How to Create Web Chat Plan
Illustration by Ilya Lestov

Customers want the ability to decide when and how they will communicate with your company. That’s old news, isn’t it? It is more like: Customers expect the ability to choose when and how they will communicate with you. And with the customer expecting near real-time communication, using web chat capabilities is a terrific option for them to get in touch with you. The question is: are you ready to support it?

Creating a blueprint for web chat success is a great way to determine a step-by-step plan for implementing this new technology. To start off, you should be asking yourself the following questions to determine if your company is ready:

  • Does my competition offer web chat?
  • Is our product or service oriented toward customers who are more likely to use digital?
  • Do my customers expect the ability to chat? Will I lose customers if I don’t offer this functionality?
  • Can web chat provide a method to upsell or cross-sell solutions that my customers want?
  • What should I look for in a web chat solution?
  • What are the ROI opportunities?

If you follow the above methodology, you’ve looked at your market space, examined your customer profile and preferences, and hopefully determined that the web chat channel is a good fit for your company’s strategic goals and vision. So, let’s look at the next phase of our blueprint.

There are multiple steps that you can take to help guarantee a successful implementation. First, you need to pick the right solution for your company by identifying features that will help you reach your goals. Here are some features and functionality to evaluate:

  • Integrate multiple channels for omnichannel CX
  • Multiple languages
  • Multiple chats simultaneously
  • Drag-and-drop responses to FAQs
  • Monitoring/recording/evaluations
  • Workforce management capabilities
  • Co-browsing
  • Video chat
  • Skills
  • Queuing
  • Reporting
  • Spell check
  • Attachments
  • Knowledgebase
  • Customer surveys
  • Process automation

Keep in mind that your initial implementation should be small, with a limited, flexible schedule. This will help you focus on quality of interactions, not quantity.

Next, you need to figure out how to help representatives be successful by training them on appropriate procedures for complex issues and how to use a knowledge-base. As you review skill levels of staff and determine staffing and training needs, you can incorporate quality monitoring processes that leverage recordings for evaluation and feedback purposes. It’s important to remember that talking to customers is a different skill than writing to them.

In terms of management, consider workforce management tools to staff, schedule and forecast the demand for chat communications. You should also be tracking the effectiveness of the web chat. Make sure you’re testing the solution fully before deployment, and have a backup plan if queues become overloaded. Monitor metrics, ask customers for feedback, and create best practices for your agents.

As you develop your blueprint, you’ll also want to evaluate the challenges other contact centers encountered when deploying web chat. As reported in the 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, by Dimension Data:

  1. Web chat provides an inherent promise of a prompt response which can easily result in over-utilized agents and affect the customer’s experience. To avoid this, apply solid workforce management and utilization models to ensure that your agents are well-prepared and you can deliver a speedy response to customer inquiries.
  2. Another common problem occurs when you deploy web chat functionality without first making sure it is compatible with other integrated functions. Just like any other assisted-service channel, web chat needs to be implemented with a holistic view of the customer journey. The chat agent needs to have cross-channel contact histories available to them and be able to add to that history from the chat session.
  3. Integration to back-end systems is just as important as the front-end integration. Utilize web chat not only on your website, but also in your mobile applications and social media sites. According to the 2016 report by Dimension Data, only 17% of the contact centers using web chat have integrated this capability into smart or mobile device apps, and only 14% have it integrated into social media platforms.

After your web chat solution is up and running, make sure people know about it! Promote chat on your website, include live help links in email correspondence, and use it in conjunction with phone calls to enhance customer experience. You can also look for new applications for web chat, both externally and internally.

Hopefully this blueprint for web chat helps you get started on your deployment. Customer expectation and demand for immediate attention continues to grow significantly, and adding the chat channel to your web site and mobile applications will help to meet some of this demand. We all know that planning is the key to success as managing the contact center environment grows more complex every day.

Happy chatting!

Janet Thalacker has worked as a strategic business consultant for Genesys for over six years. She provides strategic planning, oversight and advisory services to organizations to determine opportunities to utilize technology and refine business processes based on field experience, best practices and market trends. Janet has in-depth experience with the various vendors and technologies used by a contact center, including automatic call distribution (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR), self-service applications, quality monitoring, workforce management, multi-channel communications platforms, knowledge management, and contact management. She has over 20 years of experience working with telecommunications and contact center technologies for a Fortune 500 company.