Q

Live chat customer support software -- a cost or benefit?

Expert Lori Bocklund explains the benefits and drawbacks of using live chat customer support software in the call center.

Is there any ROI data on using live chat with customers in a support call center? I am using live chat customer

support software now in the enterprise space at high volumes. I know customers love it but will it increase or decrease overall incoming service request load INCLUSIVE of chat or is there some efficiency here? That is, perhaps same service request volume but chat is somehow less expensive? It feels like this is a customer satisfaction play rather than a cost play. Your thoughts?

We aren’t aware of any data specifically showing live chat displacement or reduction of service requests. Historically, no media has displaced another media on a one-to-one basis, and we don’t expect chat will either. More typically, overall contact volumes increase with additional channel options; some will change media channels while others will interact more. In addition, some companies are driving contacts by proactively offering chat to those attempting to self-serve on a web site. Your comment on chat being a customer satisfaction play undoubtedly rings true in some markets, and we expect it will become the “norm” over the next year or two.

There is some cost data available through a couple good sources we know.

  • The HDI 2009 Practices and Salary Report indicates the average fully-burdened cost per incident for Chat / Messaging in US support centers for 2009 was $15.00 (Mean) and $10.00 (Median). The fully burdened cost for a phone call was $22.00 (Mean) and $18.00 (Median).
  • The Centerserve 2010 Benchmarks in Call Center Operations report, which will be available soon, shows that text-chat increased 36% in the past two years. They also found the average cost per call across industries was $3.93 in 2010 (down from $4.58 in 2007) while the average cost per text chat in 2010 is $2.39 (up from $0.64 in 2007).

In both these studies, which reflect different call types (help desks vs. contact centers) and thus different costs, you see that phone calls cost more than text chat. Often, staff handling chats work on several at a time (2-4 is typical), contributing to a lower cost per contact.

For further information regarding HDI and their study, visit www.ThinkHDI.com

For further information regarding Centerserve and their study, visit www.call-center.net

This was first published in June 2010

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