Putting together a successful live chat support department is certainly a challenge. You need to put every piece together very carefully to produce the desired results. There are many factors to be taken into account beyond just the technical details and you cannot compromise one factor for the other in this process. We have already discussed in the other posts, the technical details and setup of live chat support including choosing the right chat software. You might have all these factors perfectly in place but still if you do not have the chat agents with the right qualities to compliment the software that you are using then you may fail dismally in providing dependable live chat support to your customers. Recruiting the right agents is very crucial here and you should put in place highly effective recruitment process to pool in the right chat agents into your team.
Are your chat agents creative people?
Are you surprised and wondering how or why creativity is important for the chat agents? You are not alone, more than 90% of the business owners give least importance to the creativity of the chat agents. They do not even consider it as one of the factors to be taken into account when selecting their chat agents. However, when you think of it, more than any other job, being a chat support agent calls for lot more creativity. Even though the support manuals will give the agents knowledge about the products and answers to the most common questions, there is no guarantee that the users’ problems be limited to the ones that you have listed in the training manual. Users could ask just about any question and on the spot, the chat agent should be able to respond to the questions of the users without any problem or without making the user feel that the chat agent is ignorant. This calls for a very high level of creativity. Chat agents who lack creativity will make the users feel that they are dealing with some automated bots. If you do not want your users to get that feel then better look for chat agents that have good creative skills. Such agents will be able to present even the most difficult messages very convincingly. Moreover, such agents will be able to resolve the customers’ issues very efficiently. Creative chat agents will be able to put their customers at ease faster no matter what the customers’ problems are. Creative chat agents are certainly a great asset to the company and to the chat support team. You should try to engage more such agents and should not let experienced chat agents with creativity to leave the team.
When you are selecting your chat agents to assess their creativity, throw tough situations at them to see how effective they are in handling them. Select only those candidates who exhibit a very high level of creativity in resolving the test situations.
How responsible are your chat agents?
You will need chat agents that are creative and also highly responsible. Having agents with a high level of creativity, but a poor sense of responsibility then you are going to have problems with impressing your customers. They should have a sense of ownership when they are handling their chats. If they do not have this sense of ownership then their responsibility level will certainly be questionable. It is therefore important to choose chat agents with a very high sense of responsibility.
Even the most responsible agents will end up acting irresponsibly when they are not adequately motivated. You need to therefore ask how to keep your chat agents motivated so that they have a very high sense of responsibility. Unless you have made a real bad mistake while selecting your chat agents, most of the chat agents will be responsible. You just need to ensure that they remain so even after the first three months or after a year.
Responsible agents would not mind going out of the way and beyond the call of duty. If at all you need one quality that will make your chat support service stand out from the rest, then it should be a team full of highly responsible agents.
Openness to learn
No matter what kind of training you give your chat agents, they will still be raw when they start. They will need to be seasoned and there will always be a gap between what is required and what they are. This gap will have to be closed over a period of time, which will happen only when your chat agents are ready to learn. Real life chat situations will teach them many things that they have not learnt during the training or the orientation program that they have been subjected to before they went ahead with providing the live chat support. If they are open to learning, every day will bring them several new lessons.
You need to set up regular meetings on a weekly basis to help your agents assimilate their learnings so that they could improve the quality of the support that they offer their customers.
Dedication To Help
It is one thing to work for a salary and totally another to be dedicated to help customers. Of course, every chat agent that you recruit is going to ask what is their pay package but beyond the salary package, they should feel dedicated to help customers. It is hard to find chat agents that could go beyond the pay package and help the customers. It is more about creating an environment whereby your chat agents exhibit the highest level of dedication. This will show in their attitude when they are helping customers.
Ability To Troubleshoot And Solve Problems
Problem solving skills are very crucial for the chat agents. Your chat agents should be able to deal with problems and give appropriate solutions to your customers. The customers that come on chat are going to be stressed and they will pressurize the chat agents. The agents should be able to think clearly no matter what kind of pressure the chat agents put them through. There is no running away or escaping from such pressurizing situation. One user after the other may come on chat creating increasingly stressful situations to the chat agents. They should be able to remain composed and continue to help the customers.
Ability To Anticipate
An experienced agent will be good at this. They will be able to anticipate the questions from the customers that come on chat based on the pre-chat survey that they fill in and be prepared with the responses for all possible questions the customers are likely to choose. This helps the chat agents to not only respond faster, but also impress the customers with their efficiency.
To help the chat agents to improve this quality, you will need to put them through a number of test chats whereby the agents are exposed to varied simulated situations. This should not be stopped with the training phase, but it should be made a regular process or as on the job training.
Given the fact that your chat agents could make or break your business, you should give utmost importance to training your agents. You chat agents certainly need much more than just the technical skills to be successful as chat agents. Very often, companies during the recruitment process or during the training phase do not pay attention to the above factors. It is often thought to be enough to get a good chat software and to put the chat agents through rigorous training to deliver excellent chat support. Little do we realize that both chat representatives and the customers are human agents with various dynamics that could not possibly be limited to manuals, protocols and rules in the manuals. Top companies understand the importance of the above factors and give equal attention to them while selecting their chat agents and training them. If you have been ignoring these factors all along either because you did not know or because you did not know the importance of these factors, then it is high time that you started working on these factors too.
What needs to be done?
As you could see it is not all that easy putting together a live chat department. Right from selecting your chat software, recruiting the chat agents, training them and keeping them in good shape all through is highly challenging. How do you handle this challenge? What needs to be done?
Here are few things that you could do to create the perfect environment for your chat department keeping in mind they are the backbone of your organization and the first representatives that your customers will be meeting when they come your brand online.
Create impressive career path within the organization
To make things interesting for your chat agents create an impressive system of hierarchy whereby the chat agents will be able to move up the ladder and get a feeling that they are growing in their career. This is where most of the businesses make mistakes. They will have just a team leader and everyone will be reporting to the team leader. In many situations the customer support manager will be handling not only the live chat support but other customer support divisions too such as email support and telephone support. So for those who are working in the chat support team, there is not much scope for growth. They do not see any visible path for career growth and this will make them less dedicated over a period of time. They would come to job for the salary and they would not want to do anything more than what is expected because they do not have a reason to do so.
Create multiple levels among the chat agents such as level 1 level 2 and so on before they could move up to become a team leader. Give additional responsibilities to the chat agents that are capable so that others will come forward to showcase their talents too. Remember that it is in your hands to create the right environment for your chat agents improve their performance and to remain as a high performance team.
Think Of Outsourcing As Your Chat Support Model
If you think that you will not be able to focus too much on running your chat support department because your main focus should be on something else, then you should consider other options. You should not hesitate to consider outsourcing your chat support needs to third party service providers. This will take the entire load off your shoulders, giving you more time to focus on the core business functionalities.
There are a number of reputed chat service providers that you could consider. When you outsource your requirements to such chat support companies, they will take care of all aspects of the support. You need not have to worry about selecting the best software for handling the chat. The chat support company will make sure that they choose the best quality software for the chat because they will have to support not only your website but they need to support a number of other companies too.
Training the chat agents will not be an issue either. Your outsourced company will train the agents on your products or services. When the chat agents are not performing well, you could just escalate the issue to your service provider and they will take care of the rest. Number of top companies find this model to be lot more effective and economical. You will save both time and money when you outsource your chat needs to third party service providers.
Retaining an in-house team for chat support will be expensive for small and medium sized enterprises. The hassles involved are many in running your own in-house chat team.
In case you should choose to outsource your chat support needs to a third party service provider you should consider few key areas to ensure that you are entrusting your needs to a dependable company.
Check what kind of chat software they are using to support customers. Your customers will not know that they are dealing with a third party service provider. If the chat interface is not good or up to the standard, then it will reflect badly about your brand. You should test the chat facility yourself to understand what it feels like and what your customers are likely to get when you use their service.
Secondly, you need to check whether the chat operators will be fully dedicated to supporting your brand or whether they will be supporting other brands too simultaneously. Do not think that this does not happen in the industry, certain companies offer cheaper packages to customers make their agents support more than one brand simultaneously.
How many chats will the chat agents handle simultaneously? You should get such details in writing because to reduce the number of resources the chat agents will be asked to handle more than four simultaneous chats. To simulate the effect that there are more operators, they will use multiple computers to log into the chat interface backend. So when you check the status will indicate multiple operators. You need to be mindful of such dubious operators, so that your interests as a customer are not compromised. You should get the best value for your money, which will happen only when your customers get excellent support without having to wait for too long before the chat requests are accepted.
Review the reputation of the chat support company before signing up. They should have been in the industry for a number of years, at least long enough to review their history. In other words, they should have some history that you could review.
Whether you are going to handle the chat support team yourself or you are planning to outsource, you need to constantly monitor the quality of the chats handled by the chat agents. It is important that your chat agents are also aware that the chats are being monitored. This will ensure better quality chats. Furthermore, it is not just about monitoring the chats, you need to send regular feedbacks to the team so that they could work on rectifying the issues continually perfecting the chats.
Start collecting data and you will need these metrics to make changes based on evidence. If you are not going to work on the above factors continually you could end up providing mediocre chat support to your customers.
Set targets to be achieved by your team. One of the main targets for the chat support team should be increasing the customer support level. You could assess the customer satisfaction rate through post-chat surveys and by reviewing the chat itself. You could look for indicators in the chat that point to customer satisfaction.
You need to understand that it is not just a one-time task, but an ongoing requirement to monitor your chat support and its quality to deliver the best results.