It is rare today to find a consumer that has not used chat in some way to resolve a customer service query. This will not be a surprise to savvy contact center watchers, given how this channel has proliferated over the past three years. But, to make sure that chat remains viable in 2017 (and beyond), outsourcers need to remain vigilant in how they deliver this channel. This will mean consistently reviewing existing best practices and solutions, to make sure that clients are getting maximum value for their investment.
Unquestionably, chat as a CRM channel has made an amazing comeback following the false start of the early 2000s. This was a period noted for agents overloaded with sessions and questionable technology that failed to provide robust consumer interactions. However, current processes and platforms have shown notable improvement, to the point that chat is now among the most preferred interaction platforms among end-users. This was quantified in the most recent Dimension Data Benchmarking Report, which indicated that 81% of contact centers would have chat available as a CRM channel within twelve months.
The big question for outsourcers is how best to continue delivering a chat offering that adds value for clients. Unquestionably, the BPO community has been a leader in chat innovation; but for this to remain the case, vendors need to determine how best to position this channel in the future.
Given its accelerated rates of adoption, ensuring maximum chat agent retention must be top of mind for vendors. This will be especially crucial as the competition for talent adept at handling end-users via the keyboard becomes even more important in the customer experience dynamic. Thus, beyond competitive benefits and compensation, outsourcers must be proactive in refining what constitutes the ideal chat agent profile, in order to recruit individuals most adept and willing to support this channel. Obviously, vendors must also ensure that these agents are not over-faced with unmanageable numbers of chats that they handle at any one time.
Outsourcers also need to be aggressive in developing vertical subject matter expertise when it comes to supporting this channel. Being able to tease out what makes a chat session especially customer experience-friendly in retail could be very different from what counts when chatting with a travel consumer. From a differentiation standpoint, vendors need to be ahead of the game in figuring out these nuances, and in using this expertise to deliver more value for their clients.
The issue of ‘chatbots’ continues to provoke discussion among customer experience professionals. But, when done properly, these automated solutions can be immensely helpful in channeling end-users to the right agent. However, much like the IVR discussion of twenty years ago, if a solution is poorly implemented, customer experience will suffer and consumer loyalty is thereby jeopardized. This is an area where outsourcers cannot afford a misstep.
Going into 2017, there is significant opportunity for outsourcers to use chat as a differentiator in customer management. However, vendors need to understand that this is an evolving channel, and that contemporary best practices need to be revisited regularly, to remain relevant for clients across verticals.