This handy Deskero infographic with data from research firm Software Advice shows the relative usage of chat vs. phone in customer support situations. Clearly there’s a significant part of your customer base interested in using chat for customer support, so it’s a smart move to have it.  But it’s better for your brand if you implement it only when you’re ready, that way you’re heroes, hoisted atop your customers’ shoulders instead of being “Bravehearted” (hard to forget that scene). What’s it mean to be ready?

  • Support staff is sufficiently empathetic to understand a customer’s issue without the audible cues afforded phone conversations or the depth afforded via email. Some additional training may be needed.
  • Manning levels are high enough. People do sometimes chat because they are tired of being told how important they are while on phone hold. Yet I’ve already “enjoyed” what should have been a 3-minute chat turning into 20 because the rep is simultaneously servicing too many customers.
  • Your support teams are flexible. Sometimes it’s necessary to migrate reps back and forth between channels during surges. Your support logs will tell you what channel is most used at various times of day, days of the week, and even days of the month. It’s ok to not offer chat support 24/7, but be clear about it–don’t make your customer wonder if it’s their lucky day (Sprint, I’m lookin’ at you).
  • From the user interface side, remember your customers aren’t going to sit and wait for a response–they have things to do–so visual and audible cues are vitally important when your staff responds. For example, initiate a ding and flash the browser icon if you’re coding the app internally (with Chrome for example). And make the transcript of the chat available to the user either automatically sent via email or continuing to show it after the chat ends so they can save it. Frankly, there are many SaaS products out there already. Why reinvent the wheel? Just pick a product that shares these characteristics.
  • Just like with phone and email, support staff is well trained in your product and empowered to truly fix a customer’s problem.

Don’t meet all of these requirements? It’s better to hold off for now, until you can do it right. Unless of course you were planning on going full-on Office Space (NSFW unless muted) anyway.