Previously, I shared how chat is used at PGC. Here, a look at another company's chat implementation - Nature’s Sunshine Products (based in Utah). I spoke with Leann Beardall, Director of Customer Support, about this.
Nature's Sunshine Products sells herbal supplements using direct sales. My own research shows that chat is only offered to members, and Nature's Sunshine does not go fishing for people. They wait for their customers to solicit web-side assistance through a premise-based technology from Upstream Works Software (coincidentally, my company). Nature’s Sunshine’s Chat volume is similar to PGC, that is, very low. Chat typically represents less than 5 per cent of their overall interaction volume, but it is approaching 50 per cent of their overall email volume.
While PGC uses specific "chatters," Leann uses her general agent population for chat support. Every agent in the organization has been trained to use chat, which has now become part of the hiring criteria for the company. Agents can, at any time, be delivered either a phone call or a chat request from the web site. The skill sets used by the agents seem to be closely aligned between the two channels, and the additional hiring requirements haven't changed or impeded the hiring process significantly.
Customers use either chat or phone for the same sets of inquiries - understanding programs, doing returns, etc. Chat, in this instance, was again implemented on spec - Nature's Sunshine felt that they needed to implement the channel to meet a perceived need with no real hard data or ROI.
Incoming chats are routed like phone calls, and Leann says the focus is to make sure that queue wait times are kept short - basically in line with their phone call wait times. This is achieved by distributing chats across the entire agent population, allowing them to maintain a consistent level of customer experience regardless of the channel. Although Nature’s Sunshine is not focused on using average handle time (AHT) as an agent metric, they have found that chats do seem to take a little bit longer. Because they have blended with the phone system, agents can’t multi-task across multiple chats at the same time.
Responses are improved through the use of templates for some response types, but agents are coached very carefully on “the Queen’s English” (or standard English) as opposed to some of the commonly accepted chat short forms.
Their customers seem to like the capability and agents also find it a nice change from the bulk of phone traffic that they get.
One of the goals of the chat channel is to make it easier to do business with a younger demographic. Providing herbal supplements is currently focused on an older demographic, and Nature’s Sunshine feels that offering chat will drive more business and acceptance with the younger crowd.
Although metrics on the program are currently light, Nature’s Sunshine considers chat as part of their overall social media program and looks to grow the channel in the future.
Rob McDougall, President, Upstream Works Software Ltd.