Each customer's decision to contact a company is a brand-building opportunity. It's also an opportunity for the company to study each customer's needs. A customer typically interacts with a brand on multiple levels, including researching products online and reading the CEO's latest post on Twitter, writes Forbes contributor Blake Morgan. All touchpoints together, produce a total customer experience.
Some customers call into the business to get a problem resolved, but most customers interact with the brand on different levels. When a company introduces mobile or online chat features, it offers another point of access to busy customers.
Help People Along Their Buyer's Journey
With an online or mobile chat feature, service personnel can assist customers at any point in their buyer's journey. They could be seeking greater knowledge of products, deciding which purchase to make, completing a transaction, or requesting support for a purchased product. With live chat, there will be a record of every conversation. A chat feature also enables employees to handle more than one transaction at a time. Some issues can be resolved as customer service agents use different combinations of canned responses.
A Live Chat Example
Imagine a customer contacts a company via live chat. The customer has just considered that the laptop device that he wants to buy on the company website may not be compatible with his printer. He uses online chat to seek a few product specifications from the service agent. It's quickly apparent that the agent can't answer his question, but she offers to have another employee follow up with him by email. As a customer, he might have preferred the online chat because it notifies him when the agent is available, allowing him to do other tasks while he waits. While he would like to complete the purchase now, he decides to wait for a response. In the end, it takes a few days, but the second employee confirms that he's right. His printer isn't compatible with the laptop he wants to buy. Therefore, he purchases a different laptop from another ecommerce site. Bottom line: He got good customer service. He decided the three-day delay was preferable to the alternative -- ordering a computer and having to return it.
The Value of Social Listening
Any chat conversation between an agent and a customer becomes a record, which then gets stored in the company's CRM database. Each record is rich with searchable text, which can be later analyzed for customer service improvements and/or social listening. Someone who wants to understand the issues that customers face at different points in their buyer's journey can analyze batches of chat transcripts. Each transcript includes keyword phrases that relate to consumer spending patterns, which the marketing staff might find helpful. Without chat transcripts, a company doesn't get information about what customers need unless the agents have entered their own notes in the CRM database. For example, the marketing team might discover that there are many requests for laptops compatible with different products, not just printers, and they might suggest models to add to their company's selection.
Customer Experience Improvements
A company's brand is only as strong as the daily interactions that its customers have with its employees. Service personnel can improve customer experiences through online chat if they respond to trends found in chat sessions. A company can go even farther and invest in the development of a chatbot, which gives the customer the semblance of chatting with a live agent.
Chatbots provide "ease of access and immediacy" that you don't get through email, web form submissions, or Twitter, says Jeff Malmad, managing director-head of mobile and Life+ at Mindshare North America. Consider this example. An employee writes a guide on laptops and their compatibility with different peripheral devices. While most devices have some compatibility because they hook up through a laptop's USB port, the computer itself may not have the right operating system or the drivers to make it compatible with a consumer's peripherals. The staff member who compiles the laptop compatibility guide can also train customer service personnel on how to answer questions about compatibility during their online chats. In the end, the brand will provide a better customer experience after training its service agents to handle more types of customer issues and questions.