Can We Chat About Web Chat?
Red Envelope’s Helscher has practical advice for those planning Web chat: “Make sure that you understand what you’re unleashing in terms of skill sets and quality control.”
At most firms, agents who handle chat also respond to e-mails and take inbound phone calls. This is true with Lands’ End’s separate Internet group. At Red Envelope the entire call center—22 representatives in September and 115 during holiday season—is fully blended.
Single Chats vs. Multi-Chats
Some firms allow a rep to carry on only one Web chat at a time. Others have a single rep conduct from two to three, four or even five simultaneously. This decision may involve the complexity of the questions received, the skill of your staff and the speed of service you wish to give.
Theoretically, a single rep handling four Web chats at a time could result in a smaller cost per contact than four reps handling four phone calls. This may have driven some companies to encourage Web chat.
But be careful with this calculation! Make sure it works for you and your customers. If handling too many simultaneous chats results in your company delivering poor service and losing customers—the revenue losses could be greater than the productivity benefit.
Also consider that due to lag time, Web chats take longer than phone calls. Anton conducted a contact center survey and found that “on average, the live chat sessions were 1.95 times the length of the phone-based contacts.”
This may explain why contact centers handling chat often have their reps multitask with e-mail or phone calls. Rundle says that “the majority of [Lands’ End’s] agents, while engaged in a chat, can have an e-mail open and working on it. So that really helps to keep our operational costs down and bring it a little more in line with your typical phone call.” Reps use a few templated messages for greetings and such, as well as personally writing most responses to questions.