From Brian's Desk

Contact Center Excellence – Stand Out From The Crowd

Why Chat isn’t the Right Solution

In order to improve their resolution rates, reduce on-hold time and talk time, many call centers have implemented a chat tool, or taken advantage of the company’s chat tool.  Chat offers a number of advantages in the call center environment, and indeed centers can make some progress towards improving the aforementioned metrics.   Simple chat tools work in a one-on-one fashion, where SMEs, or Subject Matter Experts, are named individuals with identified subject matter skills, available to chat.  To make finding them easier, they might be given chat names like “George Billing SME”.  When a front-line agent needs help moving a conversation forward, he or she initiates a chat with an SME.  Presumably the SME is better able to answer the question, and in real-time can provide an answer to the front-line agent who is on the phone or perhaps in an external chat with a customer.  This eliminates the manual hand-raising or flag waving for a supervisor that may or may not be an SME for every type of call.  Or the placing of the caller on hold while the agent tracks down someone who can provide an answer.  Many chat tools can also support chat ‘rooms’ so that an agent can join a chat room and have access to several potential people who can answer the question.  Chat rooms are also a much better approach to the one-on-one nature of simple chatting.  No longer does an agent need to find out who is available right at the moment to help with a billing question, whether it is George Billing SME, or Sally Billing SME for example.   The agent just knows that they need to go to a Billing chat room and some SME will be scheduled to be in the room available to answer their question.  Chat tools can also be one-to-many as in the case of broadcasts.  This is typically one-to-every however, as typical chat tools don’t allow for the logical grouping of chat users.  So, chat is a solution for communication in the call center, but is it the right solution?

The short answer is no.   Implementing a chat tool in the contact center is akin to bringing a knife to a tank battle.   Many chat tools would like to be a full communications solution, but they simply fall way short of what is needed in the call center.   Do you have reporting available with a chat tool that tells you how many chat requests were answered within 30 seconds?  How many were answered successfully?  Can you tell which agent or agents are using chat most often and for what reasons?  Do you know the percentage of time your chat rooms were unoccupied (no SME)?   Real-time assistance is a process, and as a process it needs to be managed from an operational and quality point of view.  Real-time assistance also interacts and supports (or maybe not) other processes, such as Quality Assurance, Knowledge Management and Training.  Reports from your real-time assistance application should be able to tell you if particular agents need more training on a specific topic, and should be able to tell you if the knowledge article for a recently announced new service is readable, understandable, and leads to a positive outcome.  Transcripts of chats should be available for the QA process, just as ticket details and voice recordings are.   Requests for communication or real-time assistance should be routed based on center-defined attributes such as call-type and skill-level-needed.   Screen view or even takeover by the SME should be part of the solution, as should the send/receive of files.

A full-functioned communication solution is needed.   I happen to like Concourse from Adaptive Engineering (see flaggandassociates.com).  But, whatever solution you choose, bring a tank to a tank battle.

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2 thoughts on “Why Chat isn’t the Right Solution

  1. Roy Atkinson on said:

    Brian – I think chat can be a great solution if (like any other channel) it is put in place for the right reasons. General goals such as “saving money” are never a good argument for any initiative or implementation.

    I know of one organization that put a chat channel in place specifically to allow managers and executives who spend a predominant amount of their time in meetings (and so not on the phone to the service desk) to ask questions or schedule assistance. It has worked out brilliantly for them.

    Three things that are important to know before implementing any tool or channel: Requirements, requirements and requirements. Once you know those, you need to match the capability of the tool to those requirements.

    If you establish the requirement that the chat tool integrate with your ticket management tool, then you are a good way down the road to solving one of the problems you cite.

    • Great point, Roy. There is, of course, the dual squeeze at most of the help/service desks I have seen; lower costs and increase quality (FCR). I would like to hear and understand more about the ticket app integration. I understand why you would want to add the transcripts and meta-data associated with the transcripts (what was it about, should it have been handled at level 1, etc.) to the QA/QM process as another input (just as voice/screen recordings and ticket details). This doesn’t require ticket app integration, though. What else were you thinking?

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