If you’re in a business that offers products and services to Millennials and Gen Zers (those born between 1981 and 2012 according to Pew Research), you’ve undoubtedly considered adding a chat option to your customer service operation. 

If you don’t offer customer service via chat, your customers are probably asking for it – complaining that you don’t have it.

Then, if you do offer customer service via chat, you may have gone about it a lot like one of our clients did. You:

  • Chose a chat platform that would integrate with your website.
  • Used your FAQs to attempt to head off common questions like, “How do I reset my password?” so that the AI functionality could take care of a lot of chats automatically.
  • Setup customer service reps with logins and told them that, along with answering phones and email, they would now also be fielding questions from chat.

Maybe that did the trick for you. But, since you’re reading this report – we assume that again, like our client, your customers stopped complaining that you didn’t have chat… and started complaining about their chat experiences with your company. Jeesh – you just can’t win – can ya?

You may be hearing things like:

  • Seems like nobody is ever available via chat.
  • I waited 10 minutes for someone to answer my question.
  • The chat was obviously a bot – it kept telling me to click a link to reset my password, but that link doesn’t work.

The Risks Associated with Bad Customer Service Chat Experiences

Customer Service

The most obvious and immediate risk in a customer having a bad experience is that you’ll lose the customer.

Though it’s a bit further removed and harder to track – that customer’s negative experience with you can cost you future customers. Those people either heard about your customer’s bad experience or didn’t hear about the good experiences your customer had. Bad word of mouth is damaging. But, the opportunity cost of not impressing a customer enough that they tell their friends and family about you can be just as bad. Forget hitting a tipping point when your existing customers aren’t raving fans.

Now, with social media and hundreds of websites designed to allow consumers to speak their minds about their experiences with brands – each complaint is amplified, placing even your brand name at risk. One bad experience can quickly be scattered all over social media, review websites, and Google. A consumer study conducted by American Express found that 35% of American customers post negative comments about companies on social media. Don’t let your customer service chat give them a reason to put your brand on blast.

Improving the Customer Experience On Chat

So – yes, you’ve come to the same conclusion that we have. It’s not just about providing your customers with the option to reach your service department via chat. It’s about having an intentional strategy to improve the customer’s perception of your brand by providing exceptional customer service via chat.

That’s where we met up with our client. We had been working with them for a while, providing Sales Assistants, Researchers, and Back Office Support. They came to us with the challenge: How do we improve the customer experience on chat?

The client’s target market is Gen Z and the younger end of Millennials. They had added chat as a customer service option based on feedback from customers and complaints they were seeing on social media and elsewhere.

Their customers stopped complaining about not having the option to chat and started a new set of complaints around the experience they were having. And, it wasn’t just the customers. The customer service reps weren’t happy either. They were trying to balance phone and email and chat, and feeling like they were behind on all three, as customers bounced between channels to try to get their questions answered.

Editor’s note: We’ve specifically excluded the name of the client for two reasons: 1 – we want you to picture yourself in this position and not do what many business leaders do in thinking, “…yeah, but my business is so unique… I’m nothing like this company.” Read this for substance, learn something you can apply to your business instead of playing the comparison game; and 2 – we don’t want you and everyone else reading this report to mess up our stats by going to the client’s site and starting a chat. If you can’t stand not knowing, schedule a call. We can discuss putting together a similar plan for you and tell you the name of the client.

Identify the Problems to Be Solved

The first step we took was to dig in and figure out what the real issues were. Customers were complaining, the client’s brand was at risk – there was urgency behind finding a solution. But, until we truly understood the problems, throwing random solutions at the situation probably would have led to even more problems.

So – we grabbed all of the data from the chat platform, and all of the customer feedback we could get our hands on. We looked for trends in the data and gaps in the service and common threads in the comments.

During this process, we identified two big problem situations:

  1. When customers were seeking to chat during off-hours (outside of regular business hours).
  2. When customers abandoned chat because they had to wait too long for a response.

Define the Solutions

With those clear problems identified, we were easily able to define solutions that could be implemented:

Identified Problem
Solution to Test
Chat offline (off-hours) Expand chat hours
Long wait times Dedicate some reps to chat

Identify the Metrics to Track

Partly because we were confident that our solutions would work and that we’d be able to put together this amazing case study to share with you… and partly because it’s just good business – we identified the metrics we’d use to determine if our solutions were actually making an improvement.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” — Peter Drucker

Identified Problem
Solution to Test
Key Metric
Chat offline (off-hours) Expand chat hours Agent availability for incoming chats
Long wait times Dedicate some reps to chat Average time between chat initiation and rep response

What’s Next for Customer Service Website Chat?

Ultimately, we knew that the client wanted to see two things:

  1. Fewer complaints from customers.
  2. Fewer bad reviews circulating on social media.

But, those are lagging indicators. The complaints and bad reviews show up after the poor experience. Focusing on the “why” — why customers were complaining — allowed us to prevent the bad experience before it became a bad review.

As you’ll see in the next article in this series, keeping an eye on these metrics over the long term allows us to continue to optimize the results for the client, shifting along with their customers. If you are interested in learning more about our services and what we can do to help your business, shoot us your questions or download the customer service chat case study related to this article.