Insights|Why One-in-Three Consumers Now Use Online Chat  

Why One-in-Three Consumers Now Use Online Chat  

Thanks to its immediacy and accessibility, new Sitel Group® research details how chat is now firmly established as a foundational element of delivering a positive customer experience, especially among female consumers.

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by Sitel staff January 2, 2023 - 4 MIN READ

According to the latest Sitel Group research of consumer sentiment in Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S., one-in-five consumers now prioritize online chat above all other channels when looking to engage with a brand and, over the past year, 33% of customers have used the channel to connect with an organization.  

At a territorial level, chat is most popular in Brazil, where 29% of consumers describe it as their channel of choice, compared with 13% who prefer email and 11% who put the phone in first place. While at a demographic level, chat is most popular among 25-44-year-olds, with one-in-four declaring it as their channel of choice. 

The findings form part of “Sitel Group® CX Landscape 2022: Evolution or Revolution?” a new whitepaper that examines the current state of customer experience across six countries and the elements of CX that are growing in importance with consumers as behaviors change and trends develop.  

Chat is Integral to Digital CX  

As digital assets become integral to CX delivery, any touch point or feature that can simplify navigation or user experience is growing in value. For instance, 35% of consumers would seriously consider leaving a brand if that organization’s website experience wasn’t good enough. Likewise, 52% believe that an easy-to-navigate website is an attribute of a positive customer experience. 

The fact that a chat window can be on any website page and signal to the consumer that support is at hand means that it, too, is an integral element of the digital customer journey and the online customer experience. It’s why 38% of consumers equate the provision of online chat with a positive CX.  

Because it’s available in the moment and can provide immediate context to a question, query or issue, is one of the reasons why it has overtaken the phone in the U.K. to be the second most popular form of communication after email. What’s more, it’s a channel that resonates with female consumers — 42% of female respondents consider chat crucial to offering a positive CX, compared with 33% of male respondents.  

Female Consumers Prioritize Chat  

In the U.S., chat is the channel of choice for 21% of female respondents compared to 13% of male respondents. These numbers jump to 33% versus 25% in Brazil, and in the U.K., there’s a 10-percentage-point difference (27% versus 17%). In fact, France is the only country in this year’s study where female respondents don’t express a greater preference for chat than male respondents.  

As such, there’s a clear benefit to providing chat as a means of engagement, especially for brands with an international reach. However, for the best results, organizations need to offer chat as part of an omnichannel approach to customer experience. They should focus on establishing and adhering to a set of best practices so that the experience doesn’t disappoint.  

Recruitmen 

Delivering a positive CX via chat is different from meeting customer needs through voice support. As well as being able to handle concurrent conversations, chat agents have to express understanding and empathy in written form and need to be able to recognize a customer’s emotion and sentiment simply through that person’s choice of words or typing speed. There can be a temptation to move phone agents to chat, but unless they have the right training, the result will be disappointing. Recruit for the role and support agents with the right training and coaching.  

Rate of Concurrency  

Chat is a real-time channel, so waiting times must be kept to a minimum. A customer shouldn’t have to wait longer than 45 seconds for a conversation to start. Once in progress, aim to reduce pauses between responses to no more than 30 seconds. For this reason, it’s important not to set overly ambitious concurrence targets. Chat agents can handle several conversations side by side, but attempting to engage with too many customers at the same time will lengthen average handle times, and could lead to substandard service, especially if customer issues become confused due to incorrectly communicated information. 

Clear Communication  

Clarity is just as critical to chat in terms of customer satisfaction as a telephone conversation. For agents that means it can be necessary to over-communicate and provide cues to the customer between conversational turns. If an agent needs to take time to research a point or to speak to a manager, the customer needs to know what’s happening.  

Pre-prepared and canned responses can make a genuine difference in such circumstances, and this is partly because they don’t sound like a one-size-fits-all answer, as long as they’re used in the context of a broader interaction that’s focused on the individual.  

Eliminating Confusion  

Chat’s ability to eliminate certain conversational turns — such as establishing an initial rapport or making formal introductions — can be both a benefit and a hindrance. While it saves time and enables the agent to address an issue quickly, it can also make it harder to ensure that the issue in question is fully understood. Clearly, a customer shouldn’t be asked to repeat a piece of information already provided, but at the same time, the meaning or intent within a written conversation is open to interpretation. As such, it’s important to slow down sufficiently so that there’s absolutely no ambiguity about the issue at hand and the steps needed to resolve it.  

As with all other elements of CX delivery, chat performance needs to be carefully monitored and judged against metrics. Track first response time, average chat time and first contact resolution. Also look at after-chat work and agent availability, and measure the findings against direct feedback from customers such as with customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys or voice of the customer (VOC) programs.  

To better understand consumer channel preferences and what it means to get CX right, read our latest proprietary research findings in our whitepaper “Sitel Group® CX Landscape 2022: Evolution or Revolution?” 

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