BT has announced the key lessons from research it has conducted into the latest communication channels being used by contact centres. One of the most significant developments BT has seen is the increasing use of Web chat as a channel for advisors to talk to customers. 
The research acknowledges the growing contribution of Web chat to customer satisfaction, employee productivity and cost reduction for contact centre operators.
Among its key findings the research, conducted on six contact centres in the UK and India, three of which are operated by BT serving enterprise customers and three run by other large corporations, found that Web chat creates a highly positive experience for both customers and advisors.
“With many customers starting their journey online, it is now often as convenient for them to initiate a Web chat session as to pick up the phone. Further benefits include a calmer and quieter working environment for advisors and fewer challenges due to regional accents and background noise. Web chat also provides a clear audit trail of customer conversations.”
“Due to an increasing number of companies offering Web chat to their customers, we decided to conduct research with contact centres that have deployed it and investigate the effects on both customers and advisors,” says Nicola Millard, customer experience futurologist at BT Global Services.
“We found that Web chat is considered to be an equivalent and often superior method of working compared to calls. Web chat also sits comfortably alongside social media, as it allows organisations to draw customers into a more private dialogue, where they can discuss personal details and specific issues in a one-to-one channel.
“Web chat is also perceived as providing an effective stepping stone, moving customer contacts towards Web-based self-service interactions. Our research identifies a double bonus: both advisors and customers like using it and it leads to cost savings for contact centre operators.  For these reasons, we expect Web chat to continue to grow as a channel.”
It was found that Web chat creates a highly positive customer experience, one which is at least as good as a phone call and often superior. Almost three quarters of advisors interviewed agreed that Web chat offers customers better service compared to calls.
This was attributed to the speed that customers can connect to Web chat, typically stated as one minute or less. This is considerably faster than customers might experience when dialling into a menu-driven call centre system, with its attendant transfers and hold periods. When initiated effectively, Web chat puts customers straight through to an advisor with the relevant skills.
With many customers and advisors now using social media and instant messaging in their personal life, Web chat was perceived strongly in terms of ease of use, offering specific benefits such as the ability to quickly cut and paste standard information and being able to scan entire conversations to check customer needs have been met.
Overall, 88% of advisors say they like Web chat, many of these went further and expressed very high levels of satisfaction.
Many advisors were found to be able to engage in multiple Web chat conversations at once, increasing their productivity. Two parallel sessions were normal, with some advisors claiming they could manage more.
Web chats between advisors and their colleagues were also common. Advisors suggested that these make them more effective, as they can ask for assistance in realtime while helping customers, and generate a better working environment, with greater team spirit.
From the perspective of management, Web chat is a positive development. Written conversations leave a clear audit trail and team leaders are able to easily and quickly step into a Web chat.
The big advantage is that, unlike calls, the manager can quickly scan through the entire conversation without the need for the customer to repeat themselves. This means escalation processes are far easier from both the customer and manager perspective.
“This is the first of three pieces of research that we’ll be publishing over the next month on consumer and operational trends driving innovation in contact centres,” says Andrew Small, VP of BT Contact, BT Global Services.
“In this research, we can see how Web chat is receiving positive feedback from customers who are increasingly embracing a multichannel world. Web chat is able to raise levels of employee engagement and change working practices, while being relatively cost effective compared with other channels.
“We’ve recognised these benefits for some time and that’s why all our BT Contact solutions are multichannel enabled, allowing for the development of Web chat and other channels, whilst reducing complexity and cost.”