Can We Chat About Web Chat?
Susan Helscher, call center director at gift Web site Red Envelope, observes that customers tend to use Web chat when “they really are in need of an urgent or quick response. We see a spike at holiday time, not just because of volume but because of that urgency.”
However, maintaining a high service level often is the pivotal issue on which the decision to chat, or not to chat, is based; and that ultimately is tied to work and traffic flow.
Work and Traffic Flow
Web chats must be handled as quickly as incoming phone calls. Lands’ End has the same service level on the Web as it does with its inbound calls, according to Rundle, which is “86 to 90 percent before 20 seconds.” With a Web chat, your customer or prospect sent you a message and is awaiting your response. If no one is available for several minutes, you’ve just created a very negative customer impression. These are perishable opportunities that spoil within seconds—just like incoming phone calls.
This may be a reason so many companies don’t yet offer Web chat. Most want to be sure they can deliver good service in another high-priority contact channel. Stumps, a cataloger and supplier of party goods based in South Whitley, IN, has been evaluating the channel.
Jaquie Downey, a manager in marketing at Stumps, tested several companies in related businesses that offer live chat and reported disappointing results. “[From] half of them, I never got responses. … The other half were very responsive and were quick.” Stumps returns e-mails within less than two hours, and based on its market testing is taking a wait-and-see approach to chat.
David Hochberg, spokesperson for cataloger Lillian Vernon, says that live chat “is something we plan to do in the future” but is more than a year away.