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Chat or Instant Messaging – Which One Owns the Throne for Customer Service?


Chat or Instant Messaging - Which One Owns the Throne for Customer Service?

The way companies handle and deal with their customer’s has been changing over the years, and this can be directly attributed to advances and improvements in technology. Now, more than ever before, clients want a personalised service where they can get a timely response to their issues and questions.


Email marketing, for instance, was used as a method to contact a lead, customer or a prospect directly. Later, there was the need to involve automation when visitors were willing to offer their contact information for a personalised experience. However, this advancement eliminated the human touch and made things incredibly impersonal.


Live Chat

The use of live chat in business communication, however, has dramatically changed this. The service is easy for a company to adopt and many customers are familiar with it from their own personal lives.


There is no doubt that managing the thousands of visitors on a site daily can be overwhelming for the companies. Statistics have it that about 21% of live chats go unanswered with the average response rate close to a staggering 3 minutes.

In this modern and ever-evolving digital era, telling a client to stay in line waiting for close to 3 minutes is not the definition of immediate response that they are looking for! The increasing demand for a service like chat has led to some particular challenges that we’ll cover in a bit of detail below.


Problem of Management

As mentioned before, the overwhelming number of live chats that most companies get per day make it difficult to manage and respond to all the customers. As a result, the aspect of being "live" lacks meaning since clients will have to wait in line.


For a business, live chat should be responsive in 30 seconds or less, but when most companies are not able to ensure this, they opt for closing their phone lines altogether to handle the chats they have. Which then begs the question, why have the system in the first place?


This can be resolved and managed by only offering chat services when you have trained resources available. It’s important to realise that chat services, similar to inbound telephone services, require prioritisation over email and social media. These are both “real time” services and as such should be staffed appropriately.


It’s not Personal

The perception some clients have is that they are more likely talking to machines instead of humans when they call companies for assistance. This is especially the case when the answer does not relate to the question asked or when the conversation seems cold and robotic. While there is definitely a future where AI plays a large role in chat services, it’s currently in its infancy and is still growing.


Issues like this can be addressed by treating a chat conversation like a normal phone conversation. Ensure that the customer's name is obtained either by your chat agent or through your initial login form and that it is used throughout the conversation.


If possible tie your chat and CRM systems together so that your chat agent has access to the relevant details and information about the client. It’s important to focus on making the conversation as painless as possible for the client so the more information you are able to gather up front the better.


Automate the Simple Tasks

While the previous point was on the importance of personalisation, there is room for automation. Pre-written templates can be used to simplify the conversation, and if you can tie these templates into your knowledge management system, you have a potent tool that can prompt your agents.


Taking advantage of technologies like this can not only speed up the resolution of issues but can dramatically reduce wait times. As your knowledge management systems become more robust, you can increase your self-help capabilities even further.


Instant Messaging vs. Chat

While many believe that Instant Messaging and Chat are synonymous, in reality, they are completely different beasts. Chat is commonly offered on websites and can provide a personalised service answering specific questions on the site.


Instant Messaging, however, is slightly different. While it also uses text as a medium, it is focused more on the “app” sphere and examples are tools like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and others.


In some respects, instant messaging has some advantages to chat as it’s not as resource dependent. With different messaging clients, customers are not expecting an immediate response – it is similar to email in this way – but it’s possible to have a conversation in real-time. Many instant messaging tools come with notifications and make monitoring a conversation extremely convenient.


Instant messaging as a whole is a more convenient option on smartphones in general, whereas live chat has a good hold on desktops and tablets. While chat is possible on a smartphone, screen real estate generally does not make it as effective.


Bringing it Together

It is easy to assume that only one option is correct. That’s simply not the case.

With customer service, you need to have multiple different channels available to your customer. Chat – when it’s appropriately managed – is an extremely powerful tool and while it only covers 15% of all interactions as the first point of contact for customers, it has not completely replaced telephone which is still majority strong. It probably never will as voice communication is often the best tool for complex issues.


Similarly, instant messaging and chat both serve a useful and complementary purpose.

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