After Hours

10 things you should consider before implementing a chat support program

Live chat has become a valuable tool for help desk reps. These 10 pointers will help make your chat initiative successful.

The way we work has changed dramatically in recent years. Along with the rise of mobile, BYOD, and other trends, new generations are entering the workforce and bringing with them a different approach to technology. IT support has evolved in a number of ways to address this new way of working, including the ability to offer support via live chat.

With messaging far outpacing phone calls, live chat is an important means of communication for any service desk. But you need to know where you are heading before you leap into this mode of client communication. Following are a few considerations that will help successfully implement this new channel to bring value to users, reps, and the organization as a whole.

1: Have a plan

This may sound like a basic tip, but it's important to have a plan -- not just for which issues you want to handle via chat, but also for how you will begin to push the support volume to the new channel.

2: Develop a roadmap

It's unrealistic to expect everyone to adopt the channel right away. Setting milestone targets will help you evaluate adoption progress and identify any issues or challenges that might be hindering more widespread adoption.

3: Publicize the program

All the planning you do at the outset is irrelevant if you don't let end users know about the program. There are a number of ways you can promote the new channel, but one of the most critical is ensuring that it is publicized as part of the existing support model. For example, you might have an automated recording directing callers to the live chat link when waiting for support by phone.

4: Train the reps

Addressing support requests via chat is different from more traditional models, as it enables reps to handle multiple sessions simultaneously. Make sure your reps are comfortable with multi-tasking and are familiar with the program's capabilities before you launch. It's essential to spend sufficient time training your staff -- and hiring additional reps if needed -- to make the program a success.

5: Optimize your staff

One of the benefits of live chat is the perception of immediate support. If users are unable to get through or have to wait a significant amount of time, they will default to another channel already disappointed. When preparing to launch a chat program, make sure you're properly resourced to keep wait times to a minimum.

6: Use scripts

Live chat may be an emerging support channel, but it can still benefit from the predetermined scripts utilized in phone support. Particularly as reps are becoming familiar with handling multiple sessions at the same time, having scripts for frequently asked questions can be an invaluable tool in getting them up to speed quickly and ensuring efficient end-user support.

7: Personalize

While scripts have many benefits, it's important not to lose the personal elements of phone support when you implement live chat. Support reps should modify scripts to add personalization and address exact concerns. They should also be sure to listen carefully to users' problems before throwing an answer their way.

8: Make it intuitive

As mentioned above, mobility is a key driver of today's changing support needs. Making it easy for users to initiate a chat session from their device of preference will ensure greater adoption.

9: Take advantage of user surveys

Feedback can be extremely useful in improving your program. Institute a survey at the end of every session to obtain details about the individual's experience and use the information to make improvements and further hone the program.

10: Get rep feedback

In addition to polling the user community, be sure to connect with your IT staff about their experiences. As the frontline reps utilizing the program, they can provide valuable insight into how it can be improved and help identify other issues that could be handled via the chat program.

Making it work

With the above considerations, organizations not only have the tools they need to successfully implement chat, they are also well positioned to continue improving the program to address users' evolving support needs.

About the author

Greg Cowart is Business Solutions Manager at Bomgar.

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4 comments
phil.hawkins
phil.hawkins

Scripts? NOT a good idea. Nothing is worse, as indicated above, than to tell a chat person you did several steps only to be told to do those steps you just said don't work. Wrong idea.

lkarnis
lkarnis

Nothing is worse than waiting (seemingly for ever) as the remote support rep takes forever to type a reply only to have the reply be a request for information you already provided. I've given up on remote chat support because it would take 1/10th the time to simply speak with them, explain the problem and get it fixed. IMHO remote support reps shouldn't be allowed to work unless they can type a minimum of 25 words per minute (that's less than 1 word every 2 seconds or about 2-3 characters per second). FYI anyone who passed grade 9 typing class can do 40-50 words per minute.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

All the items mentioned in the original list become meaningless, when the chat person does not understand US idiomatic English when responding to a US caller. Yes, the third-world chat person may understand English, in a very highly structured and formal academic setting; but, when they don't/can't understand US conversational English...one might as well be speaking a foreign language. As for using scripts, they can be helpful. But, and this is a huge "but," don't have the agent try to force all the world's problems into 1 of 5 choices. (Just experience most of the IVRs in use by large corporations. Where is the "other" choice?)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

" when the chat person does not understand US idiomatic English when responding to a US caller." This problem isn't limited to English. Idioms, slang, and other casual, informal, common practices can be a problem regardless of the language the caller is using.