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LIVE CHAT COMPARISON A Goal-driven Approach to Chat Vendor Selection By Diane Clarkson, North Tea Consulting Sponsored by LIVE CHAT COMPARISON TAB...

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LIVE CHAT COMPARISON A Goal-driven Approach to Chat Vendor Selection By Diane Clarkson, North Tea Consulting

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LIVE CHAT COMPARISON

TABLE OF CONTENTS I. Introduction

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II. Chat in Today’s Marketplace

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III. Identifying Your Vendor Consideration Set

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IV. Prioritizing Your Objectives

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V. Selecting a Vendor

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VI. Conclusion

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I. Introduction Selecting a live chat vendor can feel like evaluating dizzying lists of features – each feature-set will help achieve a goal. But the challenge is to determine the features that will help you achieve your goals. Live chat can achieve many results, like driving sales conversions, reducing shopping cart abandonment, enhancing customer experience and improving operational efficiencies. Whether live chat is new to your organization or you are looking to deepen the channel with a new vendor relationship, this paper will help you take a goal-driven approach to chat vendor selection. The first step is to identify your consideration set. We will present four key considerations that will help you determine which vendors warrant deeper attention. The next step in a goal-driven chat vendor selection process is to prioritize your organization’s chat goals for today and the near-future, then map these goals to leading chat vendors’ features. This approach will ensure that you identify the chat vendor that will help your organization achieve its objectives.

II. Chat in Today’s Marketplace Consumer usage of live chat has increased considerably in the last three years.a In 2009, 30% of online consumers had used chat; by 2012, this number rose to 43%.1 Chat adoption is driven by two forces: customer satisfaction and expanding availability. Among all online channels, chat has the highest satisfaction score for many reasons: consumers can engage with a real person in a channel that is faster than the telephone, multitask, remain anonymous, have a transcript of the conversation, and frequently have the option to co-browse with the agent. Certainly chat’s high satisfaction is driving its frequency in customer engagement programs. Chat also offers compelling business advantages, including higher satisfaction (CSAT) scores, improved customer service operational efficiency, lower shopping cart abandonment rates and better sales conversion. Chat has evolved from a call deflection tactic to become a cornerstone in customer engagement. Today, 35% of companies offer chat and another 19% plan to implement it by mid-2014.2 Chat vendors increasingly see their clients extend chat deployments to support broader organizational objectives or into additional customer channels such as mobile and social.

a Live chat refers to a text-based conversation with a live agent. In contrast, automated chat refers to an online self-service interaction with automated chat. For the purposes of this document, “chat” will refer to live chat.

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III. Identifying Your Vendor Consideration Set Whether you are new to chat or looking to expand chat into your organization, the first step in vendor selection is to develop a consideration set. Answering the following four questions will help you identify a chat vendor consideration set that will meet your organization’s needs: 1. What deployment model do you need? 2. Which vendors’ size and deployments best align with your organization’s needs? 3. Which vendors have depth in your industry? 4. Do you need chat to be bundled with other products?

1. What deployment model do you need? One of the first considerations for determining a chat vendor is determining what type of deployment model you need: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Managed, or On-Premise. SaaS is a delivery model in which applications are hosted and managed in a vendor’s datacenter, paid for on subscription basis and accessed over the internet. The advantages to SaaS are compelling and have driven a healthy growth rate; Gartner predicts the SaaS market will show consistent growth through 2013 when worldwide SaaS revenue will total more than $14 billion for the enterprise application markets.3 SaaS deployment can offer compelling cost benefits by eliminating the expense of installing, maintaining and upgrading on-premise IT infrastructure. SaaS is scalable, accessible on a wide range of desktop and mobile devices, and is easily upgradeable without adding to your in-house IT burden. Potential limitations include security concerns, integrating into your existing processes, and outages. Managed – In a managed solution, the vendor will administer and maintain the hardware and all software upgrades. This can be an advantage to smaller organizations that do not have an IT department staffed to take on an additional burden or the budget for staff, storage and backups. Managed solutions can offer the advantage of creating customized deployments. However, managed solutions can also compromise your ability to build internal competencies and optimize deployment. On-premise – In an on-premise deployment, all networking, power, database and application servers would reside at your location rather than at a remote facility. The approach has been popular because it offers control since the data is physically located on a business’ premises. Many businesses find on-premise deployment to be more reliable because it relies on internal teams to ensure uptime, data security and other datacenter management practices. On-premise can have significant limitations. According to global market intelligence firm IDC, the two key reasons companies switch from on-premise solutions to the cloud include faster time to market and cost savings.4

2. Which vendors’ deployments best align with your organization’s needs? In its simplest terms, chat will enhance service/engagement, drive sales or both. It is crucial to consider your objectives to determine what vendors will best align with your needs to ensure their technology features and consultative contributions will deliver results. Additionally, look at how many chat deployments vendors have undertaken, the average size of these deployments, and the size of their largest one. This will give you a strong sense of which vendors will be familiar with your needs.

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3. Which vendors have depth in your industry? Consider vendors with experience in your industry. This experience can inform your vendor’s implementation and optimization insight. For example, vendors with experience in education will have expertise in deploying chat to improve recruitment. Vertical experience may be particularly helpful in highly regulated industries. For example, a chat deployment in financial services will have industry-specific considerations such as if it would impact supervisors joining chat from a different location because you may be exposing financial information to more than one person. Vertical strengths among top chat vendors BoldChat

eGain

LivePerson

Consumer products

x

x

x

Education

x

Financial Services

x x

Manufacturing

x

Oracle

Touch Commerce

Moxie

NextIT

x

x

x

Avaya

x x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x x

Cisco x

x

Government Health Care

Netop

Non profit

x

x x

x

x x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Retail

x

Services

x

x

x

Technology

x

x

x

x

Telecommunications

x

x

x

x

Travel/Hospitality

x

x

x

Utilities

x

x

x

x x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x x

Source: Based on a review of vendor websites conducted in July 2013, and data contained in Market Overview: Chat Solutions for Customer Service, Forrester Research, 18 July 2013.

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4. Do you need chat to be bundled with other products? Chat can be bundled with other products such as click-to-call, email, co-browsing, web self-service or social management. Many organizations fail to take a view to the future when considering their bundled product needs and, as a result, opportunities are missed. Consider this: Facebook or Twitter may not be a key part of your customer engagement strategy today, but is it likely they will grow in importance in the next few years? If so, then you should prioritize vendors including Moxie Software, Oracle RightNow and BoldChat. Is mobile chat or SMS growing in importance among your target customers? If so, consider the importance of mobile capabilities of vendors including LivePerson, Oracle RightNow and BoldChat. Are you likely to want to include live chat in online ads or emails? If so, then Netop’s capabilities warrant consideration. Consider Next IT’s offering that includes deep expertise in virtual agent technology if chat will be part of a larger online self-service strategy. Other vendor products that can be bundled with chat BoldChat

eGain

LivePerson

Netop

Oracle

Touch Commerce

Moxie

NextIT

Cisco

Avaya

Integrated co-browsing

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Click-to-Call

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Yes

Email

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

SMS

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

Mobile

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

Social Management

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

Yes

Remote control

Yes

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

No

Source: Based on a review of vendor websites conducted in July 2013, and data contained in Market Overview: Chat Solutions for Customer Service, Forrester Research, 18 July 2013.

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IV. Prioritizing Your Objectives Now that you have identified your consideration set, it is time to drill down to determine which vendors have the best feature sets to achieve your goals. Start by ranking the priority of frequent chat goals. Determine how important it is that chat achieves these objectives across your organization today. But think ahead. Companies frequently paint themselves into the corner by taking a narrow view of chat. Instead, consider what you want chat to achieve now and in the next couple of years. For example, while enhancing customer service may be your primary objective today, do you expect deploying chat to increase revenue or expanding into social channels to be high priorities in the near future? Once you have ranked these objectives, consider how each maps to vendors’ strengths. Prioritize how these chat goals fit into your organization now and in the nearterm Now

In next two years

Drive sales/lead generation Improve customer service satisfaction Offer complex technical support Reduce form abandonment Improve operational efficiency Support a consistent cross-channel experience Drive brand engagement Increase mobile engagement Increase social media engagement

1. Drive sales/lead generation If your goals include driving sales/lead generation, you should be considering proactive chat. Unlike reactive chat, which occurs when your customer initiates a chat session, proactive chat occurs when invitations for chat sessions are pushed to the customer via agent monitoring, rules or predictive analytics engines. Some organizations are concerned that proactive chat will annoy their customers, but research has not corroborated this.b Instead, proactive chat has significantly improved lead generation and increased conversion rates and average order sizes. A review of vendor case studies shows that proactive chat improved shopping cart conversion 10-80% and average order value 10-60%.5 Focus on robust proactive capabilities including flexible proactive rules creation, management and optimization. More sophisticated chat sales strategies will include rule ordering, unlimited rule creation and complex rules based on shopping cart variables. Optimizing proactive chat is an ongoing science, so ensure it is easy to set up new rules and that your vendor can support split testing and A/B testing. Inquire about the confidence interval prospective vendors can achieve in their testing. If you have a commissioned environment, look for vendors that can track conversations to specific agents.

2. Improve customer service satisfaction Today’s online customers have high expectations for customer service. Speed is of the essence: 71% of online consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good Forrester Research has found that one in four consumers like the proactive invitation and another two out of four are indifferent. The key is to ensure that the proactive chat invitation i) clearly states its purpose, ii) is clearly branded for your organization so it is not misidentified as a pop-up ad, iii) is easy to decline and iv) does not re-occur quickly or repeatedly.

b

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service, and 52% say that they are very likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question.6 If improving customer service satisfaction is your key chat objective, focus on features that will improve the speed with which agents can help customers. Routing technology will allow you to get the chat requests to the right agent so they can answer as quickly as possible. Canned answer functions will also improve speed. Look for predictive logic that will suggest canned answers and features that allow agents to manage their own canned messages. Consider if predictive logic and canned responses will work on other channels such as email, SMS and mobile as well.

3. Offer complex technical support If your chat goal is to offer complex technical support, look for remote control capabilities. This feature allows a chat rep to remotely operate a customer’s computer, and can be highly useful for technical support in software or technology settings.

4. Reduce form abandonment Studies have shown online form abandonment rates are anywhere from 50% to 90%. This is a crucial challenge among verticals such as financial services and insurance where forms are key components to lead generation. If your goal is to reduce form abandonment, consider proactive chat deployments that can trigger a chat invitation when a customer hovers during form completion. Look to vendors with co-browsing – collaborative browsing that allows a customer and chat agent to simultaneously browse a website – to assist customers when they are completing forms. If your objective is to reduce form abandonment where personal data is collected, look for features such as field masking, data substitution, or features that will not put your payment card industry (PCI) compliance at risk.

5. Improve agent efficiency and performance According to Aberdeen Group, 36% of organizations cite improving processes and efficiencies as a key customer service goal for 2013.7 Chat can significantly lower contact costs and efficiency compared to the telephone, due largely to chat’s capability to manage concurrent interactions. First consider your agent model: will your agents be dedicated to text-based channels or will they support both text and voice? If you plan to blend voice and text, integrating chat queuing systems into your telephony infrastructure becomes more important. You’ll likely need to prioritize integrating with other systems in your contact center such as your CRM or knowledge base. Additionally, you should consider an integrated workspace where the agent interface is the same for telephone and chat interactions. Many organizations choose to dedicate contact center staff to chat and other text-based channels only. This leverages the potential benefits of chat concurrency and facilitates creating a text-based skill set within the contact center that can be extended to email, social and mobile channels. If you’re planning to have dedicated text-based agents, you will need to prioritize independent queuing systems so you can manage workflows. Collaboration and supervisor tools will also become important in a text-based environment. Once you have determined your agent model, look at prospective chat vendors’ productivity tools such as canned messages, spell check, keyboard shortcuts and autosuggestions that will suggest answers to customers’ questions. Dive deeply into the auto suggest features to understand if it is strictly keyword search or if it is more sophisticated and assigns weight to content to improve accuracy. Look for supervisor tools including the ability for supervisors to monitor, send a private message to an agent and take over a chat conversation. Many companies also value the ability for a supervisor to push chats to agents based on their skill or availability rather than relying on automated routing.

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Unified reporting is another key priority that allows for consistent reporting across channels. This is particularly important if you have or are planning to have a blended agent model where agents handle all types of channel interactions, possibly crossing between telephone and chat. Agent support can improve efficiency and performance, so look for vendors who offer 24/7 technical support for chat agents. Additionally, while most vendors will offer after-chat surveys, prioritize those that can report on a per agent basis so you can readily evaluate agent performance.

6. Offer a consistent cross-channel customer experience Today’s customer journey is no longer a funnel; instead, customers are interacting across a number of touchpoints. This challenges organizations to deliver a cohesive set of interactions that match content, functionality and brand personality across touchpoints. It is no surprise that 74% of customer experience professionals report that improving cross-channel customer experiences is their main objective.8 To ensure chat is part of a consistent cross-channel customer experience, focus on knowledge base and escalation. A centralized knowledge base will ensure consistent responses to consumers regardless of channel. Cross-channel experience is heavily impacted by escalation capabilities – the ability to escalate a chat to click-to-call, email or other channels. For example, some vendors offer chat that can escalate to click-to-call with a full transcript hand-off, allowing for a seamless customer experience. Consider escalation from each channel you offer now, as well as those you expect to offer in the next couple of years. Additionally, look to how chat can be the channel into which other channels escalate. For example, consider that a customer may escalate to chat from within a virtual agent conversation or self-service content. Channel consistency is enhanced by the ability to reconnect to a chat agent within a set period of time in the event that a chat is cut off.

7. Increase brand engagement With chat, you can invite your customers to engage with your brand in a live, real-time interaction. This is an opportunity to personalize your brand and to humanize your website. The ability to increase brand engagement will matter to sales and service. Look for vendors who can provide a customer experience that aligns with your brand. Think of the entire chat experience: your customers should be able to see when an agent is typing, adjust font sizes, email or print the chat transcript, and receive a reference number for future chats. Consider if vendors will allow you to control the appearance of the chat window, including how easy it is to customize to your brand elements and if you’ll have the choice to remove vendor branding.

8. Increase mobile engagement Today's mobile websites can turn passive catalogs into interactive style guides, offer access to product reviews as easy as scanning a QR code, and make mobile coupons only a click away. Forrester estimates that 25% of the 132 million U.S. mobile Internet users have made purchases via their phones in 2012. Mobile is a growing channel for chat and SMS. Reaching live help through a text-based mobile interaction can support many goals including driving engagement, supporting sales and leveraging a customer’s location. If mobile is – or will be – a component of your chat strategy, consider vendors that have achieved successful mobile chat deployments.

9. Increase social engagement Only a few years ago, social channels were the domain of brand marketing. Today, social engagement is moving deeper into customer engagement. Chat has potential to heighten engagement via social media while also leveraging the text-based expertise. There are over 15 million brands on Facebook. Many companies use Facebook as a support channel. And while Facebook sales have been disappointing for several large vendors, many small

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merchants are achieving sales success on Facebook.c The number of online consumers who have reached out to a company for service via Twitter doubled between 2009 and 2012, rising from 11% to 22%.10 If Twitter is a part of your service strategy, extend your agents’ text-based expertise with vendors who integrate chat and Twitter. Look to vendors that have an integrated multichannel view to maximize efficiencies. Align chat vendor features with objectives Objective

Vendor Capabilities

BoldChat

eGain

LivePerson

Netop

Oracle

Touch Commerce

Moxie

NextIT

Cisco

Avaya

Drive sales/lead generation Proactive capabilities Testing capabilities Improve customer service satisfaction Canned answers Queuing and routing capabilities Integrated co-browsing Remote control capabilities Reduce form abandonment Field masking, data substitution

Supervisor tools Productivity tools Unified agent workspace Support a consistent cross-channel experience Escalation and reconnection Drive brand engagement User interface Ability to customize chat window Increase mobile engagement Supports SMS Supports mobile Increase social media engagement Supports Facebook, Twitter and other social media c Several large retailers, including GameStop, Gap, JCPenney and Nordstrom, experienced disappointing results and shut down their Facebook stores within months. But small businesses are achieving sales success on Facebook according to Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. She told The New York Times that companies that do well on Facebook usually have less than $100,000 in annual revenue and fewer than 10 employees. Some use Facebook to supplement sales at physical local outlets, while others are strictly eCommerce merchants and use Facebook to augment sales from their websites and eBay.

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V. Selecting a Vendor Once you have identified your consideration set and prioritized your objectives, it’s time to select a vendor. At this stage, you need to keep the following tips in mind to ensure a successful selection:

1. Know to whom chat will report and how it fits into your organization Many parts of an organization will have a stake in chat’s internal ownership: eCommerce, marketing, sales, contact center and customer service. It is important that there is a clear and shared understanding of who will “own” chat, how chat will report into various functional areas, and how chat’s success will be measured against its many objectives. This information will help ensure that the right internal stakeholders are involved in the vendor selection process and can weigh in as you determine how objectives map to key vendor features.

2. Approach vendor case studies critically Case studies can provide persuasive insight into a vendor’s capabilities. At the same time, it is a good idea to approach them with a healthy skepticism. Case studies frequently overlook key information. For example, was the implementation on time? Was it on budget? Over what period of time were benefits measured? Were there any other key considerations at play during that time (e.g. is this a seasonality-impacted business)? Look for case studies that provide insight into key implementation and budget insight as well as those that provide measurable results.

3. Look for vendor references that align with your own planned deployment Ask prospective vendors to provide you with references that align to your planned chat deployment. Look for similar industries, size deployment, objectives and – if possible –references that have deployed the same software version you are considering. This is especially critical if you are considering an on-premise deployment. Ask references to provide insight into their experience with a vendor being on time, if technical support met their needs, and how the vendor worked to optimize chat. Look for someone within the reference organization who has direct responsibility for chat’s success.

4. Consider your objectives if you want to integrate chat into your other solutions Integrations into CRM solutions, product databases, customer databases and other customer contact channels typically require custom development and will have an impact on cost and timelines. Depending on the interface, it could be a costly one-off piece of custom development. Consider running a pilot without any of your intended integrations to highlight where integrations will be most critical. If your integration objective is consolidated reporting, you can achieve this more simply and cost effectively if you set up a data warehouse and use an API to report against it.

5. Consider how a vendor will work with you to optimize chat Chat success requires ongoing refinement. It is critical to engage a vendor that has deep optimization consulting included in its professional services. Some vendors will offer this service in a tiered level ranging from basic to premium. Consider how each chat vendor in your consideration set can work with you to develop your expertise in chat, including the extent that their reporting and analytical tools can guide your ongoing refinement efforts. Features to consider include if there is web access to reporting, if you can export reports to different formats, and if you can build reports with many criteria or filters. Also consider if you will need reports supported in multiple languages.

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VI. Conclusion Chat has demonstrated its ability to optimize customer experience while supporting an essential wide range of business goals. As a result, a growing number of businesses are planning to deploy chat, while those who already utilize chat are seeking to expand the technology more broadly. Chat involves many parts of an organization, including customer service, sales, branding, customer experience, business process and contact center operations. Chat also expands into multiple channels; touchpoints escalate into and out of chat while chat also extends into other channels, including social, mobile and online ads. As a result, chat vendor selection can be a complex undertaking. To ensure a successful outcome, chat vendor selection should be undertaken with a clear understanding of organizational goals. This goal-driven approach will help to prioritize vendor features and ensure that vendors’ capabilities map to current and upcoming needs.

1

Forrester Research, “Market Overview: Chat Solutions for Customer Service,” 18 July 2013.

2

Aberdeen Group, “Bringing Customer Service Into Marketing: Empowered Customers Make Service Excellence an Imperative,” July 2013.

3

Gartner, Market Trends: Software as a Service, Worldwide, 2008-2013, Update.

4

IDC Research, Cloud’s Beyond The Hype: Positioning for the New Era of Enterprise IT.

5

This data comes from a review of vendor case studies selected among the vendors within this paper.

6

Forrester Research, “Understand Communication Channel Needs To Craft Your Customer Service Strategy,” 13 March 2013.

7

Aberdeen Group, “Improving Engagement With Multi-Channel Service,” December 2012.

8

Forrester Research, “The State Of Customer Experience, 2012,” 24 April 2012.

9

Forrester Research, “US Mobile Retail Forecast, 2012 To 2017,” 16 January 2013.

10

Forrester Research, “Navigate the Future of Customer Service,” 1 February 2013.

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