Chat in the Contact Center – an Expert Panel Weighs in – Part 1/3

Chat in the Contact Center - an Expert Panel Weighs in – Part 1/3

You may or may not have reviewed Comm100’s 2016 Livechat Benchmark Report. Recently, our expert panel of Contact Center Consultants had a discussion on the role of chat in the Call Center. This discussion examines chat in the Contact Center, highlights the many advantages of Live Chat, presents some caveats and looks to the future of this technology in the Call Center and Contact Center.

Our team of experts had many insights on the topic of live chat, and so, we are rolling out our insights in a 3-part series. Today, part 1, focuses on the following:

  • Why, When and Where Should Chat be Deployed
  • Demographics
  • Chat in Relation to Industry
  • Security
  • First Contact Resolution/ Chats to Close Inquiry

Discussion participants: Colin Taylor, John Cockerill, Garry Schultz, David Bradshaw, JD Fairweather, Bruce Lebowitz, Turaj Seyrafiaan, Peter Elliot and Paul Knapp


Why, When and Where Should Chat be Deployed

Bruce: Companies use chat for two main reasons

1)      Chat can be less expensive than voice:

a) Divert people from the voice to chat channels:

An agent can typically handle 2 or 3 chats at once depending on the complexity. Whereas a voice agent can only handle one inquiry at a time.  Ensure that agents are handling the right number of concurrent chats. There is no magic number, it depends on the complexity of the calls or conversations.

b) Overseas labor:

Sometimes companies are sensitive to using overseas or off-shore Contact Centers because of agent accents. Firms may not want to use foreign agents if they are appealing to a domestic audience or have a brand image to uphold. However, with chat, you could use less expensive labor overseas as accents would no longer be an issue.

2)      Customer convenience:

Sometimes customer inquiries and concerns can be alleviated very quickly and easy, with the use of live chat. For consumers who want to avoid the voice channel, but still communicate with a live agent, chat can provide an easy solution with minimal customer effort.


Colin: Research from the Customer Experience Board (CEB) tells us that 60% of customers will have visited your website before they place a call to the Contact Center, and 40% will be on your website during the call. Offering chat and the ability for the customer to remain on the website to get their question or issue addressed, can be very helpful and positively perceived by your customers. Why make them switch channels if they don’t want to?    


David Bradshaw: Chat can be deployed if someone on your website appears to be struggling on a particular page. A pop-up window with a friendly message would be a good point at which to offer this technology. “Hey, I noticed you’ve been on this page for a while, is there any way I could be of assistance?”

Chat can also be deployed in the order section of your website for e-Commerce. For example, if you know the average check-out time, and the consumer exceeds this, chat can be used to encourage and support the consumer through the check-out process. Essentially this technology can motivate the customers throughout the customer journey, to complete the purchase stage.


Garry: Chat is very demographic sensitive – typically Baby Boomers are more reluctant to use chat versus Millennials, of course, keep in mind the exceptions in any group. Any company that is going to look at chat as a viable channel, needs to have a close look at their demographics and establish whether or not the customers want to chat.

The worst possible manifestation of this is when customers are nudged into the funnel and herded into chat. My advice to organizations would be to ensure you are not nudging a demographic that prefers talk, into chat. Any chat initiative could crash-and-burn if your customers or audience is in a demographic that appeals to the Graying of America (GOA). Understand who you’re serving and ensure they are aligned with your chat channel.

Paul: In regards to the healthcare industry, I find this to be true. When you are dealing with Medicare populations and senior citizens, they are not going to use chat.  We have seen they do not trust the outcome of chat contrary to Millennials that have embraced and trusted the outcomes of chat.

Chat in Relation to Industry

David: It is also important to analyze the product or service being offered – sometimes a demographic that would typically be willing to consider chat, may not, due to the sensitivity of the offering, for certain circumstance, chat just will not work. Zappos is a prime example of this – 90% of their interactions take place over the phone because it’s about shoes – people want to have conversations about the colors and materials.

Colin: Chat also may not work due to the reason for the contact. If you are looking for a refund or if you want to discuss an order, accounts payables etc., most people prefer to do this through a one-to-one voice conversation.


Garry: The average consumer has a perception that live chat is not as secure as other channels. I use perceptions as well chosen word because the truth is that chat is just as, if not more secure, than the telephone.

In particular industries, such as financial or healthcare services, you may have some pushback in adopting a chat channel due to this perceived security issue.

David: Secure chat gives organizations the opportunity to resolve a customer’s issue because customers are validated through the chat channel, similar to how you would validate your pin and password via the web.

Colin: Chat, by its nature generates an audit trail of the entire interaction. This paper trail eliminates an ambiguity over who said what and when, as it is all there in black and white. This audit trail is a fundamental aspect of chat and as such invalidates chat as a candidate for refunds or credits. To enter credit card details into a chat window and propagating this information through the audit trail creates a security and PCI risk.

Where is secure chat best deployed? When do companies use it? How many chats should agents be using?

David: Once the chat is secure and the consumer has been identified and validated, agents have people’s private information. If agents are engaging in multiple chats at a time, it is essential to ensure there is a protocol to confirm that consumer information is not accidentally being given to another customer, in the event that the agent was confused with the multiple chats. As a best practice for secure chat, most agents typically go one-on-one to avoid this rather than trying to balance multiple chats in the secure environment.

First Contact Resolution/ Chats to Close Inquiry

When do you know to go from one channel to the next?

David: When analyzing chat as a viable channel, it is important to assess first contact resolution and the average number of chats required to close an inquiry. Chat can be very effective. If, however, you get into too much of a back-and-forth, sometimes just picking up a phone get resolution faster.

Companies using live chat should establish criteria to consider at which point chat should be moved to a call to the Call Center and how this channel transition should be made.  This map should be a general rule-of-thumb.

As a best practice, inquiries and issues should be resolved after 3 chat sessions; otherwise, they should be moved to another channel that is more viable (likely phone). When applying best practices, you need to keep in mind the nature of your demographics and reasons for contact.

Colin: Omni-channel systems, where all customer information is available in real time regardless of the platform and where a chat can be escalated to a live call, can greatly simplify the process of shifting channels from chat to live voice. Without these capabilities in place, the customer may find that they are having to repeat their whole story to a new voice agent after having spent minutes explaining it the chat agent. This type of disconnected approach is a quick way to reduce your customer effort score and degrades your customer experience.

Turaj: Chat is good for specific types of conversation - for these conversations, they should have a higher FCR compared to other channels such a voice. For example, if a customer is looking for more product information, the chat agent can give the URL or file which can be reviewed immediately by the customer. From there the agent can encourage the consumer through the buying process and everything can be done in the first contact. This is in contrast to voice where the consumer interacting with a voice channel may need to receive the link via email. For these cases, chat is a better solution and should have a higher FCR.

One problem is the type of the contact being dealt with. This makes a difference on who is offering the service, what the organizational goals are and how they’re aligned with consumer demographics. Identify specifically what types of conversations are best for chat.

Do you use chat for solving a problem or complaint – probably not. For Product info – probably.

Dell has been using chat for multiple years and they have been successful. This is likely because consumers typically already have a general idea of what they want. Instead, they’re likely looking for technical clarification - chat is a good means to deliver this.



The Taylor Reach Group Bios

Colin Taylor – CEO and Chief Chaos Officer

Colin, CEO and Chief Chaos Officer at TRG, is recognized as one of Canada’s leading Call/Contact Center experts. Ranked #5 in Customer Service Globally with 27 awards for operational excellence. He has been working in the industry for 35+ years and has led The Taylor Reach Group’s success, as CEO and Chief Chaos Officer, since 2003.

John Cockerill – President

John has been contributing to the success of the company with his extensive knowledge on sales, marketing and service operations within the Contact Center including strategic planning and day-to-day operations. He has 30+ years of hands on Call Center operational management experience. 

Garry Schultz – Senior Consultant - Ottawa

Garry is an experienced Customer Care strategist with expertise in post-sale-support operations. With 25+ years as an executive manager for high-tech post-sale support operations Garry has lived the omni-channel evolution.

Turaj Seyrafiaan– Senior Consultant - Toronto

25+ years of contact center experience, Domestic and International: Telco and Consulting,

David Bradshaw – Senior Consultant - Toronto

David is a seasoned contact center financial services industry veteran with more than 20 years of hands on experience.

JD Fairweather – Vice President – South East

25+ years of contact center experience, Domestic and International, Client-Side and Consulting, Atlanta.

Peter Elliot – Senior Consultant – Europe

30+ years of contact center experience, Domestic and International, Client-Side and Consulting, London, UK.

Paul Knapp – Senior Consultant – Memphis

Paul Knapp is an experienced Call Center, Contact Center Consultant with 25 plus years of experience in the Healthcare, Customer Services industry. - Memphis


4 thoughts on “Chat in the Contact Center – an Expert Panel Weighs in – Part 1/3

  1. William says:

    * A lot easier to record conversation on customer’s account as will just a thing of copy paste instead of having to write it.

    * A new template has to be develop for contact through CHAT channel as the way we record conversation in to customers account all relate to telephone conversation and none for live chat.

    * What does the agent think about this, The agent has to feel comfortable too, Is it more comfortable for the agent ?

    * Please note: There are already automated live chat which will respond accordingly to the question asked, An article including the information which associate with the wording on the customers questions,
    I tried one of this not long ago and amazingly each time the application got it right, Got it right about the article or question I was wondering about.

    * What type of agent will excel on this type of customer’s service ? we already knows which type of agent will excel on the live telephone call,
    A training manual will have to be develop as again all training at the moment focus on the phone call channel.

    * A question, How will chat go about sensitive information which has been forbidden to agent to be written on other place than the customer’s account ? Example credit cards.
    By Colin = To enter credit card details into a chat window and propagating this information through the audit trail creates a security and PCI risk.

    * A question, How about a chat with voice ?
    Just like the what’sapp does.

    * Not all the product will do well in chat as customers might feel awkward writing about this product they want to purchase.

    * Just like Colin said….Customers will have not leg to stand on on denying what they were told on the chat conversation as it will be there to see at any time what the customer said, This will end a lot of apologies, Credit, Discounts etc…

    * How about a no live chat and then if need it to a live chat ?

    * How about the liability of the company by an agent which write some internal information, Or the liability of the company when a customer record what was written on the chat ?

    * Good point from Turaj, I do think this is totally correct but just when is about sale / buying.

    * Many things will improve with live chat such as : Agent not interrupting customers, Customers not interrupting agents, Tone of voice will be change for tone of writing, Less need to repeat questions, More accurate answers etc….

    • Sarah Hill-Stapley says:

      Thank you for the comment and for sharing your thinking and insights regarding chat. Some of the questions you raised are addressed in part 2 and 3 of this series – stay tuned. We look forward to hearing your feedback on these posts as well.

  2. Thank you for this very interesting article.

    • Sarah Hill-Stapley says:

      A pleasure Dominique; Stay tuned for the second and third part of this 3-part series on live chat!

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