By James Keller
Today customers can buy what they want, when they want it – day or night, anywhere on the planet. Since the early days of e-commerce, consumer-facing brands across all categories have gotten better at using data and analytics to improve the customer experience through personalization, behavioral targeting, and rich media. Despite all that data intelligence and marketing smarts, in many categories online conversion rates are stuck at 2 to 4 percent, often one-tenth of what those same brands see at their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
While online may never convert at the same level as in-store, a new wave of e-commerce is helping to provide an in-store feel to the online experience in the form of live video assistance. The future success of online merchants depends largely on how well the call center is prepared for this dramatic evolution in customer service.
Live Video Assistance in the Call Center: We know great service keeps customers coming back, especially for high-consideration purchases – from furniture and jewelry to cable bundles and insurance plans. Until recently, nothing could beat the face-to-face engagement of a store or branch experience. Now integrated live video and co-browsing technologies make it possible to recreate store-like engagements online for a personalized customer experience. These technologies can be used for assisted selling and customer support situations across digital channels.
Customers now expect to be able to ask pre-purchase questions and receive post-sales support online, but text chat isn’t always enough. Shoppers benefit dramatically from being able to see call center agents who can walk them through the steps for troubleshooting a household gadget, co-shop with them to make suggestions on other products they may like, or explain the benefits of one insurance plan versus another. As a result, companies deliver the best possible service levels, fostering brand and store loyalty.
Not being able to provide expected levels of sales assistance and support through online channels will drive customers to the competition. In fact, an Accenture report found that 51 percent of US consumers switched service providers last year due to poor customer service, putting $1.3 trillion of revenue at play in the US market. Switching rates were highest among retailers, cable and satellite providers, and retail banks, making companies in these sectors the most vulnerable – but also potentially giving them the most to gain by implementing live video call center assistance.
Preparing the Call Center: When preparing the call center environment for live video assistance, consider several factors. First, give operators noise-cancelling headsets. This ensures that customers will enjoy a clear conversation no matter how noisy the call center gets. Also look for hardware that includes an on-air light so co-workers won’t interrupt each other while they are helping customers.
While agents may not be able to see the customer, the customer will see them, so it’s important to use backlight and front light for the best quality video. In addition, agents should have a small monitor at eye level, right below the camera, so they can maintain eye contact with the consumer. Finally, consider using a backboard behind your agents for a clean, non-distracting look. Have it professionally designed to match your company brand.
Creating a system that is easy for agents to use is critical to reduce training and increase time spent with customers. Implement a system that offers all the services you provide. For instance, a service that provides text chat, live video, and integrates to CRM will quickly become familiar to the agents, and they will avoid learning delays from mastering multiple systems.
Training Call Center Agents: With call center stations ready for live video assistance, it’s time to train staff to excel in this new level of service. While they may have experience using live text chat, video brings a completely new level of training to the equation. For instance, be sure to teach agents to maintain eye contact with the camera when speaking to the customer. Agents should also know your products and services well so they can make recommendations and show appropriate merchandise. Since live video assistance is often used when a customer is making a special purchase, education is crucial in making the sale.
Another consideration is appearance. For years, call center agents have used telephone, email, and text chat, and thus they have never interacted face-to-face with customers. With live video, it’s imperative that call center managers educate their video assistants to represent the company brand in their manner, tone, and style, but also in how they dress. Consider using the same hiring criteria that companies use when hiring in-store sales associates.
Operators should also participate in the same training that companies employ with in-store sales teams. This will instill product and brand expertise and selling skills to create a consistent experience across stores and digital channels.
Some of the in-store tactics agents can emulate online include:
- Greet the customer: When the customer enters the online store, an agent should be available to greet them and ask if they need assistance. A smart rules engine can help identify the best customers to push an invitation to. Guiding customers through the website to take them to the right product is critical to reducing customer frustration and abandonment. Video engagement and co-browsing tools make this easy.
- Learn about each customer: In a store, staff can participate in shopping along with the customer. Online, existing CRM, tracking, and behavioral tools can be a great complement to this process; interactive selling can be a powerful mechanism for enhancing the customer data in your CRM system. Face-to-face interaction through live video assistance allows new levels of rapport and trust to be established in the online shopping experience.
- Verify that customers have the right product or service: Do customers know everything they should about fit, product care, strengths and weaknesses, service plans, and alternatives to allow them to make a purchase decision and reduce returns? Provide guided selling tools to help them understand, along with product sheets, video, and other content to inform them.
- Ask customers if they need anything else: There is no better time to see if a customer might need any complementary products and accessories. Live agent support allows merchants to do this in a friendly and personalized way. As a result, average order values are 25 to 35 percent higher with video-assisted sessions.
- “Walk” customers to the register: Helping customers quickly and efficiently complete an order maximizes customer satisfaction and reduces abandonment. Next-generation engagement tools let the call center agent accompany customers all the way through the checkout process, helping them fill out forms and complete their checkout and payment. One last review with customers to make sure they have everything they need and their order is correct helps avoid mistakes.
Optimizing for Success: To optimize your call center for live video success, identify relevant KPIs to better evaluate results. The KPIs give managers and employees clear direction on successful interactions. Next align reporting and analytics to measure performance against these KPIs and ensure that the results are available to managers and staff.
Most important, don’t stop testing and innovating. There are many ways to create wins with a live assistance program through site placement, creative, business rules, targeting, messaging, and outreach. An active test-and-learn schedule will raise the bar in delivering a great customer experience and will achieve business goals.
Conclusion: In addition to delighting customers, video assistance significantly improves key sales metrics. Companies using next-generation customer engagement solutions typically achieve a four- or five-time increase in online conversion with assisted sessions and a 25 to 35 percent increase in average order value. The tips in this article will help call center managers incorporate integrated live video and co-browsing to improve the customer experience and engender loyalty.
James Keller is CEO of Vee24.
[From Connection Magazine – Jan/Feb 2015]