Live customer support for online stores

Online business models are wonderful in many ways, and Live Chat is making them better. The virtual store doesn’t require an attendant, and allows even small businesses to handle large numbers of customers quickly. Web support facilities are especially important for service and post-sales follow-up. Customer can use them to help choose their new rugs, buy books, choose a payment plan, manage their stock portfolio,
pay their bills or configure their mobile phone video messaging services. For conventional businesses as well as dedicated e-commerce, online support dramatically reduces customer service and customer support labor costs and increases customer satisfaction.

In many business fields, tight competition and the need for constant interaction make excellent, inexpensive customer support a crucial component of success. Each loyal customer of a telecom or similar service represents a large investment in sales effort that could be lost to customer churn. Therefore, maintaining customer satisfaction is vital.

But until now, the virtual store and online support facilities couldn’t provide the personal touch and interactivity that is essential to good customer support.

Remote customer support and Live Chat

Existing self-service tools for e-commerce are not able to resolve many customer issues economically.

Multi-channel customer service is supposed to operated like a pyramid or funnel. By design, lower-cost customer service tools resolve the simpler problems, and successively more expensive, and less accessible customer service tools are reserved for the difficult questions.

A search engine, FAQ or Help facility is intended to resolve most of the issues at an e-commerce web site. Email is more expensive to handle, and telephone services should be reserved for the most complex questions and intractable problems, as well as catching the customers who are ready for lucrative upgrade propositions.

Too often, low cost self-service tools fail to fulfill their mission. This can result in undesirable and costly service escalations. Even worse, it can cause customer frustration and loss of customers.

FAQs almost never seem to answer the right questions, and automated forms and online help pages don’t give customers the information they are looking for. Sometimes the customer doesn’t even know what to ask, because the FAQs and searches are written in language that the company understands. This results in telephone and email escalations that are frustrating for the customer and expensive for the vendor.

Telephone call centers are expensive. Outsourcing telephone support services to exotic destinations is not a satisfactory solution. Often the wait for such services is long and frustrating. At the end of the wait, the customer may be greeted by an agent with a charming but incomprehensible accent, who may or may not have the answer to the question or the means to resolve the problem.

The challenge is to find a service channel for e-commerce that delivers live support quality at minimal cost, and prevents needless escalation and customer churn due to frustration. The answer is online Live Chat, which provides and interactive live help service, giving customers live support without the expense and wait of telephone conversations, and without the misunderstandings of ordinary conversation. With Live Chat, customer service agents can also handle several customers simultaneously, reducing labor costs dramatically.

Live Chat eliminates the super-market syndrome

A visitor to an e-commerce site is often like a bewildered customer in the supermarket. The poor supermarket customer just needs a can of baked beans, but he has to march through shelves and aisles filled with irrelevant items, because he can’t find anyone who can tell him where the canned beans are kept. The customer at an online stockbrokerage who must meet a tax filing deadline or make a crucial stock trade decision, can experience monumental frustration looking for vital information among the dozens of links, help windows and FAQs. With Live Chat, vital help, in language he or she can understand, is only seconds away.

Getting personal with Live Chat customer support

Personal customer support, warmth and individuality helps attract and hold customers, soothe irate shoppers and help everyone who experiences your customer service remember you. Live Chat provides the personal touch. Live Chat can be personalized so customers can identify the support representative. Live Chat facilities can show customers a picture of the customer service agent, so they can see who is serving them.

Beating the competition at customer support

Chances are, the competition doesn’t have Live Chat yet. Thus, Live Chat gives an e-commerce web site a distinctive competitive edge. But that is changing. Forrester research reports that about 30% of e-commerce sites have Live Chat today, up from 19% in 2001. Soon, vendors are going to need Live Chat just to be able to keep up. And of course, you will want to check out what the competition is doing periodically.

TQM for customer support with Live Chat

Every aspect of your business should be subject to constant improvement. That means that you need to be able to analyze performance from records. To improve customer support, you need to be able to analyze how your employees and customers interact. The best way to do that is by keeping systematic written records of customer support interactions. In that respect, Live Chat has an advantage over telephone conversations or live interaction, because Live Chat lets you keep detailed annotated transcripts of customer service interactions. You can see what problems keep recurring and what services customers are missing. You can also track employee performance. You can spot customer service representatives who have an exemplary approach that can be transmitted to others. You can also find out which customer service representatives need to improve their approach. Because Live Chat gives you written data, you can apply metrics to customer support and set quantitative goals. Live Chat is a tool that helps you apply corporate TQM methodology to customer service.

Customer support must become part of the corporate culture of your company and part of your TQM program. Because it can provide objective data about customer service, Live Chat allows you to reward customer service representatives who are doing a good job and make an example of them. Live Chat transcripts can be evaluated in quality circles and used to improve both customer service and the product itself.

Summing up

Live Chat is a crucial ingredient in e-commerce customer support, to give customers live support when they need it.