Nick Mitchell takes a look at customer service and sales engagement; especially the trend to reduce customer effort to improve brand loyalty with online chat services.

During 2014 customer experience research company tlf conducted a survey on behalf of [24]7 that highlighted some interesting trends in the UK, trends that are likely to continue through 2015 and beyond. The study uncovered that consumers have become increasingly tech savvy and now expect even more from their interaction when dealing with companies.

Over 1,000 UK consumers responded to the survey to reveal the increasing popularity of an online live chat offering, with more than 37% stating they use it more now than they did 12 months previously. More importantly, however, the survey went further and exposed consumers’ desire for more in the form of “intelligent” chat.

Maybe the growth of using a chat service shouldn’t surprise us, but the revelation was how savvy consumers were becoming – they understood that in the modern digital world they could and should have more. The responses showed intelligent or smart chat, that gave them effective and efficient real-time interaction with a brand’s customer service agents is fast becoming a requirement.

It is widely reported that if something is too much hassle then the customer will go elsewhere, so companies have been trying to measure ‘Customer Effort’ as an indicator of customer loyalty. If the only true measurement of customer loyalty is testing their resolve, then it is understandable the request for some form of intelligence behind an online customer chat service. This thinking is born out with the result that 14% of the research respondents saying that websites that offer chat when they didn’t need it were irritating. This ranked alongside having to repeat information, such as an account number and details, as the most frustrating elements of using chat. Conversely, more than half of respondents (52%) in the survey stated that prompt resolution to a query was the most welcome quality of a chat-based service.

So brands need to be clever about when and how they offer chat; they need to ensure that they have the right information and previous history to hand in a timely manner. Traditional chat solutions just cannot cope with these demands. Quick resolutions are driven and enabled by perceptive interactions, whereby chat agents are empowered with the right data in a timely manner. The result is a swift and straight forward engagement. Simply put: Less customer effort equates to increased brand loyalty.

With 34% of the respondents finding a smart chat experience more appealing than traditional legacy chat services, moving to an intelligent based service can no longer be ignored. Underlining this need in having information close to hand is the fact that 28% of consumers wanted an agent that knew who they were and already familiar with all previous online journeys. A similar percentage (27%) specifically wanted their agent to have particular context and knowledge of a prior dialogue to enable them to pick up from where they had left off.

With over a quarter of consumers wanting customer service and sales to have some form of historical knowledge, the implications of not having it could lead to reduced loyalty and therefore, sales. The higher age ranges surveyed also led to an increased percentage wanting some past contextual knowledge; with over 35% of the 55 plus age range indicating that preference.

The idea of effort versus loyalty is even clearer when consumers were asked directly if they would be more inclined to show loyalty if a chat resolved a query or led to a successful purchase; an average of one in five respondents agreed.

Having increased loyalty to a brand due to a smart chat interaction resolving an issue or speeding a transaction is one thing, but sadly having a bad chat experience can be devastating and have long term impact on the business. One-in-ten consumers in the research admitted they had abandoned a sale because of a poor live chat experience.

That’s potentially 10 per cent of lost sales just because of poor live chat. It’s an astonishing figure and one that brands would be wise to be mindful of. Chat is a powerful tool for any organisation to have at its disposal in providing a strong and memorable customer experience, but it needs to be smart chat.
Above we have looked at the increasing demand for chat services and the consumers call for “smarter” contact. We have also seen, with one example, that when chat goes wrong it can impact the bottom line. Whatever way you look at it, the survey results show one thing…the inescapable move to online chat and more importantly the desire for that chat to be smarter: a trend set to continue in 2015.

Nick MitchellNick Mitchell
Nick Mitchell is the Managing Director, EMEA, at intuitive customer experience company [24]7. Nick has a background of delivering IT supported, business transformation programs, along with providing differentiated customer service solutions. With [24]7 he works with some of Europe’s most prominent brands to deliver a more intuitive and omnichannel customer experience.

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