Live chat is not a silver bullet for CX issues

Technology is too often treated as a bandage for customer experience issues.

Companies turn to software tools in the struggle to deliver great CX – particularly when those tools are popular options.

For example:

Company A is lacking when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.

Company B is doing well. Company B uses X customer-facing technology.

Company A, therefore, invests in X technology too.

The problem with this approach is that it treats ‘X’ as the magical answer to a problem – without considering the research and refinement that Company B is busy with behind the scenes.

And unfortunately, live chat software is commonly deployed with this exact ‘silver bullet’ approach to CX issues.

CX issues

To start, it’s important to identify some of the most common customer experience problems that a typical live chat deployment seeks to address.

• Long wait times

Long wait times are a major customer experience detractor. Today’s customers are increasingly accustomed to instant gratification.

When, then, you force them to wait for a reply, it creates frustration and a sense of inaccessibility.

• Poor online user experience

Another potential customer experience handicap is the usability of your website. Customers will click away if they can’t find the help or content that they need.

• Negative agent attitudes and a lack of empathy

No matter how well trained your customer service agents, bad days happen. When it’s the agent having a bad day, a single terse reply can act as an invitation to anger.

It’s not much better when it’s the customer struggling to control their annoyance. Particularly when they then post about their experience issues on a public platform like social media.

• Non-communicative customers

How can you hope to fix or create a great customer experience if customers don’t interact with you? Some customers, even when encountering an issue, won’t reach out and instead click away forever.

Live chat: a silver bullet?

Enter live chat software. Nobody can deny the utility and convenience of live chat.

Customers score the channel highly, it’s growing at rapid rates, and it allows businesses to deflect more expensive telephone calls.

Then, there’s the fact that it directly addresses multiple common CX issues. For example, live chat is real-time. So, that gets rid of the long wait times that frustrate customers.

A chat channel also makes it easier for customers to contact you when they can’t find what they’re looking for.

Meanwhile, live chat agents can reflect on messages before they send, reducing the chance of a bad mood blunder. Plus, as a private channel, any customer negativity doesn’t end up on a public forum for the world to see.

In short, chat is an efficient channel for customer communication. But efficiency alone isn’t enough.

You’re adding another customer contact channel that can inform the customer experience – and you need to manage that channel carefully.

Live chat CX issues

Haphazardly adding a chat channel without due preparation can have an adverse effect. Far from serving as a ‘silver bullet’, it may amplify your CX issues.

For instance, in theory, live chat doesn’t suffer from the common detractor of long wait times. In practice, this isn’t quite the case.

Offering live chat creates the expectation that you will answer quickly. If you don’t answer fast enough — or set an offline message when there’s no one to reply — you don’t meet that expectation.

This then becomes another CX issue to contend with. You need to live up to the live promise — or you risk hurting your customer experience further.

This applies across every CX issue when it comes to live chat. If you use the channel as an afterthought, it is just as likely to create customer frustration as it is to improve the customer experience.

It’s on you to use the features and tools available to create happy customers.

Giving a good live chat CX

In other words, it’s not sufficient to provide a live chat service. You also need to ensure that that service is thoughtfully provisioned and fine-tuned. Otherwise, you’re only adding to your CX issues, not curing them.

For live chat, provisioning looks something like this:

1. Effective queue management, well-executed canned responses, and offline settings to combat wait times and manage expectations.

2. Boosting empathetic service by monitoring agents and making use of live chat sentiment analysis.

3. Improving usability by making your chat available on every page of your website.

4. Making use of translation tools to boost accessibility.

5. Using proactive invitations to actively invite your shy shoppers to reach out to you.

The solution to your customer experience detractors isn’t the live chat channel itself. It’s the way you use it.

You’re still on the hook

Ensuring a good live chat CX doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for your other channels, either.

A well-considered live chat implementation won’t fix any problems plaguing your phone, email or social media channels.

Live chat won’t fix a terrible IVR phone tree.

It won’t stop customers publicly posting to and about you on social media.

And it isn’t going to save your email inbox.

At best, adding a chat channel will catch some of the customers that would otherwise face these CX issues. That is, it alleviates your overall customer service strains, but it won’t eradicate them.

Not every customer will want to chat. Some prefer the good old-fashioned phone call. Some only have time to send a quick email and check for a reply later. For these customers, live chat does not prove a panacea to their CX difficulties.

It’s not a silver bullet

Having a chat channel might look like the answer to your customer experience problems. It is, after all, a tool that can lend itself to fast, efficient service delivery.

But, like any tool, it can also be used incorrectly and present its own problems.

Live chat software, then, is not the silver bullet for your CX issues. The truth is that there is no silver bullet.

You can’t simply copy Company B and Solution X and win instant customer love. You have to be prepared to accept that the ultimate solution to your CX issues lies with you and your team.

It’s your strategy, your use of the tech tools available, and your desire to help the customer that will ensure great CX. Not a silver bullet.

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