Customer experience (CX) continues to be one the main priorities for those providing service, and chat support is one channel that can help in this respect. Simon Johnson of Freshworks explains how to make use of chat support.
Companies are investing in new approaches to help their customers more efficiently; recommending them new products and adding more ways to interact. For service teams, CX investments can provide opportunities to improve service delivery both outside and inside the organisation.
The reason for all this investment in CX is customer churn. As customers get more demanding in their interactions, poor service encourages them to switch to other providers – research from NewVoiceMedia found that around half of all consumers had switched suppliers in the past twelve months.
Chat, or instant messaging, is an essential route to improving CX, but it is often implemented and then left alone. However, chat should not be seen as a one-off project. Instead, it has to carry on continuously improving, just like all other service channels.
For teams that deal with external customers, making sure that each experience is a positive one is essential to keeping those customers happy. For internal teams, this emphasis on CX might not seem like it is directly relevant. After all, internal users can’t ask for a different helpdesk team to step in can they? However, what they can do is nothing, and not come forward at all. This can lead to IT not knowing about technology implementations – termed “shadow IT” – or problems going unknown and unresolved.
These issues can store up trouble. Either employees are unproductive, or they can be actively harming their organisation by breaking compliance rules. Making it easier for employees to fix their own problems through tools like chat should therefore be essential.
Automating service through chat – getting the right balance between man and machine
Traditionally, chat services have been live conversations conducted through a website or chat window. However, these services have a couple of limitations.
One is that conversations have to be live – if the agent or user leaves, or closes the window, then the whole conversation is terminated. This kind of experience is not ideal when users are multitasking. It can also make tracking interactions more difficult over time.
Alongside this, there has been a huge rise in interest around chatbots. These can help with simple requests in the moment and can add more specific services over time too. By using new technologies like machine learning, chatbots can be taught to recognise more common problems and direct users to the right materials. In the long run, more issues can be put through self-service channels.
This doesn’t mean that agents will disappear from chat completely. Instead, the role will become more proactive, evolving to recognise what problems are cropping up more frequently and creating more content to help users in the future.
In addition, users do not always express themselves in the same ways or with the terms that IT teams expect them to use. Teaching automation systems new terms – or what people really mean when they ask for specific things – will be a skill that will rely on agents for the foreseeable future.
Learning lessons from Facebook
Today, most of us use messaging services that can work across multiple devices and keep consistent conversations going whatever we happen to use. Chat can provide the same experience for service teams too.
Tools like Facebook Messenger allow us to communicate when we are available, using the devices that are best suited to what we are doing, and provide a complete record of prior conversations too. For chat, this kind of experience can be valuable in two ways.
Firstly, keeping a coherent record of all interactions in one place helps improve service. Users do not need to provide the same details multiple times and they can get recommendations for articles or fixes automatically. Secondly, this can improve the experience for the user – they can keep chatting with the same agent, rather than feeling like they are being passed around. This consistency in approach, even when it gets augmented by chatbots, is important for relationship building and quality of service.
Adding this more modern approach to chat involves looking at two things: how user expectations have changed, and how new problems develop over time. For ITSM teams, this should be an opportunity to keep improving service delivery and to remove some of the manual work from the service desk team. In 2018, the new opportunities around chat and automation should open up new ways of working.