With what started in the 1970s as a means for university students to internally communicate on campus, the very first live chat tool, known as PLATO, has evolved significantly into what we know as today’s live chat apps.
Customers can expect any reputable brand to include a live chat service online when agent-assisted support is required. And these expectations have only increased since the pandemic began. Without face-to-face customer service, digital customer service tools such as live chat were relied upon and quickly became customers’ preference over speaking to operatives over the phone.
Did you know, 79% of customers said their preferred contact channel was live chat?
With demand for the quick and convenient contact channel skyrocketing, the global live chat software market is projected to reach $997 million by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 7.5% from 2017 to 2023.
A Must-Have For Customer Service
Live chat can be considered as a must-have when it comes to customer service, not only does it help to provide a smooth customer journey, impacting on CX and CSAT ratings but it promotes efficiency within the contact centre.
Some live chat app providers include features within the agent interface that contribute significantly to the reduction of average handling times (AHT) and overall efficiency, therefore bringing support costs down.
For instance, AI-predictive suggestions is a feature that recommends relevant articles to the agent as they begin to enter a query. This takes place in real-time and updates on each key-press, revealing relevant knowledge articles with optimal efficiency.
Similarly, vendors that include a live key-press feed function within the agent interface produce huge reductions in Average Handling Times (AHT). As the user types their query in the live chat app, the agent sees a preview on each key-press. This often results in the agent finding a resolution to the issue before the user has hit “send”.
Further, live chat works seamlessly with other customer service tools such as a chatbot. A chatbot can automatically escalate to live chat when necessary, taking place inside the same window for great CX.
For instance, a chatbot detects that the query in question is too complex by nature for AI to handle or sentiment analysis identifies a certain word that indicates urgency. Through automation, the chatbot escalates the user to live chat eliminating the need for query repetition or sourcing a support telephone number. This significantly improves CX and streamlines the user journey
More recently live chat apps are being utilised as lead generation tools, converting visitors into leads alongside their traditional customer service function.
It means that now, live chat apps help with the entire user journey rather than solely after-sale should a query arise to do with the product or service they have purchased.
So, How Do Live Chat Apps Work For Lead Generation?
Live chat apps of today include sophisticated, AI-powered features that facilitate not only excellent customer service but even lead and revenue generation. Here’s how.
Live chat is far more accessible than other agent-assisted contact channels such as telephony or email. The time in which it takes to connect a user to an agent via live chat is considerably shorter than telephone or email which can take up to days – which by when the user might have chosen an alternative company or even changed their mind.
But, by providing real-time help and advice to leads whilst they’re hot, the chances of conversion increases.
Custom triggers can be configured that force your live chat app to launch when certain conditions are met. For instance when a certain amount of time is spent on one page or when a user lands on a specific page. By configuring such triggers and intercepting site visitors at critical touchpoints within the user journey, companies increase the chances of capturing leads that would otherwise be anonymous and lost.
Similarly, companies can set up intelligent escalations from self-service to live chat based on the keywords that are entered. For instance keywords such as “subscribe”, “buy” or “new account” indicates a lead and potential new business. By forcing live chat at these moments, companies increase the likeliness of lead generation.
Seamless Integrations Fasttrack Lead Nurturing
Effective live chat apps include open RESTful APIs that enable the two-way sharing of data amongst 3rd party apps such as CRMs. Such integrations automatically send lead data to your CRM, populating the system ready for salespeople to begin the nurturing process.
Other popular 3rd party business tools that live chat integrates with to help convert leads into customers are:
Email marketing systems
Intelligent Forms Automatically Capture Lead Data
In digital CX, when it comes to lead generation it is good practice to capture personal information at the earliest possible opportunity. This prevents valuable lead data from being lost if, for example, the connection is lost.
By including a mandatory form when a live chat conversation is first initiated, companies not only capture lead data, but if something goes wrong, with information such as email address acquired, companies have a secondary method of contact whereby user queries can still be answered, contributing to good CX.
Asynchronous Messaging Allows For 24/7 Support
Some live chat apps offer asynchronous messaging. This gives the user control over when they message the agent, initiating and continuing the conversation without it timing out. It maintains the chat history for the user to look back over and ultimately means that they can ask a query 24/7, rather than having to wait a certain time to do so.
This provides convenience and flexibility to the user, who is in control of when they submit a question or reply to an answer – particularly useful for those with busy lifestyles.
Live Chat Apps: Beyond Customer Service And Lead Gen
What is next for live chat apps?
From customer service to lead generation and revenue generation, here are just some of the processes we can expect to see live chat handle today and in the future:
Identification & Verification (ID&V)
Quotations and purchases
Augmented reality for fixing physical issues in real-time
If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about live chat, you can read our guide here or for advice on which live chat app is right for your business, please get in touch.
The requirement for self-service contact centres has only increased since the pandemic. Periods of non-contact and lockdowns meant that consumers had to learn the self-serve – so much so, that for many who are now tech-savvy, it is their preference.
Contact centres understand not only the benefits in which self-service has on their customers but also the benefits it has to overall business efficiency.
This article explores the top 5 benefits of a self-service contact centre:
Contact centre costs are considerably reduced
Resolution times shrink for better cx
Improved ESAT positively influences CSAT
Overall agent efficiency skyrockets
Continual optimisation of knowledge through feedback
1. Contact Centre Costs Are Considerably Reduced
Before self-service contact centres, getting a resolution to a customer query went something like this:
Customer visits website
Customer navigates to the Support page
Customer rings the support number provided
Customer waits on hold for 20 minutes
Customer explains their query to an operative, before being transferred to the correct department
Customer explains their query once again to the specialist operative
Not only are there multiple steps to this process, making the overall experience cumbersome for the customer, but each step that involves handling the query itself has overheads attached to it.
When we consider just how many queries a company receives each day, these support costs accumulate and can prove particularly costly over time.
Not only is this a shorter and smoother journey for the customer but it involves zero agent involvement, removing those costs associated with handling the query.
Through the automation of routine queries and even tasks such as quotes, payments and ID&V, support costs are significantly reduced for the contact centre.
2. Resolution Times Shrink For Better CX
A critical factor affecting good customer service is resolution time, the total time in which it takes for a customer’s query to be resolved – from start to finish.
As demonstrated above, there are far fewer steps in the customer journey that utilises self-service in comparison to the one that does not utilise self-service. This is because the latter relies on agent availability and depth of specialist knowledge – which can be limited.
AI, on the other hand, is available 24/7, produces automatic responses and therefore will never need to put a customer on hold to find the correct article or to consult a manager.
This slashes resolution times and is made possible through an AI derivative known as Natural Language Processing (NLP). NLP receives the customer query on behalf of the chatbot or self-service tool and by unpacking each of its components and analysing them, can understand intent. This allows the very best and relevant results to be produced quickly.
This suggests that there is a correlation between empowered employees and satisfied customers; when agents have job satisfaction, customer service is better.
But what does this have to do with the self-service contact centre?
Through powerful AI and by harnessing NLP, self-service software independently handles 20% of all routine queries online. This means that significantly fewer routine queries and tasks end up reaching contact centre agents.
Instead, with routine queries partially filtered out, the agent gets to interact and help customers with complex and serious issues. By reducing the mundane from their job roles, agents feel empowered – particularly by finding resolutions to complicated questions. It gives them job enrichment and purpose.
In short, self-service enhances employee satisfaction, which in turn can improve CSAT.
4. Overall Agent Efficiency Skyrockets
Self-service tools such as chatbots or FAQ widgets are powered by one centralised, intelligent knowledge base. This is central to the company and not only utilises AI to fuel customer service tools but also powers the interface in which agents use to resolve customer queries in the contact centre.
When a company adopts a self-service contact centre, they begin to reap the benefits of the agent-facing console, with productivity and efficiency skyrocketing.
The agent interface includes an integrated mini knowledge base so that hundreds, maybe thousands of articles of knowledge are available at agents’ fingertips.
For optimal efficiency, AI-predictive suggestions recommend relevant articles on every key-press which significantly reduces the time in which it takes to handle a query, minimising Average Handling Time (AHT) and promoting CX.
Further, for self-service contact centres that include live chat as a contact channel, the live key-press feed feature allows agents to preview what users are typing in real-time before they hit “send”. This allows agents to sometimes craft a response before the query has even been sent, reducing wait time considerably.
5. Continual Optimisation of Knowledge Through Feedback
Self-service software not only reduces routine contact levels but also helps companies with optimising the knowledge that resides within their centralised knowledge base.
By including customer feedback prompts within each knowledge article, companies can grasp an idea of whether the content is serving its intended purpose – that is, resolving customer queries or not.
The wider knowledge base analytics centre can tell companies which articles were effective or optimisable over time, making it transparent and easy to identify which require improving and which are working.
Similarly, data will show if an article is optimisable by comparing the query with the position of the article. If the article did not show as a first-page result then its keyword matching and intent will need looking into.
Here’s How Synthetix Self-Service Solves Contact Centre Problems
Over 80% consider bots and AI robotic automation to be an important function of the contact centre, yet only 48% have deployed such technology into the contact centre.
With a fast-changing, customer-centric landscape it is vital to the success of CX and general business that self-service is incorporated into the contact centre.
For expert advice as to how the self-service tools mentioned in this article can help your contact centre,
Self-Service Software for Customers: The Considerations
Rather than recommending something that should be subjective to each company’s needs, we have put together some considerations that will lead you to the best self-service software for your customers:
Does the self-service software utilise Natural Language Processing?
Is the self-service software fuelled by one centralised knowledge base?
Can the FAQ articles be found organically using search engines?
Can the self-service software be optimised for different customer journeys?
How easy is escalation between self-service and agent-assisted channels?
Can the self-service software’s content be improved over time?
Does The Self-Service Software Utilise Natural Language Processing?
Natural Language Processing (NLP), a branch of Artificial Intelligence (AI), is used to help analyse linguistics and by doing so, understand intent.
For customer service and particularly in self-service software, this means unpicking customers’ queries, analysing components such as grammar, keywords, intent and popularity to identify user intent. From here intent keywords are matched with knowledge articles, serving users the most relevant results.
Many companies consider NLP-powered self-service as essential. Not only does it provide customers with accurate resolutions 24/7/365, but it also helps to significantly reduce contact centre costs.
Because AI is capable of handling large volumes of routine queries – queries that would otherwise reach contact centre agents – the overheads associated with query handling are significantly reduced, bringing down support costs.
It can also remove the repetitive and mundane from agents’ day-to-day tasks. As AI is capable of dealing with routine queries and tasks, operators can help with more complex and ‘worthwhile’ issues, adding to job satisfaction, or ESAT (Employee Satisfaction).
Is The Self-Service Software Fuelled By One Centralised Knowledge Base?
A centralised knowledge base acts as your main source of information, powering all customer service channels including self-service software for your customers to use.
The benefit of utilising a knowledge base here – and particularly an intelligent, AI-powered knowledge base – is that it ensures consistency of information, encouraging CSAT but also helping to prevent any problematic situations that could occur as a result of inaccurate information.
The issue with having multiple channels and sources of information is that they have to be updated separately, increasing the risk of them displaying contradictory, inaccurate or misleading information on behalf of your company.
Not only may your brand’s reputation come under fire, but customer loyalty may also be affected or in some cases, the consequences of showing incorrect information could lead to legal action or worse.
Can The FAQ Articles Be Found Organically Using Search Engines?
There are a number of different ways in which a user might begin their journey. Whether it’s directly through your site or via a social media channel, it’s important to accommodate every user and their preference – including organic search engine results.
Having self-service FAQ results findable via search engine results not online streamlines the customer journey significantly, trimming time off their session and improving CX but can also help to enhance brand visibility.
So, how is this achieved?
For your FAQ result to be visible in search engine results, your self-service software provider translates each knowledge article into its own crawlable, searchable URL
Can The Self-Service Software Be Optimised For Different Customer Journeys?
Not every routine query or task has a cookie-cutter resolution or process, often there are variables and conditions that will affect the result.
Just as agents carry out the troubleshooting process by asking follow-up questions to a user’s initial query, the best self-service software does this too. Fuelled by AI and by harnessing intelligent decision tree technology, multifaceted routine queries can be automated.
By mapping out your users’ most common journeys, popular FAQs and additional questioning requirements, you can create smooth and effective routes to resolution – without having to involve human interception. All of which is achieved through an easy-to-use decision tree creation tool, knowledge articles can be dragged and dropped to fit common journeys.
Anticipating and catering to popular user journeys not only enhances CX significantly but it improves CSAT scores as users are served resolutions without having to wait on hold or repeat themselves.
How Easy Is Escalation Between Self-Service And Agent-Assisted Channels?
There will always be occasions where queries are too complex by nature to be handled using AI alone. This is where seamless escalation between self-service software and agent-assisted channels such as live chat is critical to CX.
Your users don’t want to be told: “Sorry no results found. Please contact support”, to then have to find a contact number, wait on hold and then repeat themselves. For your customers, it’s a huge waste of time.
Instead, Ensure your customer service tools are integrated, working together frictionlessly. When your self-service tools suspect that human intelligence is required, automatic escalation to live chat takes place, all within the same window to prevent repetition, improving CX.
Can The Self-Service Software’s Content Be Improved Over Time?
When it comes to self-service software for your customers, it’s important that knowledge article content is helpful and being optimised regularly.
One of the most effective ways to ensure your FAQ content is serving its audience effectively is by encouraging interactive customer feedback options. Asking users if a knowledge article helped resolve their issue can help uncover areas for improvement and ultimately other users’ journeys.
Self-service software that includes a prompt for query feedback is particularly effective when it comes to optimisation, by getting users’ take on why an FAQ did not help contributes to constant optimisation.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about self-service software for your customers, check out our guide here or for help selecting software
With the global chatbot market expected to reach $102.29 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 34.75% over the forecast period, 2021 – 2026, it’s critical that companies keep up with such CX trends and customer demands.
In this article we explore the advantages of chatbots in customer service:
Chatbots reduce support costs through automation
Chatbots enhance CX with seamless journeys
Chatbots boost CSAT through consistent, 24/7 support
Chatbots contribute to lead and revenue generation
Chatbots satisfy customers by offering smooth escalation
Chatbots channel your brand’s personality
1. Chatbots Reduce Support Costs Through Automation
Customer service chatbots are powered by AI and use sophisticated Natural Language Processing (NLP) in order to resolve users’ routine queries and tasks. Through harnessing NLP, chatbots understand user intent and can therefore serve accurate and relevant resolutions. In many ways, a chatbot takes on the role of a digital customer support agent – one that deals specifically with routine queries.
Chatbots can independently handle 20% of routine queries online.
Some chatbots enable Conversational Process Automation (CPA). By integrating with your core business tools, entire processes can be automated online. For instance, policy changes in the Insurance industry or meter readings in Utilities can take place completely online.
Now that these routine queries and tasks – that would otherwise reach the contact centre – can be handled through AI and totally online, support costs decrease. There is a myriad of contact centre costs associated with query handling that is reduced when a chatbot automates routine queries.
2. Chatbots Enhance CX With Seamless Journeys
Chatbots play an important role in the wider customer service journey. Acting as a digital CX concierge, chatbots can guide users through their entire journey if necessary, resolving queries along the way and ultimately helping them reach their end goal in the smoothest, most efficient way.
Not every user will have a query that warrants a simple, ‘one size fits all’ resolution. But not every problem must be escalated to the contact centre. This is where decision tree technology compliments customer service chatbots. They help with problem-solving common problems that often require follow-up questioning to resolve.
Managers simply map these common user journeys out using simple drag and drop systems and the entire journey is automated, providing excellent CX.
3. Chatbots Boost CSAT Through Consistent, 24/7 Support
Customer service chatbots are fuelled by one main source of information – an intelligent knowledge base. This is a library of knowledge articles that powers not only your chatbot and self-service platform but also powers the interface that agents consult when dealing with customers via live chat or directly over the phone. Because your flow of information to the public is derived from one source, it means accurate and consistent resolutions are served, avoiding problems that arise when misleading or inconsistent answers are given.
Issues for your customers will arise regardless of the time of day and for your CSAT ratings, it’s critical that support is available 24/7 for those out of hours queries. Chatbots do not need to be manned or take breaks, they are available 24/7 and rely on AI to answer queries as opposed to human intelligence.
Using sophisticated NLP, Chatbots take each user query and by analysing each keyword, user intent, grammar and popularity, produce the very best, most relevant answers. Pair this will 24/7 support and chatbots are catalysts to customer satisfaction.
4. Chatbots Contribute To Lead And Revenue Generation
Chatbots that specialise in customer service include a level of customisation that, when configured correctly can increase your lead and revenue generation.
Using custom triggers, you can determine where your chatbot proactively offers users help, whether it be once they have hit a certain high-value page or when they have spent a certain amount of time on a page.
Customer service chatbots utilise sentiment analysis that helps to determine user urgency based on the keywords they use, for example, ‘cancel’ or ‘order’. These signal that help is required, lead opportunity or even revenue generation. By proactively offering assistance at those critical user touchpoints, the chances of conversions taking place significantly increases.
5. Chatbots Satisfy Customers By Offering Smooth Escalation
There will always be occasions where customers have complex questions that cannot be solved using AI alone. This is where human intelligence and understanding is required. However, what happens all too often is users interact with a company’s self-service tools to find that their query cannot be solved there. This is when they have to source agent-assisted channels, repeat the process and their query and time is wasted.
With an AI-powered customer service chatbot, users are automatically escalated to agent-assisted channels such as live chat when the chatbot detects that the query is too complex by nature for AI to solve. The escalation takes place within the same window and transcripts are transferred to avoid any user repetition taking place.
By streamlining this often onerous process, CX is enhanced and this reflects positively in customer satisfaction feedback.
6. Chatbots Channel Your Brand’s Personality
Implementing a chatbot into your online offering is not only a means to improve CX and customer service but also a branding opportunity.
Some customer chatbots include additional search layers that can be customised to fit your brand personality. This is where any quirks or idiosyncrasies that match your culture and character can be configured.
It makes the customer journey more enjoyable, replacing the same boring responses whilst injecting a piece of your brand personality.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out how your company could benefit from customer service chatbots, you can read our guide or
Synthetix have the complete platform of customer service tools. Book a demo of any of our products below
An Introduction to Chatbots
A chatbot is a software application primarily used by businesses to facilitate customer service. Unlike agent-assisted contact channels such as live chat or telephone, chatbots rely on AI to resolve customer queries. The tool that enables human and machine interactions has become increasingly popular over the last decade, often acting as customers’ first online port of call, but how did the chatbot become so sought after?
The first chatbot, ELIZA was created in the 1960s before the term ‘chatbot’, or its predecessor, ‘chatterbot’ was invented. ELIZA was an advance in computer science but was not made with the intention to assist customer service.
Following ELIZA, there were several failed attempts at producing an effective chatbot including the likes of Cleverbot and Tay AI. What these bots had in common was unregulated training data; the way in which they ‘learnt’ was from the information fed to them by their users – the public – opposed to being configured by professionals using benchmarking and objectives. The result of which led to Tay AI’s termination following a spurt of offensive views it shared on Twitter.
Today we are familiar with a different type of bot – the customer service chatbot. Unlike other chatbots whose purpose was simply novelty – to be played with and to provide entertainment – the chatbots we are used to today are there to provide help, automating customer queries, providing good CX and subsequently helping customer service teams.
How Do Customer Service Chatbots Work
Customer service chatbots are built on AI and through Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) principles effectively ‘understand’ customer queries to provide adequate responses. Chatbots integrate with companies’ centralised knowledge so that depending on what query is entered, they can utilise smart algorithms to identify and serve the most relevant knowledge articles to customers.
NLP is the combination of Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Natural Language Generation (NLG) and is constantly learning from each customer interaction to be as optimal as possible over time. NLP is responsible for unpicking the customer query, dissecting the sentence into intent-based keywords, subjects, grammatical quirks and keywords popularity to analyse, interpret and present an appropriate result.
It’s important to note that not all chatbots offered today are powered by AI, some are built on rule-based automations. Such chatbots can only respond to queries that exactly match their pre-loaded responses, leaving no room for query variations or synonyms. The result of which is “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. Please try again” served to customers more often than a genuine result.
This is why AI-powered customer service chatbots are so valuable to business. They are programmed to understand that there are multiple ways that a question can be asked, an array of synonyms and even idiosyncrasies. NLP helps to eradicate unhelpful responses.
Some chatbot specialists include additional layers of search for chatbots to consult if query intent is unclear. Synthetix’s system, “Jabberwocky”, for instance, unpicks query sentence structure, analysing grammar and a range of word classes. Its utilisation of proprietary NLP enables brand personality to be portrayed, increases answer accuracy and ensures that the customer always receives a conversational response.
Find out about the advantages of chatbots in customer service, here.
Why Use Chatbots In Customer Service?
According to IBM , chatbots in customer service can solve 80% of all routine queries – including questions such as:
What is your returns policy?
Where is my delivery?
Can I apply for a refund?
Such routine questions make up a large percentage of overall contact volume, so when they are automated through AI and solved at scale, operational costs are significantly reduced. Without chatbot solutions in place, customer service teams would otherwise deal with routine queries, creating a backlog of tickets and an accumulation of overheads and staffing costs.
Did you know? Chatbots can save businesses up to 30% in customer service costs.
It isn’t just the bottom line that benefits from chatbots’ capabilities to automate routine queries, agents are given a greater bandwidth in which they can deal with customer issues that are complex or sensitive by nature, rather than the same queries time and time again. A study revealed that 64% of agents with AI chatbots are able to spend most of their time solving complex problems, compared to 50% of agents without AI chatbots. This in turn contributes to positive employee morale – their perceived quality of work is richer when the repetitive, mundane element is removed, promoting job satisfaction and therefore productivity.
Find out how chatbots are supporting agent morale and productivity, click here.
Customer service chatbots have a key role to play in customer satisfaction. Not only does NLP ensure that customers are served the very best results, encouraging improvements in First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates, but the channel itself is easy to use and convenient. Offering 24/7, real-time results, it’s a channel that customers can depend on, if for example, a chatbot provides customers critical information in an out of hours emergency, this of course is reflected in CSAT scores.
The adoption of chatbots also helps to optimise CX through Machine Learning (ML) principles and decision tree technology. ML principles enable chatbots capabilities to learn, store and utilise trends in customer behaviour, for example popular queries, colloquialisms or preferences are collected and then used for future interactions making the overall CX more enjoyable.
Effective customer service chatbots provide a smooth and enhanced customer journey through decision tree technology. To reach a successful result, an agent will usually ask customers a series of questions, but when there is no agent involved, how is this facilitated? Decision trees are configured so that chatbots can intervene at the problem-solving stage and ask such questions. This helps customers reach their destination result quickly and effectively, seamlessly transferring them to agent-assisted channels like live chat if necessary.
Types of Customer Service Chatbots
There are 3 types of chatbots that are commonly used in customer service, these are:
Keyword recognition-based chatbots
Menu-based chatbots use clickable menu buttons to help customers reach the result they require. Similar to the rule-based chatbot discussed previously in this article, this type of chatbot relies on one specific set of data and therefore cannot offer results based on anything outside of this. Although menu-based chatbots might be suitable for small businesses with super basic requirements, for instance providing answers to FAQs, they are simply not capable of answering queries more advance than this. As a result, the precision and efficiency of answers served suffer.
Keyword recognition-based chatbots utilise AI, isolating and analysing each keyword to determine the best results. With each query that is entered, this type of chatbot will concentrate on the keywords that warrant action, for example “order”, “account”, “payment” and verb word classes such as “setup”, “cancel”, “refund” to piece together the most suitable response for the question at hand. Keyword recognition-based chatbots, however, are not effective at recognising multiple variations of questions.
Contextual chatbots utilise both AI and ML principles, proving particularly valuable to customer service amongst a multitude of companies. This chatbot type learns and stores useful information to utilise in future conversations. By remembering certain customer preferences and behaviours, conversations with the same customer during different sessions are of optimal efficiency and CX. A large portion of time can be saved if the bot simply asks the customer if their preferences are the same this time around, opposed to carrying out the same question process time and time again.
In customer service, chatbots are not only an expectation but they can assist teams quite significantly whilst complimenting companies’ overall customer service toolkits. As chatbots are more widely accepted and businesses understand the importance of AI-powered tools, we can only expect bigger, more impressive things for the bots of customer service.
If you’d like to know more about the benefits of conversational chatbots, click here.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about chatbots, you can do so here . Or, if you’d like any chatbot advice or help with your organisational needs, please
A report conducted by the Institute of Customer Service that surveyed 10,000 people revealed that the number of complaints regarding poor customer service in the last six months was at its highest level since 2009.
It was also revealed that customers believe that companies too often use COVID as an excuse for the poor service they received.
Customers were empathetic and patient towards the disrupted level of service in which they received during the first 6 months of COVID. But fast forward a year – that’s a year to adapt, plan, fail, try again and improve – and the blanket excuse, “because of COVID…” no longer cuts it.
It exacerbates the frustration that customers are already feeling. With the lockdown restrictions easing this week, they’re (quite understandably) fed up of hearing that excuse, leading CSAT scores to suffer.
The Companies Whose Customer Service Has Thrived Since COVID
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many companies have had time to adapt and even thrive when it comes to a new era of CX. Whether it’s remote working, new technologies or improved processes, a multitude of businesses has successfully adapted and through digital transformation, are more efficient than pre-COVID times.
So where have these companies found their online customer service wins?
Wider channel choice
A blend of self-service and agent-assisted contact options
The human touch via conversational AI
Wider Channel Choice
Customers want to be able to access your help articles and agent assistance from a range of channels. When they’re on the go or working from a specific device, sometimes navigating to a company’s support page, entering a query and browsing articles isn’t convenient.
Companies that offer multichannel customer support online are thriving when it comes to CX and satisfaction. Giving customers the choice as to how and where they access help is critical.
For instance, a majority of customers’ online journeys begin with the search engine. By fuelling your FAQs with an SEO Knowledge Base, you not only help provide the best answers quickly but by streamlining the user journey, save costs and boost CSAT.
Similarly, by offering live chat options via popular social and instant messaging channels, a customer’s journey is significantly more efficient and successful.
A Blend Of Self-Service And Agent-Assisted Contact Options
Companies that are thriving when it comes to customer service, offer their users a blend of self-service and agent-assisted contact options that are fuelled by the same knowledge base and frictionlessly escalate when necessary.
Offering self-service tools such as an FAQ page, FAQ widget or a chatbot reduces contact levels to the contact centre not because routine queries have been aggressively deflected, but because users have learnt how easy and convenient it is to self-serve.
For optimal CX, ensure your customer service platform includes seamless escalation between channels. If a self-service tool cannot deal with a query due to its complexity, it’s important to the user journey that an escalation to an agent-assisted channel such as live chat or the contact centre is available. This negates the need for customer repetition and streamlines their journey.
The increased demand for conversational AI technology such as chatbots is fuelled not only by its capability to automate routine queries and processes, significantly reducing contact and therefore support costs but also customer preference.
Whilst most customers understand they are not speaking with an actual human, the human touch that is provided by conversational AI and chatbots enhances CX as they are guided through their journey.
Powerful Natural Language Processing (NLP) unravels each of your users’ questions, analysing keywords, intent, grammar and popularity to ensure the best, most relevant results are provided. Sophisticated search layers can then be configured to add elements of your brand personality.
Since the height of the pandemic in 2020, companies have had time to plan, recoup and improve their customer service operations. It is therefore no wonder that customers are frustrated to hear COVID still being used as an excuse for poor service today.
However, for the many companies that are thriving, adaptability and new technologies are key. Utilising CX software that offers customers a range of channels, has a blend of self-service and agent-assisted tools and adopts conversational AI has proven fundamental for customer service success.
If you would like to find out more about customer service software that has helped companies thrive
Whilst customers now have the capabilities – thanks to technological advances in AI – to solve their own queries online, there will always be instances where some human intervention is required. For instance, users can take advantage of self-service channels such as an FAQ portal, widget or chatbot to solve routine queries using AI, but when it comes to more complex queries that require empathy and emotional understanding, a human is required.
This is where agent-assisted contact channels are necessary. In a world where fast service is now not only expected but is arguably the new norm, waiting in long phone queues or waiting days to hear back from an email enquiry just won’t suffice in your customers’ eyes. This is why live chat for customer support is so popular, and customers’ preferred contact channel – 79% in fact!
Not only does it provide your customers with a smoother, more efficient experience, but for the contact centre, it proves significantly more cost-effective to operate than telephony and email. Telephone agents are limited when it comes to their capacity to handle more than 1 query at a time, but live chat provides agents with the tools to solve multiple queries simultaneously.
Live Chat for Customer Support: What to Consider
So, when it comes to choosing the best live chat for customer support, where do you begin? We have broken it down for you into sections below in your very own checklist
1. Does Live Chat Align with Your Customer Support and Business Goals?
Before considering live chat solutions, it is fundamental that you and your team are clear on the rationale behind why you are acquiring live chat, what it is aiming to solve and that the goals and objectives are measurable.
Then, once you are ready to begin looking for the right solution, you will be able to identify if a solution’s capabilities and features match your expectations.
For instance, if your goals surrounded improving NPS or CSAT scores then the capability to escalate and integrate would be a deal-breaker. Or, if you have a small call centre of 15 agents and are looking to reduce contact centre costs whilst maintaining quality customer service, finding a pricing model that works for a team of that size, that is fast to implement and supports remote working is essential.
2. Does the Live Chat Vendor Offer Sufficient Customer Support?
It is also important to discuss with those involved the level of customer support you might require from the live chat vendor. This way you have an expectation in which you can measure against, filtering out those who cannot offer you what you need.
This helps to manage expectations from both sides and prevents any detriments surrounding your live chat tool down the line.
For Your Customers
3. Does the Software Facilitate Escalation from Self-Service to Live Chat?
There a number of ways in which customers can reach your site, whether they are actively looking for help or stumble across a reason to ask a question during their customer journey. In both situations, it is vital that, although they might not require it, escalation from self-service to agent-assisted channels are available.
If a visitor wants to purchase something online or has an issue with an order, they might engage with your chatbot initially but come to realise they need human attention. This is where seamless escalation to live chat – within the same window – is vital. Anything less than this is poor CX.
4. How Quickly Can the Live Chat Solution Be Implemented?
It is vital that before you decide on your live chat vendor that you have discussed implementation timeframes and expectations. Perhaps you want your live chat for customer support up and running as soon as possible, or you have a timeline mapped out already.
Depending on your business requirements, live chat implementation should take a matter of days or weeks and will involve the following steps:
Project kick-off meeting
Design guidelines are discussed
First look designs are shared
Draft integration code is created and sandbox environment access is granted
Design is signed off
Final low-code integration is provided
For more on the stages of live chat implementation, click here.
5. Can the Live Chat Software Integrate With 3rd Party Applications for Optimal CX?
To ensure that your customers’ journeys are smooth and that you are always delivering excellent CX, consider your integration needs. Which everyday business tools must your live chat software connect with in order to achieve this?
Perhaps you require an integration that through live chat facilitates:
Identification and verification (ID&V)
Adding and/or updating contacts in your CRM
Adding/removing a contact from a particular mailing list
Producing certain documentation upon customer request
Whatever it may be, ensure the live chat vendor you choose offer open RESTful APIs that enables the simple 2-way sharing of data.
6. Can the Live Chat Reflect Your Brand?
Injecting your customer support tools with your brand personality is key to standing out amongst competitors. Not only is it a free branding opportunity, but it is a great means to portraying your business to the world.
Select a live chat solution that supports customisation. You should be able to customise colour schemes and add logos, as well as configuring canned responses and search layers to include language and quirks that match your brand guidelines.
7. Can It Contribute to Lead and Revenue Generation?
Whilst many businesses primarily adopt live chat for customer support purposes, it has the capabilities to support both lead and revenue generation.
Live chat solutions that include custom trigger options help to promote additional revenues and lead generation by proactively offering help during critical customer touchpoints.
You simply configure the conditions in which you’d like live chat to trigger, for example, when a certain amount of time is spent on the cart page and the customer is offered help. This could be the difference between a conversion or cart abandonment.
For Your Team
8. Does Live Chat Utilise Natural Language Processing?
Selecting live chat for customer support that is built on AI and harnesses Natural Language Processing (NLP) promotes contact centre efficiency whilst improving your agents’ experience.
Some live chat vendors include an integrated knowledge base within the internal live chat interface. For agents, this means significantly less time is spent searching through resources or asking supervisors for answers. All displayed within the same window, the agent simply begins by typing in the customer’s query and the system, analysing each keyword to understand intent, displays relevant articles.
9. Does It Include Features That Promote Agent Productivity?
AI-predictive suggestions slash handling times by recommending to your agents relevant articles based on what the customer is typing. This refreshes on every keypress and is displayed in the mini knowledge base panel, all your agents have to do is click to copy the content into their chat.
A live keypress feed similarly helps to speed up the query handling process. It provides your agents with a preview of what the customer is typing so that resolutions can be prepared often before they have submitted their queue.
10. How Easy Is It to Train Your Agents?
When it comes to live chat for customer support, training your agents shouldn’t be something you have to worry about. Choose a vendor that provides excellent after-sale care – this should include an account manager training your team in how to use their new live chat tool – from basic functionality to clever tips and tricks.
Don’t waste precious time figuring out these things yourselves, ensure experts can demonstrate them for you.
Every company’s needs will be different when it comes to live chat acquisition, however by sticking to the above checklist and using its answers as a key criterion, finding the best live chat – that utilises AI, supports a suitable pricing model, is implemented quickly and promotes efficiency – is made simple.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about live chat, you can here. Or for help selecting live chat software and advice please
Live chat is an online contact channel that allows your customers to speak directly with your company representatives. Most commonly used to facilitate customer support, it can also assist in lead and revenue generation activities.
Unlike other online customer service channels such as self-service portals or chatbots that rely on AI to generate results to routine queries, live chat utilises human agents. This, therefore, makes live chat the perfect support channel for dealing with non-routine queries that are complex and require a level of human understanding and emotion.
Live chat software has been around since the 1970s when Illinois University introduced PLATO, followed by the explosion of instant messaging platforms in the 1990s. But today, live chat is multifaceted and quickly becoming customers preferred method of communication.
First-generation live chat software, PLATO was used at Illinois University in 1973.
With the global live chat market rapidly growing at a CAGR of 7.5% from 2017 to 2023 , it’s no wonder that it’s replacing traditional agent-assisted contact channels like telephony.
Reasons Online Live Chat Is Replacing Telephony
So, why is online live chat quickly replacing telephony:
Online live chat is significantly more value for money than telephony
Customers prefer online live chat
Online live chat is more efficient than telephony
Online live chat is easy to audit
Online live chat offers proactive support
Live chat teams up with your chatbot for 24/7 support
Online live chat is the ideal remote worker’s tool
1. Online Live Chat Is Significantly Cheaper Than Telephony
When it comes to handling individual queries in the most cost-efficient way, live chat is the clear frontrunner.
When a customer rings into the contact centre for help, the agent that answers is only physically capable of dealing with that individual – they cannot multitask or speak to multiple customers at once.
Whilst it’s not feasible to have more than 1 verbal conversation at once, live chat provides the tools enabling agents to handle multiple customer queries simultaneously. When we take into consideration the accumulation of costs associated with handling a query, live chat proves significantly cheaper as a contact channel, bringing contact centre overheads down considerably.
2. Customers Prefer Online Live Chat
Your customers are used to doing virtually everything online today, whether it’s banking, booking medical appointments or even grocery shopping. These expectations don’t stop when it comes to customer service, your customers not only expect to have their queries resolved entirely online, but they prefer it. 79% of customers in fact said their preferred contact channel was live chat – the most popular reason being its instant responses.
Customers love using online live chat because it offers them the convenience and ease-of-use of a digital channel, paired with the personability and depth of knowledge available with having a 1-to-1 conversation with a skilled agent.
Live chat embodies all the benefits of telephony but with quicker, more available access.
To learn more about why customers prefer live chat, click here.
3. Online Live Chat Is More Efficient Than Telephony
Online live chat includes a number of integrated features that boost agent productivity that telephony does not.
Within the chat console, agents have access to an integrated knowledge base that provides AI-predictive suggestions. This is a library made up of thousands of knowledge articles, available at their fingertips without having the switch in between tabs, browser or windows. Chat interfaces that utilise Natural Language Processing (NLP) significantly speed up Average Handling Times (AHT), making for a better customer and employee experience. NLP unpicks the customer query on every keypress, analysing every keyword to determine search intent, offering relevant results in the same window. The agent simply clicks to copy the whole or a section of the knowledge article and pastes it into the conversation.
Some online live chat vendors include a live keypress feed within the agent interface. By providing the agent with a preview of what is being typed from the customer’s side on each keypress, an entire resolution can be built, often before the customer hits send. Not only does this reduce AHT but contributes to a great customer experience.
4. Online Live Chat Is Easy to Audit
Unlike telephony, which requires significant manual auditing, for example, logging a call and the customer’s details and queries, live chat which is solely digital, automates these tasks and processes. For example:
Reviewing query information: Conversation transcripts are automatically saved once a chat has ended. This makes retrieving details simple, rather than having to search and listen for the same details in a lengthy audio recording.
Customer metrics: Instead of manually entering data on customers, using forms, live chat captures name, contact details, landing page, journey and more.
Agent metrics: Rather than relying on manual entry of data regarding performance – which can be affected by human error – live chat automatically captures data on completed chats, average answer time, average response time and more for greater visibility.
5. Online Live Chat Offers Proactive Support
Whilst telephony is a reactive form of customer support; it responds to customers needs once an issue has already occurred, live chat is proactive.
Using custom triggers, live chat can be configured to fire under certain conditions, intercepting the customer and helping them to their intended destination. For instance, when a visitor has spent a certain amount of time on a page such as a product page or cart page it could indicate that they need help before buying. When live chat is configured to trigger under these conditions, you are proactively offering assistance which could be the difference between cart abandonment and a sale.
Triggering live chat proactively in this way can also answer queries that avoid product refunds, returns and complaints, saving you money.
6. Live Chat Teams Up with Your Chatbot for 24/7 Support
Whilst call centres generally aren’t open 24/7, live chat can still offer out of hours support with the help of an AI-powered chatbot.
Through seamless integration, facilitated by open RESTful APIs, chatbots take the reins from live chat when there are no agents available. Whilst the customer won’t be speaking with a human, chatbots that are powered by AI harness NLP and this means that a huge range of routine queries can be dealt with.
So, rather than a customer reaching a support page with no options, they are met by a chatbot that can offer help or record their details to pass on to an agent if the query is too complex – a far greater CX.
7. Online Live Chat Is the Ideal Remote Worker’s Tool
While remote working was already on the rise before the COVID-19 crisis, the practice has further been catalysed through necessity. It is predicted that remote working will stick for many companies, with 98% of employees agreeing they would like to continue with some form of remote working for the rest of their career – this includes contact centre and customer support employees.
If working from home is the new norm then online live chat conquers telephony for a number of reasons:
Agents need not worry about background noise when operating live chat
Poor signal won’t affect their ability to help customers on live chat
Live chat allows agents to contact supervisors through direct messaging, avoiding long wait times otherwise experienced through telephony
Will Live Chat Replace Telephony Indefinitely?
Whilst we are not there yet, it is possible that in the future live chat will replace telephony indefinitely. But for now, audiences still require a blend of digital and human customer service experiences. This is why omnichannel support is critical. Customers want the option to contact you how they want, whether it’s online live chat social media, WhatsApp or self-service.
Not only does live chat offer a quick and convenient means of direct communication for your customers, providing them with great CX but it proves particularly cost-efficient for businesses compared to other agent-assisted channels.
Telephone and email, for example, channels that include long handling times and asynchronous sessions prove costly. Live chat on the other hand brings support costs down significantly by offering multiple simultaneous chat options and a range of features that improve agent productivity.
Not only is live chat the preferred agent-assisted channel when it comes to reducing costs, but for customers – 79% in fact – live chat is their go-to tool for solving issues.
Reasons Customers Prefer Live Chat
Complex issues are solved online
It saves your customers time
When asked why live chat was their preferred contact channel, customers’ top answer surrounded its capability to respond instantly.
Alternative agent-assisted contact channels like telephony usually include long wait times, being put on hold and transferred from department to department. For customers, this creates discomfort and frustration – it unnecessarily dominates a chunk of their day and feels like a waste of time.
Similarly, for customers, email as a communication channel feel disjointed – waiting days for a reply to the first of what might be 5 follow up queries simply isn’t realistic, nor does it reflect positively on customer reviews or CSAT ratings.
Live chat’s ability to deal with multiple customer queries at once means that agent time can be utilised far more effectively than other channels. It means that wait times are minimal, reducing Average Handling Times (AHT) and as a result, boosting CSAT scores.
With instant messaging platforms and social media chat usage significantly increasing amongst your customers, it is no wonder that live chat proves so popular as a contact channel.
Not only do customers use messaging interfaces every day as a way of keeping in contact with others, but generation such as Millenials and Gen Z, who have either grown up using instant messaging or know no different expect such interfaces when engaging companies.
When live chat software includes features such as emojis and chat ‘history’ (chat transcripts) on a familiar, mobile-friendly, 2-way chat interface, it builds comfort and positive brand associations with your company, which in turns enhances CX.
Customers love live chat because it offers the familiarity and convenience of a digital messaging app, whilst serving them the depth of knowledge associated with an agent-assisted channel.
When a customer has a non-routine or complicated query that needs resolving, they no longer have to pick up the phone and wait in the queue for assistance from a trained agent – the query can be solved entirely online.
This is how a customer’s query is intuitively and quickly resolved through live chat:
Once the customer has engaged with live chat and the agent has introduced themselves, the customer explains the issue they require help with.
The agent interface that is powered by Natural Language Processing (NLP) analyses every keyword entered on each keypress to unpick and understand search intent.
In the same window that the chat takes place in, a series of AI-predictive suggestions are displayed, each containing relevant articles.
The agent selects the most relevant, either choosing “copy article to chat” for the whole article of “copy snippet” for a specific part of the article.
The agent hits send.
Because your agents are equipped with a knowledge base full of information and resolutions that are automatically generated for them via AI, there is no need for the customer to pick up the phone, creating a smooth and efficient journey.
Choosing live chat software that is built using AI and harnesses powerful Natural Language Processing (NLP) to offer agents AI-predictive suggestions.
It Saves Time Your Customers Time
When it comes to offering customers a great experience and satisfying their customer support needs, time is an important factor.
Telephone and email as contact channels are renowned for long wait times and often unpleasant experiences. As your customers’ lifestyles become busier and time becomes more precious, it is no wonder that such contact channels are no longer suiting their needs.
The mechanics of live chat on the other hand means that your customers can continue their everyday tasks whilst engaging with an agent and having their issues resolved. Customers can interact with agents from anywhere, whether it’s a busy outdoor space or noisy area.
Unlike telephony, the format of live chat doesn’t warrant an instant response which allows customers to multitask whilst they communicate with agents. If an agent hasn’t heard back from a customer after a certain amount of time, they can send a “poke”. This prompts the customer, asking if they’d like to continue, otherwise the session will be closed.
Get it right by:
Selecting live chat software that utilises low code; let your customers benefit from convenient online channels as soon as is possible.
Customers love the multiple ways in which they can engage with your live chat agents. Whether its through their favourite social media platform, instant messaging service or directly through your site, it’s easy and the choice is theirs.
Live chat software integrates with the likes of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp so that customers can get help with support or purchases quickly and from any device. With the utilisation of APIs, agents can see all chats within the same interface, regardless of their origin and handle them accordingly.
So, whether your customers engage with your live chat tool as a result of finding you on Google search, being escalated from a self-service channel or through social media, getting help is straightforward.
Get it right by:
Choosing live chat software that includes seamless escalation options and multichannel integration capabilities.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to know more about live chat, read our guide here or if you would like any assistance with software and implementation, please
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