Measuring the customer success of live chat: Tips, strategies and best practice

Graham is an experienced editor and journalist. He is the founder of Media-Insert Communications; the former editor of The Marketing Leaders, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Technology group’s e-magazine; and a former guest editor of BT (which is now known as and owned by SIFT Media). He began his journalism career began while studying for his MA in Online Journalism at The Nottingham Trent University in 1999, writing for The Nottingham Evening Post and City Lights magazine. Since the year 2000 Graham has specialised in technology for marketing. However, he has also covered topics like world finance, foreign direct investment opportunities in the Middle East, education, mobile telecommunications, unified communications, education, human capital management, enterprise technology markets, and IT certification.

Online marketing offers many advantages over its traditional brethren from a metrics perspective. You can, for example, examine click-through-rates to a promotion, to a blog or to an article to your website, and with eCommerce you then analyse whether that online interaction has led to a number of sales. At the core of this marketing effort is also the ability to collate customer data, which can be used with the help of a customer relationships management (CRM) system to learn more about your customers to improve sales and customer service to develop profitable customer relationships.

To achieve the same level of data collation and analysis with traditional offline marketing techniques would take much more time, effort and money. It’s also often said that customers have become more demanding because the vast majority of us is able to connect to the internet while on the move via our smartphones, tablet devices and laptops. This customer requirement for immediacy therefore brings us to the benefits of offering live chat as one of the ways for offering them an omnichannel experience, and to improve the ability of companies to resolve customer queries and issues.

Live chat: Important benefits

CRM consultant Patricia Jones therefore writes in her article for CustomerThink magazine, ‘Live Chat Software Metrics for Measuring Performance Using CRM Database’: “Live chat support…carries some …important benefits. Recent research shows that 79% of businesses that provide live chat support say that they have received positive impact on their sales, revenue, and customer loyalty programmes by implementing live chat facilities on their websites.”

Live chat can therefore be used to measure ‘customer success’, and integration into a CRM system could also prove to be advantageous to the point of allowing you to find ways to develop long-term customer relationships with loyal customers that may buy more of your products and services.

Gemma Baker, marketing executive at Click4Assistance, adds what her view of customer success means. “Customer success, in my opinion, is what the customers get from the live chat service," says Baker. "More consumers are using this instant communication channel over other contact methods, and they are leaving with a positive experience.

"This may be because all their questions have been answered to their satisfaction, which may lead them to to buy a product or book a service. Such positive experiences, and good customer service, that lead to results can therefore be defined as a success.”

No complaints

"The measure of customer success is a lack of customer complaints and the completion of the customer journey – customers getting the response they want," adds David Bate, managing director of Call Centres Group.

“From our perspective we continue to keep our customers and they continue to pay us. The system evolves and gets better, and we are going to bring in artificial intelligence. Another way to measure success is the number of completed orders via live chat. That’s what our customers would consider to be success. We need to be reasonably priced without being extortionate too.

His colleague Lucy Kitson, relationship manager at Your Business Voice Ltd, adds: “If the query is resolved, then that’s a measure of customer success. Customers might define success as value-add.”

“It’s very important to measure the customer success of live chat to identify any pain points that may exist, and to improve the customer service they provide”, advises Baker before commenting: “Without regularly analysing the performance of live chat, the channel could only be running at half potential and never be fully optimised.” With this optimisation organisations should be able to reduce the number of complaints while improve customer satisfaction levels.  

CRM system integration

As for CRM integration with live chat, Bate finds that none of his clients back-up their data to a CRM system at present. However, he sees this becoming more important. “In the call centre, with the call handling we’re putting more into CRM systems, but we don’t have a lot of experience in it with live chat handling.” Kitson adds that most of the data extraction and analysis is done manually, but application programmable interfaces can be used to integrate live chat with CRM systems.

It’s not mature enough, and it’s financially viable in our experience to deploy a CRM system for the moment”, says Bate who also advises that companies should retain their telephone numbers and customer enquiry lines to avoid creating customer frustration and customer attrition.

Customer satisfaction

“I think the most important customer success metrics for live chat is the customers’ satisfaction with not only just the agent(s), but with the service as a whole”, Baker argues. She says that customer feedback is also essential, enabling organisations “to ensure their chat channel is meeting customers’ expectations”. The measure of this will come from regular analysis, she says, “to ensure that live chat operators are performing as they should be.”

In her view the other metrics that are used to measure live chat customer success include:

  • Waiting times are only applicable if queuing is used and/or operators have to leave visitors waiting regularly to find information out
  • Chat duration depends on whether the organisation is more interested in getting through enquiries as quickly as possible, as some organisations can spend over an hour advising someone for it to become a beneficial or high value conversion (e.g. universities recruiting international students)
  • Total chats per day, this is a metric that only large organisations measure, they benchmark this to see seasonal trends, or comparisons with other contact methods
  • First contact resolution rates are one of the metrics that is likely to count towards customer success, however the results are affected by if the chat is routing through to the correct departments, the correct type of enquiries are coming through the chat channel, and the right people/teams are operating the service
  • Conversion rates, this is the next metric that can be used to measure the customer success of the live chat service, as if customers are happy with the information provided in chat, they are more likely to convert. Customers are four times more likely to make a purchase after having a live chat

Some of the aspects of measuring customer success are intangible, and so there is a need to assess things such as their emotions and motivations before during or after each live chat session. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including with pre-chat forms and post-chat surveys.

Post-chat surveys

“Post-chat surveys are the best way to capture the intangible aspects of live chat”, claims Kitson before adding: “In terms of emotions, it’s a tricky one. You can see what a person is typing before they press send, and this may give you an indication as they may alter their tone or wording as they are typing. Before that chat, the person can fill in a pre-chat form to say what’s the session is about. This may include how they are feeling.”

Live chat and chatbots

Kitson and Bate says that 24-hour coverage is becoming critical because live chat isn’t always switched on. Customers want their queries, issues and complaints addressed immediately, and so the resolution response rate is a crucial element of customer success. The answer to achieving this is to integrate live chat with chatbots, and to use a CRM system or knowledgebase to capture much of the data created as a result of each interaction.

Bate says innovation is important to his company, and that includes the use of chatbots in support of live chat: “I am looking at chatbots at the front of live chat to respond to the obvious questions, but when the bot gets into difficulty a live chat operator will come in. This will reduce our costs. That’s the sort of innovation that I’m looking for to go out into the market for our clients.”

The customer success metrics for chatbots won’t be dissimilar to those involved in measuring outcomes and agent performance of live chat. However, it should therefore be remembered that chatbots use machine learning, and so they may not always have the right answers.  For this reason, it’s important to use a combination of channels, include human live chat operators.

Customer success tips

Baker, Kitson and Bate all believe that it’s possible to achieve customer success with live chat as part of an omnichannel experience, and to help you to achieve they offer the following tips:

  • Understand what your organisation wants to achieve with live chat (reduced phone calls, increased productivity or sales)
  • Ensure you can measure this by collating information from various platforms, and where possible integrate live chat with a CRM system to make your data analysis more efficient
  • Analyse live chat data and performance statistics regularly to help you to make amendments where necessary
  • Offer instant satisfaction with live chat, making customers feel they’re talking to an expert. It may not be the answer the customer is looking for because it may be a policy decision. Customers aren’t necessarily going to get the answer they want. However, that could lead to another conversation
  • Ask customer to complete surveys to gain feedback, including complaints which are a measure of customer success.

Two final pieces of advice, which can also be used as a measure of customer success, include the need to address any frustrations that prevent live chat from being efficient and effective. By dealing with them you can increase customer satisfaction – and even sales. Kitson and Bate also stress that customer patience is finite. A failure to respond quickly enough will only increase your customer attrition rates. While they won’t be good for your company, they may be good for your competitors. So, don’t keep your customer waiting and make sure you don’t make them repeat themselves.  This does nothing for customer satisfaction, and that’s the key metric that leads to customer success.

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Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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