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Most vendors just assume that SMBs have exactly the same requirements that large enterprises have. You know that’s not true, and I know that’s not true either — so how do we get this message to the vendors? They seem to just assume this is the case, or they simply want to push the latest tech on you. Has this ever happened to you? Do you think this is the right thing to do for them? Or maybe they should take a moment or three to differentiate SMB requirements from large enterprise requirements, and maybe make different VoIP and IP communications offerings to each? Or maybe they could take a different approach to customer care.

I think that approach might take the form of Web Chat. Gone are the days where you had only the option of calling an 800 number to reach a company. See, now you have a plethora of ways of reaching them: email, Twitter, Facebook, calling, and you can do any of those from a variety of devices. Intelligent organizations are accepting these alternate methods as part of their overall strategy for customer care and operations in their contact centers.

Sure, the old standby of resolving problems — voice — isn’t going away any time fast. It seems, though, that many users today are choosing web chat to resolve their issues. The other day I was looking at Dimension Data’s 2013/4 Global Contact Benchmarking study, which looked at 817 respondents in 79 countries. In it, I read that web chat has become a top priority for the majority of contact centers, and the number of future deployments that are planned have gone up over 25% for the next year.

I think that web chat is gaining ground for a few reasons, one of them being the peoples’ use of the smartphone for many interactions. I see more and more people getting comfortable with self-service options, since they are available any time, day or night, and they often save the user time as well. As reported by a different study I saw, this one done by Ovum, over 60% of online consumers stated they were much more likely to come back to a website that featured live chat.

Web chat is good for businesses, as well. $7.75 per call is the average cost to service a customer by phone, while an email costs only $3, and web chat even less. It just depends on the number of simultaneous interactions an agent has going on.

Still, simply adding web chat capability isn’t the answer. It has to be done right, or best not done at all. Here are a few things I’ve thought of for your business to consider when you want to add some web chat agents:

What’s going to happen when an issue has grown too complex or heated to resolve in web chat, and needs to switch over to a voice interaction?
One of the benefits of web chat is that one agent can work many conversations at the same time. Where do you draw that line? How many conversations should one agent handle?
Should voice agents handle web chats?
Should there be special training for web chatting agents?
Will web chat agents be accessible outside normal working hours?
In what situations should web chat be offered? Support, sales, both, something else?

I’ve heard of some enterprises that have started web chat, but that were completely overwhelmed with the sheer volume of web chat requests. Maybe you’ve heard of similar problems with other companies. The trick is to have a proper level of staff before you start; you can also use optimization and workforce management tools to make sure you have enough web chat agents available each day.

Author Bio
Tiffany Torbert is excited with the new technologies that are threatening to change the way we stay in touch and communicate, particular in business. She works with companies that are introducing these technologies to make understanding them easy for regular people.

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