The Big Difference Between Phone and Chat Customer Support

PhaseWare added live chat to its support software line-up about a year and a half ago. Since then, our wonderful trainer, Karen, has learned from our clients that there can be a big difference between phone support and live chat support.

It appears that customers who prefer live chat over phone support have a tendency to stay on the channel longer. They don't want a quick exchange and get back in touch if they need more help, they would rather keep the channel open while they implement the suggested steps and test it out. These customers want the issue fully resolved without having to come back to support and start all over again with another explanation of the problem to a new CSR.

This means that the chat channels may be open for long periods of time, hours even, without any conversation occurring. The CSRs must have incredible multitasking and memory skills to debug problems with more than one customer simultaneously. And if a chat stays open to another shift, the support desk needs an easy yet comprehensive way to pass information to the next shift so that the support effort remains on course.

At the best, the customer shouldn't even notice a change in support agents. At the least, even if they can tell there is a different CSR on the line, customers should not have to explain the problem again or be told to perform steps they have already completed or tried.

I have a suggestion:

Since scheduling support often means creating a way to staff the support center for peak and valley traffic, make it a practice for support agents ready to go off shift to spend a few minutes with the incoming CSRs to pass along information about any chats that are still active. Build a few minutes into the schedule for the overlap so there is no gap in availability to customers yet the support interaction for those already on the line is kept up. Or if it isn't feasible for the CSRs to debrief, make it a requirement that those coming onshift read through open chat tickets to get familiar with what has already been done before signalling they are ready to take over the chat.

This is very like hospital staffing where the nurses have a change of shift meeting to pass along information on patients so that quality of care is not impacted, especially for patients with complicated care. Using this method in the support center can mean that the quality of customer care will remain high while the CSRs are assured of both the ability to leave at the end of their shift and to give support without having to jump in blind.

For those of you reading this blog, what has been your experience using live chat support? Are you seeing the kind of situation outlined above? What issues have come up and how have you handled it?

I look forward to your both success and nightmare stories. Maybe we can all help each other figure out a best practice for your business.