What It Is
Web chat is a real–time communications system between your users and contact center that uses a simple, Web interface. Users need browser access in order to use the service. It allows agents to handle multiple chat sessions at the same time. Web chat can be implemented as a hosted service provided by a service provider or as an application on your own server.
Why It's Important
Contact centers strive to serve their customers using channels the customers choose. Offering web chat allows your customers to communicate their needs to your contact center in real time through your website.
Desirable Features for Web Chat
Here are the desirable features to look for in a web chat system:
- Routing—Routes chat sessions to agents with specific expertise.
- Co–Browsing—Allows agents and users to view the same Web page and enables agents to push active Web pages to guide users through a website or an application.
- Knowledgebase Access—Allows users to directly access a knowledgebase to find answers without agent intervention.
- Canned Messages—Provides automated greetings, reminders, and pre–written responses for common inquiries, to enhance agent productivity and responsiveness to customers.
- Session Tracking—Tracks response and transaction time for each session and exchange.
- Timestamp—Displays timestamp (in a government–specified time zone) at the start of the session and subsequent exchanges between agent and user.
- Session Transcript—Emails copy of the requested transcript to the user.
- Copying/Printing Chat Session—Allows users to copy and/or print part or the entire chat session.
- Agent/Chat User Identification—Displays agent identity and user sessions in different color text in the chat box.
- Automatic Emailing of Chat Transcript—Emails transcript copy automatically to designated recipient(s) upon completion of each chat for quality–control purposes.
- Performance Monitoring—Provides real–time performance monitoring capability.
- Management Reports—Provides real–time and historical session and activity management reports, including pre–arranged and customized reports.
- Accessibility—Complies with Section 508 requirements.
Before You Get Started
Here are a few more things to consider when adding a web chat service to your website:
- Systems Integration—Select a system that can be easily integrated with your phone, email, knowledgebase, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.
- Privacy—Think about what you need from users to conduct business. If you ask for personal information such as: name, address, Social Security Number (SSN) at sign–in, your application will be more complex, harder to implement, and the chat sessions longer and less appealing to the user. If you are providing referrals, non–sensitive information, and not looking at application status, you could just require a screen name or email address. Don't ask for anything at sign–in you aren't going to need.
- Security—Ensure all transactions and personal information are secure and can't be seen by an unauthorized third party.
- Staffing—Train your best–performing phone and/or email agents to support web chat, if your contact center already provides these services.
- Scripting—Avoid the urge to have agents create big blocks of prepared text. Your representatives should interact with customers as if they are having a phone conversation.
- Accessibility—Section 508 (including 1194.21 and 1194.22) applies to live help software, although many chat applications have not been built with accessibility in mind. WebAIM discusses the different types of chat software, including live help, and links to programs that may be more accessible than others.
- Linking to Web Resources—The URLs of your Web resources can be lengthy and cumbersome for your agents to use when responding to an email or web chat inquiry.If your website is maintained by government employees or a contractor who has access to a government email account, you can use Go.USA.gov to create short .gov URLs from official government domains, such as .gov, .mil, .si.edu, or .fed.us URLs. If your website is maintained by a contractor who doesn't have access to a government email account, you can use bitly, the Google URL Shortener, or some similar service to shorten a .gov or .mil URL. You can include the short URL in the corresponding resource in your knowledgebase. The agent can then reference the short URL in the email or web chat response when providing a link to that resource.