours or less. If so, removing it as a channel of communication only promises to transfer the problem to another channel – a channel that may require a more immediate response. In this scenario, the best way to solve an email problem is to manage email, not to ditch it altogether. When our customer, Vornado, mentioned delaying a case study with us because they needed to catch up on emails, we wouldn’t have dreamed of recommending that they get rid of email, but we did ask them to try out our email management tool.

Are you willing to commit resources to it? Simply adding live chat isn’t enough. Committing necessary resources to build the right tools and create an effective live chat implementation is imperative. There’s no shortage of live chat providers. You wouldn’t search for a phone system by finding out who was cheapest and you shouldn’t search for live chat that way either. Consider using a buyer’s guide or making a list of all the features you want. Make sure you find all the features you need, and then don’t buy on features alone. Honestly, there’s not much product differentiation among reputable live chat providers. Consider things like how the features are provided, the support, the focus on research within the chat industry and the value you get for the money. These things may cost a little more, but live chat is not a commodity. It’s a service.

Are you chat operators empowered? There’s no reason to offer live chat if you’re not going to give your agents the power to help customers. Nothing is more frustrating than having a company make chat available for a specific problem only to be told that the agent can’t help you with your problem. Or having a chat available after a tedious login, only to be told that the agent can’t access your account. Be sure your agents are empowered to actually solve problems for customers.

All of these points have one thing in common, they illustrate that when it comes to live chat, do your research, choose wisely, and listen to your customers. What communication channels do you make available on your website, and why?

BoldBlog | What’s it going to be? Chat or email? Why not both?


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