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Chat support has proven to be a more effective alternative than phone support. Both beat traditional, face to face support operations in effectiveness and costs, but chat can be integrated with your existing CRM systems, beating even phone support. The primary reason for this is that you have all of your customers information ready at hand, their previous conversations, and while it’s impossible for one agent to handle multiple calls at the same time (if you’re doing this, you’re doing it wrong), it is quite possible to do with chat support.

In layman’s terms, if you’ve ever had to do several laps on the phone support getting bounced around divisions, and had the chance to experience a well run chat support operation, the difference is like night and day. And indeed, customers report that they have and will ditch a business based just on support.

Add to the fact that the younger generations (who are taking over the workforce and thus your customer base) actually prefer chat over phone conversations, and you arrive at the conclusion that you need to have it. Full stop.

In other words, they’ll find your chat support no matter how deep you hid it within your website. Might as well consider taking the lead and integrating it into Facebook Messenger.

The caveat

If you half-ass your chat support, you will suffer. Even with all of its benefits, you can still mess it up. And a horrendous customer service experience is just as bad across all channels: it will lead to customer churn. Moreover, they’ll tell all their friends to stay clear of your business!

Why do businesses fail this?

Customer support can ran up to 60% of a businesses expenses, especially if you have a lot of customers. C-level managers see this, and look at it as a “cost centre” rather than the most crucial part of their business. The result is cost cutting, under-budgeting, and a series of other steps that are equal to opening an understaffed branch office, slapping on subpar technology and painting a bullseye on it.

And things get worse if you want to support more than one language!

Big businesses have the ability to run shared service centres in countries where there’s enough talent to run the operation in a concentrated manner. For smaller businesses, hiring expats as freelancers is also an option, though it comes with the challenge of managing a remote team.

Outsourcing is hailed to be a tried and true solution, but while it can save you some costs in the short term, quality issues can arise, which lead to unsatisfied customers. Especially with multi-lingual support.

Scaling support

Say you’re scaling your business, and you can see that you have more and more customers demanding support in their native language. At this point, you would consider opening local offices, or hiring people on site who speak these language, or hiring people in those countries to offer support.

Here are the per annum costs, based on Payscale and Glassdoor, for some of the most popular languages (local speaker):

German – 24k – 26k EUR
Spanish – 22k – 24k EUR
Portuguese – 8,4k – 8,-6k EUR
French – 45k EUR
Italian – 44k EUR
Swedish – 27k EUR
Finnish – 36k EUR
Dutch – 24k EUR

Obviously this varies based on the experience or domain knowledge required for the job. But you can see that even supporting one language around the clock (with four people working shifts) can ramp up your costs quickly. There’s no “lean bookkeeping” around that.

Getting the most out of it

Once you are ready to commit for chat support, by having the necessary software and procedures in place, you can still continuously tweak and optimize the operation.

Putting your chat availability in front of your customers makes sure that you’re not paying for empty hours, so focus on your customer experience design.

Rely on concurrency – one agent can handle multiple chats, but only if they’re properly supported by internal documentation, good software and a healthy dose of scripted responses.

Using chat analytics you can narrow down on recurring subjects, and update your help section for your customers so they can resolve the issues themselves.

Moreover, we found that 80% of some businesses chats are highly repetitive – and if you have the sufficient technology, you can automate those conversations.

We hope this was helpful, and if you would like to talk more about the latter, just leave us a line.