Monday, 04 February 2013 06:43

Webchat increasingly effective contact centre communication channel

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BT’s research into the latest communication channels being used by contact centres finds increasing use of webchat as a channel for advisors to talk to customers.

The research was conducted on six contact centres in the UK and India, three of which are operated by BT serving enterprise customers and three run by other large corporations. Among its key findings is that webchat creates a highly positive experience for both customers and advisors.

"With many customers starting their journey online, it is now often as convenient for them to initiate a webchat session as to pick up the phone,” says BT’s Nicola Millard whose title is ‘Customer Experience Futurologist’. “Further benefits include a calmer and quieter working environment for advisors and fewer challenges due to regional accents and background noise. Webchat also provides a clear audit trail of customer conversations.

“Due to an increasing number of companies offering webchat to their customers, we decided to conduct research with contact centres that have deployed it and investigate the effects on both customers and advisors. We found that webchat is considered to be an equivalent and often superior method of working compared to calls.

“Webchat also sits comfortably alongside social media, as it allows organisations to draw customers into a more private dialogue, where they can discuss personal details and specific issues in a one-to-one channel. Webchat is also perceived as providing an effective stepping stone, moving customer contacts towards web-based self-service interactions. Our research identifies a double bonus: both advisors and customers like using it and it leads to cost savings for contact centre operators. For these reasons, we expect webchat to continue to grow as a channel.”

The research found that webchat creates a highly positive customer experience, one which is at least as good as a phone call and often superior. Almost three quarters of advisors interviewed agreed that webchat offers customers better service compared to calls. This was attributed to the speed that customers can connect to webchat, typically stated as one minute or less. This is considerably faster than customers might experience when dialling into a menu-driven call centre system, with its attendant transfers and hold periods. When initiated effectively, webchat puts customers straight through to an advisor with the relevant skills.

“With many customers and advisors now using social media and instant messaging in their personal life, webchat was perceived strongly in terms of ease of use, offering benefits such as the ability to quickly cut and paste standard information and being able to scan entire conversations to check customer needs are met. Overall, 88% of advisors said they like webchat, many of these went further and expressed very high levels of satisfaction,” said Millard.

Many advisors were found to be able to engage in multiple webchat conversations at once, increasing their productivity. Two parallel sessions were normal, with some advisors claiming they could manage more. Webchats between advisors and their colleagues were also common. Advisors suggested that these make them more effective, as they can ask for assistance in real-time while helping customers, and generate a better working environment, with greater team spirit.

Webchat is also a positive development for management. “Written conversations leave a clear audit trail and team leaders are able to easily and quickly step into a webchat. The big advantage is that, unlike calls, the manager can quickly scan through the entire conversation without the need for the customer to repeat themselves. This means escalation processes are far easier from both the customer and manager perspective.


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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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