Four Rules for Implementing Online Chat

Customer Service
Customer Service

Online chat, whether voice or text, is more than just the latest fad. Customers expect immediate service online, and not offering a chat option can result in lost sales, leaving organizations one step behind their competition. The technology and processes needed to implement chat are surprisingly straightforward, as Forrester analyst Chip Gliedman detailed in his report, "Best Practices: Implementing Online Chat." He recommends following four rules:

1. Staff and organize based on business goals and value

This includes hiring and training call center representatives for writing skills and multitasking ability-unlike taking calls, agents can handle multiple chats simultaneously. It also involves scheduling the times chat will be available based on customer requests, choosing metrics that reflect the goals of the program, and routing chats to the right agents based on the problem or question.

2. Create uniform multichannel processes and policies

Ensure the experience is the same for customers who call in or opt to chat online. Keep escalation rules in place, have agents cross- or upsell as they would on the phone, and give preferential treatment to high-value customers.

3. Choose an implementation based on business goals

Chat can be reactive or proactive, automated or live. Choosing which options are right depends on the company and customer profile. In all cases, ensure customers know that chat is available and give agents as much information as possible going into a chat session. It's also important to report on chat metrics alongside data from other sources (calls, emails, etc...), and to integrate data from chat sessions into the company knowledgebase.

4. Security is a process and a technology issue

As with any online tool, keeping data secure and protecting customers' privacy is essential. All decisions made when implementing chat should keep security in mind.