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In Focus Consumer Credit

Web chat – the contact centre revolution

In the first part of a two-part article, we look at the value that web chat has in a modern consumer credit environment

Alexander Banks Senior forecasting analyst

Apple visionary Steve Jobs used to love quoting Wayne Gretzky’s ice-hockey philosophy of skating to where the puck was going to be, rather than where it is now. The corollary of this almost clichéd analogy is that businesses should be looking at what customers will want in the future rather than what they want now. In contact centres there is no doubt

that business leaders are viewing digital contacts, and especially webchat, to be where the puck is going to ultimately land, notwithstanding further digital development through use of WhatsApp and similar mobile two-way connectivity.

Maximising the customer journey Businesses are scrambling to upgrade their infrastructure to accommodate based on this digital rationale. There is no doubt that, across industries, customers prefer, on the whole, to use the free medium of web chat to contact their suppliers, whether they are in telecommunications, retail or utilities. In an increasingly online and mobile

environment, customers yearn, predominantly, for an ‘easy experience’, with some companies directly using some kind of measure of ‘customer ease’ as opposed to more traditional metrics like CSAT or NPS. This effectively means that the online

experience needs to be as comfortable as possible, with self-service of primary importance. Ideally, inbound phone calls should be reserved for complex queries and


In an increasingly online and mobile environment, customers yearn, predominantly, for an ‘easy experience’

complaints, perhaps with the rest falling into web chat. Companies are trying to understand how

best to achieve this somewhat ‘perfect world’ of maximising efficiency and providing a smooth and seamless customer journey.

Tolkien’s Ents Many stakeholders discuss whether the introduction or extension of web chat should be viewed in terms of channel shift, cost reduction, or merely should be designed as an enhancement of customer experience. There is no easy answer to this question and different companies with different customers may exhibit entirely different behaviour. However, in more general terms, web

chat needs to be viewed as an alternative channel rather than one which directly contributes to channel shift, at least in the short term. In this way, customers may elect to use

web chat as a first point of call, but switch to inbound voice if they feel that this speed

of contact is preferable. However, web chat does seem like an obvious replacement for e-mail. Customers may like the principle of e-mail, but, when they actually use it, they tend to be very disappointed in terms of the speed of answer, like a very slow conversation with a J.R.R Tolkien Ent, the conversationally challenged tree-like creatures within Middle Earth! Web chat resolves this, and it is fair to

say that it has to be a preferable method of communication in most, if not all instances. The only counter-argument is that e-mail gives breathing space and a chance for a more informed reply, but, arguably, this would be in rare instances across the majority of circumstances. In terms of cost saving it seems doubtful

that web chat extension will achieve this in and by itself as a one-for-one channel shift, but it really depends on average-chat lengths and average concurrency (the number of chats an advisor can handle at once) relative to the other channels in existence. Rather than focus on cost and channel

shift, companies need to make their business cases along the lines of improved first-contact resolution, improved customer ease, CSAT and NPS measures, and allow for an organic channel shift, rather than relying on any cost reduction. In many cases, web chat will mean an

increase in cost, at least in the short-term. Arguably, in the longer term, typing speed will be increased, resulting in an organic decrease in chat length. CCR

February 2016

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