Guest Post By Scott Horn, Chief Marketing Officer of 7… You may have heard this argument time and time again: chat is a very productive channel to use when interacting with customers because a chat agent can talk to more than one customer at the same time. A skilled agent who can type quickly and who maybe has a few ready-made answers available for frequently asked questions that can be recalled with just a few keystrokes, can often run four or five conversations at the same time, if they have the right ‘calm under pressure’ temperament.
An agent without prior chat experience can maybe take only 1-2 active chats simultaneously, while an experienced agent might easily take 4-6.
Too Much of a Good Thing is (Often) Bad
So when choosing a customer engagement technology solution, driving higher concurrency is often a major goal. However, usability tests with actual agents have shown that concurrency – that is, the average number of chats that an agent can handle simultaneously – that stays at a relatively high value of 2.5 or above for a sustained period of time, leads to other success metrics such as frequency of errors and agent stress starting to slide.
While your chat vendor might advise you to target a concurrency of four or higher, the truth is that it is easy to achieve high concurrency values and still be quite inefficient. For example, a single “bad” chat with a high handling time can easily push your concurrency up by a point, but will also cause your CSAT/ NPS (Customer Satisfaction Score/Net Promotor Score) and other business metrics to nosedive.
The more often an agent makes a mistake, the longer the query will take to resolve and the less likely the customer is to feel satisfied with the result and become frustrated and annoyed. Worse, they may even decide to take their custom to another supplier and/or vent their negative feelings on social media.
Agent stress is also an issue that needs to be addressed. Our research on the impact of simultaneous chats on customer satisfaction and first contact resolution, has shown dips in ASAT (agent satisfaction) scores in line with rising concurrency. This in turn leads to more people taking sick leave and a higher turnover of employees. (Traditionally, churn rates in contact centres are around 25% per year.) High attrition rates are both bad for business and bad for morale.
There are a few cases that can possibly support higher concurrency levels, for example, less complex queries, but at the other end of the spectrum, there are more complex chat interactions such as in financial services where the query may involve the agent accessing multiple customer accounts simultaneously that always need a high level of focus.
Designing for the Metrics that Matter
The simple truth is that humans, even really well-trained and highly motivated ones, are not behaviourally suited to multitask effectively. People have a limited ability to retain information, which worsens when the amount of information increases.
The key to a high performing contact centre is to find a balance between efficiency and effectiveness. Contact centres that operate at high concurrency should track their CPH (chats-per-hour) or CPC (cost-per-chat), as well as their customer satisfaction scores, to determine the right level of concurrency that suits them best.
Too much efficiency and not enough effectiveness will send your metrics tumbling, but then so will the reverse. Too much effectiveness, but not enough efficiency will put up your costs and affect your business bottom line.
Offering live telephone support is often too expensive as an option while, in many cases, pure self-service doesn’t work either. Live chat is perfect for bridging the gap between the two and offering the assurance of live communication that customers want. With lower operating costs compared to using telephone call centre agents, live chat enables companies to provide a personalised service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Underlying all of this is one key strategic philosophy and it applies both to your chat centre and to your chat software: most software is built around features, whereas a chat solution should actually be built around the outcomes that you want to achieve.
The argument that higher concurrency leads to cost savings is a myth. Pushing higher levels of concurrency will negatively impact the metrics on which a chat program is measured. Rather, you would be better off focusing on metrics such as chats-per-hour or cost-per-chat that measure effectiveness and outcomes.
Your chat solution should:
• Drive significantly higher levels of incremental sales and conversion, CSAT/NPS and First Contact Resolution than legacy providers.
• Drive agent productivity through action oriented analytics that helps you achieve a high-performing contact centre.
• Systematically increase preference and adoption of chat among your customer base compared to the phone channel.
About Scott Horn
Scott joined 7 in 2015 as the Chief Marketing Officer and brings over 20 years of global marketing experience with leading technology companies.
Prior to joining 7, he was the VP, Global Marketing for Seagate Technology, a global storage technology leader, where he drove revenue with a redesigned product line strategy, focused digital and demand marketing efforts on enhancing customer acquisition and loyalty and spearheaded the company’s rebrand from a component manufacturer to a technology solution provider.
Previously, he spent 17 years in Seattle at Microsoft in marketing and product development roles across various lines of business, including Windows Phone, Windows Embedded and Developer Tools. Scott was a software developer for several years and holds both a BS in Information and Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business.
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