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Live Chat is not a Panacea for UX Problems

If you’ve been on the support page of a company’s website lately, you’ve probably been introduced to a live chat widget. “How can I help you?” it probably said, from the bottom corner of your browser. There was probably an avatar of a smiling customer service representative, and maybe even their name in the chat window.

Live chat widgets have grown increasingly popular lately, as tech-savvy businesses attempt to find new ways to improve the customer experience and solve potential customer service problems. There are good reasons to turn to chat to support your customer service needs, but as with any technological solution, don’t expect a magic bullet. In this article, we’ll look at why live chat has become so ubiquitous, and explore the underlying issues it may inadvertently conceal. However, if you take a strategic, analytical approach to live chat, you can end up with far greater benefits than you set out for.

The Live Chat Revolution

From afar, it’s easy to understand why so many brands are turning to live chat widgets. As more and more customer interactions moved away from the traditional face-to-face, businesses struggled to adapt to increasing customer service needs. Phone support was supposed to fill the need, but a variety of factors, including high demand, long wait times, and constant turnover made “customer service” a dirty word for many consumers.

Enter live chat. Whereas a traditional CSR can only handle one or two calls at a time, the nature of chat allows CSRs to juggle up to four different tickets at a time. Beyond allowing businesses to hire fewer support reps (and reduce costs), chat also improves the customer experience. Users can be greeted immediately, reducing perceived wait times, and since the user isn’t tied to a phone waiting for a response, they can focus on other items while they get help, reducing the burden of the time spent.

Looking beyond live chat, artificial intelligence in the form of chatbots are poised to improve the experience even further. Response times are even faster, and demand is lower thanks to the ability to quickly filter out low-hanging fruit, whether by directing a user to the desired content or directly to the appropriate type of representative. In the best case scenario, advanced chatbots are able to prevent customers from needing to interact with a live CSR at all!

Not So Fast

Unfortunately, solving customer experience problems isn’t as simple as making support more efficient.

After implementing a new chat feature, many brands will attempt to measure its success in terms of adoption. That’s good! But be cognizant of what to expect in terms of adoption. An increase in chat usage without an accompanying decrease in traditional support calls may suggest that chat increased support requirements rather than decreased them. While the ultimate goal of a chat feature is to reduce traditional support calls and overall support interactions, it can’t do so on its own.

We encourage clients in this situation to look at discouraging data as an opportunity rather than failure. While chat adoption without a decrease in support calls could suggest that the chat tool isn’t working to alleviate support needs, what it more often means is that users who previously would have abandoned the brand’s experience are staying engaged. Given that customer support’s main goal is to allow customers to get the help they need, this is an obvious improvement to a key department. Assuming the company is able to successfully manage these cases, this increase in support interactions is likely a net positive overall in the short term. 

How Chat Data Can Help

For a forward thinking brand, live chat and chatbots are fertile sources of invaluable data. Integration of chat data into your analytics platform will allow you to visualize where these problems occur in the user journey, and estimate the impact these problems have on your bottom line. Plus, thanks to text logs and the standardized nature of chatbot conversations, mining valuable data from these services is much easier to accomplish than it is from other support sources. And once you have that data, the only thing standing in the way of using it to improve your business is you.

For starters, we recommend trying to identify the most common issues that lead to chat interactions. What trends do you see? Look for issues that can be solved by self-service capabilities. For example, can customers initiate the return process without contacting support? You may not realize it, but there are likely a number of common problems that could easily be solved by a relatively small amount of development work.

From there, look to identify any issues that customers already have the ability to resolve themselves, but don’t. This may be indicative of confusing messaging or interface. Identifying these areas will allow you to focus your UX efforts on key areas where users get tripped up, offering significant benefits for minimal effort.

Finally, look at key areas where customers engage with chat during the buyflow. This will expose common themes that inhibit the path to purchase, such as checkout issues or product findability

So What?

Live chat and chatbots are great tools for brands looking to improve customer support, but they won’t solve all your problems. Good brands use chat to make it easier to get help and improve operational efficiency, but great brands use the lessons learned from these sessions to improve the customer experience from start to finish. Don’t let chat be a “good enough” solution to the problems your users face, because while you sit on your heels, your competitors are using the data and insights chat provides to gain an advantage.

Remember, customers don’t choose to use support if they can avoid it, and needing to is indicative of larger problems with your customer experience. Your goal is to create an experience where customers have no need to call or chat, because they’re enabled to fulfill their needs by themselves. This may be a moonshot, but by taking an analytical approach to chat, you can get closer to an ideal experience.

Avatria has experience implementing a variety of chat solutions on behalf of major clients, so if you need help figuring out your support strategy, contact us today.

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