Who are you going to call when you want to deliver a great customer experience with chat? Meet TTEC’s “Chat Avengers” – a super force of experts whose mission is to create amazing chat sales and service interactions for consumers and brands. Customer Strategist Editor Liz Glagowski talks with everyday chat heroes Kevin Barry, Brittany Bell, and Andrew Meissbach.
Transcript: You're listening to the CX Pod by TTEC and the Customer Strategist Journal.
Liz: Hi everyone and welcome to the next edition of the CX Pod, I'm Liz Glagowski editor in chief of the Customer Strategist journal. And today I'm here with some of TTEC's own Chat Avengers. They are a group of experts on the operation side who have tons of expertise and knowledge about chat and we're going to have a conversation about using chat in your business. So welcome everybody. Perhaps if everyone wants to start with just introducing themselves and their role at TTEC and how long they've been working in the chat area. Um, Kevin, maybe we start with you.
Kevin: Sure. I've been with TTEC for almost eight years now. Uh, I started off as just a number on the floor and have worked my way up into the leadership team. And I've been doing chat since the beginning, in fact, I started with a chat program previous to working with TTEC, also been doing chat for a really long time. Uh, and I really believe that chat is, is a great medium for customers to interact with the companies that they want to inter interact with.
Liz: Great. Welcome Kevin. Brittany, how about yourself?
Brittany: Yeah, thank you. So my name is Brittany Bell. I've been with TTEC for nine years now. Just like Kevin, I started as a web chat representative all that time ago. And since then I've worked with several different clients and doing completely different programs for business to business and business to customer. And I'm really excited about the way that chat has progressed over the years and how much more technologies has come into play and how we can best serve our customers.
Liz: And Andy?
Andy: Hi, I'm Andy. I'm the senior manager for one of our programs here at TTEC. I started working with TTEC in October of 2009 as a chat agent, um, with one of our telecommunications programs that we used to have here. And then I kind of worked my way through the ranks. I've been working with or for Brittany in some capacity for the past almost 10 years now. And then met Kevin along the way. He was one of my first mentors at TTEC.
Liz: Great. So I'm interested to know how the three of you have come together to form this chat team, which I think has been coined the Chat Avengers which is very timely in the spring movie season. So can you talk a little bit about how you guys got together and what are some of your superpowers that you bring together? With chat programs?
Kevin: Yeah, I think Andy came up with the name actually.
Andy: I may have, I used to be kind of smart and witty, but that was many, many years ago. So now my super power is gone. Now I just do chats.
Brittany: Andy did definitely come up with the name, but we initially got together because of an Innovation Day project where we had several prospective clients coming to the site and we wanted to give a really great presentation on all of our chat capabilities. So they decided to grab several people that had been in different types of chat programs and get together with the different, um, the different tools we were using and some of the different strategies we employed and look at the full suite of what we were offering to our current clients so that we could give a kind of the full presentation to any prospective client. So it started off that way and then as a result of that innovation day, we were able to onboard some new clients and our roles kind of expanded to helping ensure that any chat program that came to TTEC started off as successful as possible. So knowing what we know and, um, having the experience that we had in launching other programs, we figured we'd be able to launch any new programs more successfully and with fewer speed bumps along the way.
Kevin: Yeah. If we're talking about super powers, you know Brittnany is a great person to talk to about that. She's probably got a hold of the greatest chat presence in the company. So we're looking at kind of a leader of the project.
Andy: She's our captain America.
Liz: So Kevin and Andy what Avengers do you think you would fit?
Andy: You know, I'd like to think of myself as a charismatic individual.
Andy: Uh, kind of like Iron Man
Kevin: Yeah. I'm, I'm probably the, uh, the smash through walls kind of person. So I'm probably the Hulk category, I guess. Um, but I yeah, I think that's something that the three of us really pride ourselves in is being able to innovate and to change direction and to be able to look at chat in different ways. How do we utilize chat to really work to our client's advantage? And that's a big part of what Chat Avengers group was really meant to do was how do we not only show how awesome that is to our current clients, but also to prospective clients. How can chat really cater to what those clients are looking to do with TTEC.
Liz: So to build on that, why do you consider chat such a positive customer interaction channel? What are some of the benefits when you go to clients? Uh, what are, what are the positives that you talk about?
Andy: I think chats best feature, uh, when, when we talk about our customers is definitely going to be cost per contact. Um, just something that the phone world can't provide is a one to three, one to four, you know, rep detect customer interaction, but then your customers still feels like it's still a one to one interaction. So our clients can help reduce costs. But their customers still see that value and the best in class service that TTEC provides.
I think the other huge win is that many of the customers of our clients prefer chat as a communication method because the world today is just so busy and it's a lot of effort to stop what you're doing. And dedicate your entire attention to a phone call to handle whatever business you have, but it's much easier for, uh, a customer to speak with whatever company they're trying to speak with be a channel where they can be multi-tasked you think having a quick chat, whether it's on a computer or a tablet or a cellular device and still be eating dinner or maybe working or you know, sitting on a bus or something like that. There's just so much more capability to have those conversations without being so dedicated to a phone call. And I think that's very appealing to most of our clients or customers in the way that they would like to deserve.
Liz: It sounds like all of you have had a lot of experience in chat, so how have you seen it evolve and what is, what does a really good chat program look like?
Kevin: I think just from, from an evolution stand point the analytics and the reporting and the difference from what we were looking at, you know, back in when we first chat to where we are now, it's just so much more adaptive. There's things that we think about and paths that we go down that's never even really thought about before. And I think one of them is, I, you know one of the exercises that we're going through is that we are trying to figure out how many customers can we reach and or the analytics and the data behind how many unique visitors are we getting and how many of those unique visitors are actually getting the ability to actually chat. And then all of those customers who are actually getting out of the chat, how many of them are actually clicking to chat with somebody and what's that customer journey look like? Uh, and those are things that we weren't really thinking about before because before we just throw a chat link up on the website and it wasn't nearly as strategic as how we are you know, placing the chat link and what kind of customers we're trying to target and where are we targeting them that on the website.
Andy: Kevin you bring up a good point of the journey of if I go back to my early days when we were just taking chats as reps with Brittany, you were a couple rows away from me back in the way back in the day, right? We, we kinda didn't understand how it worked. We just understood that the customers wanted to talk to us through chat. And over the years we kinda we had the ability to work with some of our clients and some of our partners and really dig deep into the customer journey, number one. But number two, like once they hit the website, how do they even want to chat? Is it, is it a proactive invitation that they're clicking on or are they, are they searching around the website? And actively trying to find someone to help them. I think that those are two very different types of customers and same journey. But you're ultimately going to talk to someone who's trying to, you know, like raise their hand like, Hey, come help me. Or someone that might accidentally click on a chat and you can still try to convert that in some capacity.
Brittany: I think to piggyback on that, what's really gotten to be interesting is the way that chat has become part of the omnichannel experience. So in several of our programs, we have a, you know, a proactive chat invitation will pop out and it'll even be intelligent enough to choose between which customer is most likely to take positive action, you know, which is usually some kind of sale or conversion. So, you know, given the option to invite the right client, you then have the option to take that client from what starts off as an initial chat to perhaps a phone call or even a video chat. For some clients, if it's that, you know, that face to face interaction is what's really gonna move the needle. The other really cool thing that we can do is route certain customers back to an original chat agent. So if it's more of a, you know, a longer sales cycle or if it's found that a customer satisfaction levels increased by going back to the same original agent that they work with the first time they spoke with the company. All that stuff is possible now. So going from what used to be just an IM that would end and then that interaction was lost. Now we have even programs where you go from a chat to setting up a lead for someone to go into a retail store. So the, the possibilities are really endless.
Andy: And, and even to piggyback on that, Brittany, like if you think by the way the chats evolved just in the past year, it's not just chat anymore. Like it starts a chat on a website, but then you jumped a cell phone and then you start interacting with customers via a messaging service. And it's a whole new way to interact with customers and to keep that conversation going and to, to be able to have multiple different conversations with customers that are only responding once every, you know, five or 10 minutes. But you're still able to keep that same agent on the line is a huge benefit.
Kevin: Yeah. And the crazy thing on that is that a lot of that increased volumes, incremental, it doesn't take away from inbound phone volume. And people who are chatting in via mobile devices isn't taking away from the volume from people who are chatting it from desktop devices. It's all, not all of it, but there's, there's a vast majority of it that's, that's incremental volume. So you're reaching more customers as a company, uh, in their preferred medium. And that's to a lot of customers is really important.
Andy: Kevin hit the nail on the head, right? Like I think back in the day when we did our presentation, it was, I think Jonathan, one of our marketing guys giving a PowerPoint that said 92% of today's shoppers don't want to talk on the phone. They want to be able to purchase something from a website, but they also still may need a little bit of a hand holding experience. And that's where chat thrives.
Liz: And now how about then on the, on the client side, how much persuasion do you have to do to have them use chat or is it something they are coming to you now with? And how is, how has the client interest evolved?
Kevin: It depends, but we've been able to do some really cool case studies. We started to be able to show again that kind of that incremental growth of volume of this isn't taking away from inbound phone calls. This isn't taking away from people putting in, you know, requests online to have someone give them a outbound phone call. Uh, these were new customers and different customers. And when we started to be able to show that we're reaching a whole new audience that he hadn't really reached before, it really was able to, to open their eyes to say, Hey, we have, we have a lot of potential here and we're kind of missing the boat. So you know, I think that's a cool thing to be able to show clients hey we can increase your, your customer base because we're reaching more customers that you weren't reaching before. And I think that's changed some of the perception on chat and from a lot of companies because you know they for years and really for decades, the only way to reach a company was by giving them a phone call.
Brittany: I'd probably have to go and double check my statistics, but I, I recall reading a white paper where one of the figures that was thrown out was the 70% of millennials will avoid working with a company that they cannot reach via some channel other than a phone call. I know I'm one of those in the group. Like I would rather order pizza online and if I have to call a place I'm going to make Andy do it for me.
Andy: That's why she likes pizza so much because you can order it online.
Liz: What then, what are some of the lessons you guys have learned over the years of what works and what doesn't? In a in a good chat program.
Andy: I think that's a, that's a great question and I think you kind of have to consider certain business rules when you answer that question, right? Like you kind of have to consider what, what is the customer trying to buy ultimately? Are they trying to buy self-service? Are they trying to buy a onetime product or are they trying to buy a vehicle or are they trying to buy a credit card application? Right? Those are all very different types of purchases. Some of them take days to make, some of them take minutes to make. And I think what works well with chat is that it blends with all of those models. It can be a single chat close, it can be a longterm sales process where the customer will start on the chat and then we try to flip them to the phone saying, Hey, you need to talk to a specialist. We're not going to be able to get you what you need those chat right now, but we'll get you in touch with someone later or the inverse of that, which is like, Hey, I saw you looking at a cell phone. Like how can I help you with that purchase? And trying to plant yourself within that decision cycle and just being that extra chair, right to lean on if the customer needs it.
Brittany: I think one of the biggest lessons we learned too was in our hiring process and the training process. So obviously the profile of a successful chat agent requires a different set of skills. You need a minimum number of words per minute. You'd have great spelling and grammar. But in addition to that, you need to have a slightly different personality than what you might normally recruit for in a phone based program. So that was a really big early win. I think that's changed the way that we recruited and why we've been so successful in initially launching. Um, I think the next most important thing is really understanding what the branding of the client is that we can create a fantastic response library that exemplifies whatever type of persona that brand represents and allows for a relatively consistent experience. I think that's one of the great facets of chat is that in a voice program, I can hand a script to someone and say, Hey guys, you're gonna read this script and this is going to be, you know, the first 30 seconds of every call you're going to give an opening and explain how you're going to help and, you know, offer some kind of service and your top performers and bottom performers are going to give that script differently.
Whereas in the chat world, I can create, you know, a library canned response and every single employee is going to say, well, I say but really I mean, deliver that message exactly the same and with the same level of success. So knowing what we know about how to create a response library that's effective and captures the branding properly and that's the best foot forward has made us very successful.
Andy: Yeah, that's a great, that's a great point really. If you think about the chat world, some of it could be onshore, some of it could be nearshore, some of it could be offshore. But if you use a blended type of model, how are you going to get all of those people to say the same thing at the same time in the same way? And that's one of the great things about a canned response or an updated library. If the price of the widget changes, we can update the entire enterprise in three minutes and everyone has the same price and everyone has the same level of information.
Kevin: Yeah. And I think something else that we've learned with responses is that, you know, if a customer is chatting in from a desktop, they're going to typically be okay with reading a longer response or a having a longer response sub to them. Whereas if someone's chatting in from a cell phone, you want to keep your responses to them a little bit shorter, a little bit more concise. Because of just how they're looking at the chat box itself. You know, you said a whole paragraph of information to a customer on a cell phone and it's really to really decipher some of that information because you have to scroll up and down. You're on the screen, on your phone. Whereas on a computer it's completely different. So we've been able to learn to pivot a little bit on how we send responses and what kind of canned responses and how long should our canned responses be based off of what device kind of device a customer's using.
Liz: I want it to build a little bit on that. I think the employee experience is a really important part of a good chat program and this response library and some canned responses are certainly needed to be able to manage a big program. But how do you balance then some of the response library script answers to giving the agents some more of the flexibility and tone and that and a little more personality. How do you balance the two?
Kevin: I think team members can differentiate themselves. And what you'll see is you'll see some team members who they really need to stick to the library and they really have a dependence on that library and that's not a bad thing. Uh, and then there's team members who are, we'll use the library and use scripting, but they're also very good at interjecting and kind of their own voice and their own way of, of talking and, and we just have to make sure we're monitoring and coaching to what the best practices are. Because there's times where using the response library is the best thing for us to do in that situation. And then there's some times we're going ad hoc is a little bit more is better for the customer experience and better for the team member experience.
Andy: Yeah. I think, I think you said it well Kevin, it's situational, right? Cause if the cause, one of the things that I've learned about chat is that you get customers that you don't necessarily will, I'm going to say don't necessarily "want," I'm going to try to put that in air quotes on this podcast. Probably can't see them. But you're going to run into a lot of different types of customers. Some of them I need help with, some of which might need to buy something. And so if your, if your goal is to try to sell a widget to a customer, you're probably not going to be set up with all of the canned responses and all of the automated tools that an agent would need to try to solve for someone who doesn't want to do that. You're gonna, you're going to try to solve for the majority of your volume.
Um, and then you're going to take that one off situational stuff that Kevin was just talking about where you kind of have to go ad hoc and there's just no way around it cause you're not going to be able to solve for all of the true customer needs that come in as with a chat funnel. You're not, the IVR process is kind of taken out of out of the equation with some clients. And so you're going to have to know, and I have to be able to adapt quickly, like, Hey, is this, is this customer trying to buy something? If not, can I sell them something? And then if not, I gotta go ad hoc and try to get them where they need to go.
Liz: So what are then some of the challenges of working in the chat channel?
Brittany: I think in my opinion there's, there's kind of two different ways that you can look at chat as a challenge. So the first way is more at the top of the funnel and it's in the placement
Brittany: On the website that invites the people to chat. One way you can do chat is to just have a constant button that's always there and always inviting people to chat. The inherent risk is that you could have huge over-delivery and then in turn provide a negative customer experience because the wait time, which results in a huge abandon rate and can damage the brand. The alternate is that you can kind of gait who is invited and say only only show the invitation when there's agents available right away. And then you run the risk of potentially missing out on customers that would have been, you know, converters are ultimately lead to growth at the bottom line. So there's a definitely a fine line there whether you want to really scale and blow it up the water and potentially get, you know, some not so good customers come through or whether you want to gate who's invited and potentially miss out an opportunity.
So that's a huge give and take and something that every client has to look at, whether they're trying to just grow sales or, um, manage their costs. The second thing that can get difficult is that it's very easy to go a little bit crazy and try to over solve. And that is particularly relevant when you're talking about what your canned responses are and trying to create a script for every situation in the entire universe. The best practices that have, you have more than about a hundred total responses. You're way too high. And it's, there's, particularly in a consultative sales environment, it's very difficult to script out every single recommendation that you'd ever make to a client. So understanding where to, where to draw that fine line between having a robust enough and response library that allows the reps to respond quickly and efficiently versus having so much that they're spending more time looking for the right response than they would've if they just typed it out free hand. So those are two big areas of risk that we can help solve for and kind of talk strategically through. But we see that a lot, especially with new clients that we start to onboard.
Liz: Yeah. It sounds like a theme of the of the day is really trying to be more strategic about your chat program, not just deploying it for, based on the technology that's available and really going back to what the client needs are and then using chat as a tool to solve them rather than starting with chat and just trying to force it into everything. A Hulk smash kind through kind of thing through the, through a program.
Andy: Yup. Exactly. Even with the, even with the technology costs like upfront if you think about it. If a client doesn't already have chat, it can cost a little bit of money to implement on a website, right? There's code changes that need to take place. There's potentially banner changes that need to take place and all of that is very labor intensive upfront. Um, if we think about the contact center world, everyone's got a phone that's ringing. But if you don't have, if you have a website but you don't have chat on it, you gotta code and you got to do various different things to get that to fire.
Liz: That is a really good point. That starting from scratch especially, you need to think about how best to deploy those, those resources and invest in some of the technology. Thinking back on your career and your experiences with chat, either as a, an agent or in a manager capacity, can you each talk about maybe a memorable chat experience that you had without naming any specific clients?
Andy: I got one that's that that I've been remembering since my days as an agent. So one time I was a chat agent for a little while and I received a chat where a customer wasn't even a customer, didn't have no business being on our website, but they were complaining about a downed power line in their community. Um, and I was not part of a utility company who was part of a telecommunications company, but they decided to alert me for some strange reason. Um, and, uh, I w I was able to at least alert our, um, our department to say, Hey, go take a look at this there, the, this may be impacting some of our, some of our work. But I was able to take that lady who was chatting with me, but probably no business being on my chat. And I was actually able to talk her into buying, um, telecommunication services for me, even though that's not even what she wanted at all that stuff. That was my shining moment as a chat agent.
Kevin: Yeah. I mean, I've got a bunch, I guess. I mean, um, I, I would say probably a one of my favorite was I had a customer who was looking to buy service and we had kind of gone back and forth, uh, for quite a long time actually. It wasn't about how much money we were going to save him. And he was really sitting on the fence and you know, it was what else? Situations of where we had talked about so many things within the chat that I had kind of forgotten about some of the things that we had talked about in the chat. Uh, and the cool thing was that I could scroll all the way back to the view of the chat and say, hey why was this customer chatting again? What was their original, why was their original issue with wanting to switch from their current company to our company?
And I went back and you know, it had to do with the customer experience and it had to do with bad customer experiences that he had with his previous company. You know saving him money was great. But when we're comparing customer experience from this previous company to do the customer experience that he was having with me. I was hoping was that was a lot better. And so that's still something I we brought up at the very of the cat was, oh hey, I know that obviously you have all this money, but hopefully I've been showing you this chat, the kind of experience to have with our company going forward. And it's helping to create some of that trust as to your relationship with this company in the future. And you know, after him reflecting on it and say, yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
He ended up starting up service and it was cool because that's something that when you're on the phones, you don't really get the opportunity to go do that. You don't get to go back and rewind the recording and say, okay, Hey, let's review some of the things that this customer said. You have to kind of remember it when you get to 30 45 minute long conversation. It's hard to remember some of those things. So I thought that was really cool to be able to go back and read some of that information and then utilize that.
Liz: Yeah. Are you, are you guys seeing in your programs a mix of chatbots with human chat people?
Andy: Yeah, and my program, I'm testing or not testing, but in the process of rolling out an artificial intelligence tool to my entire enterprise. And it is, uh, the, the, the purpose of the tool is to not replace the person. The purpose of the tool is to give the person limited more limited options based off of what the, what the customer sentiment is. Um, and it'll populate, you know one of three or one of four responses. And it's the agent's job to choose which one of the four or which one of the three to pick, which is best for this scenario. Or to throw up a red flag and say, hey, artificial intelligence bot, this isn't what you should be saying at all. Now I have to reteach you, uh, what to do. But we've seen, um, we've seen some improvements both with conversion rates and some, um, operational enhancements as well. So it's more of an agent assist sort of program. Exactly. Yup.
Liz: All right. Well thank you guys so much. I'm going to have one more question before we, I leave you and that is, uh, what advice do you have for other companies, either potential client companies looking to do chat or uh, people within TTEC who are curious about adding chat as some of their some of their programs?
Brittany: I think my biggest piece of advice is to not just get sold. That sounds kind of weird coming from a salesperson working for a sales company, but it's important to find a trusted ally along the way who's going to help you make informed decisions versus one example might be to decide that you're going to use a certain provider of chat services or a certain website, um, or you know, certain kind of creative. It's really important to try and involve an expert from the get go so that you don't end up having to redo things. I've worked with a client in the past to had already signed contracts and agreements with a provider that ultimately was completely opposite of what they were trying to do for their brand and for their customers. And what ends up happening is we have to, we have to smash what we can offer into a very limited scope versus building the scope around what we're trying to do.
So if I could give one piece of advice, it would just be to, um, to understand what you're trying to do and make sure that you have someone you trust to guide you through the decision making or at least give you some advice versus, um, you know, signing up for something that seems like a good deal or as a very low cost or you know, has a promise that's too good to be true and having to ultimately start from scratch, um, you know, six to twelve months later, once you realize it's not going to fit.
Kevin: Yeah. I think Brittany has a really good point there. There's been quite a few times where we've seen, you know, partners come in and you know, they're experts in, in the in call centers, but they may not be experts necessarily in chat. Uh, it's, it's such a new medium for a lot of different companies. Uh, and so they, they try to create this, this chat experience for customers based off of this experience that their customers have been having over the phone. And it doesn't really work that way. Uh, so it's just making sure that you, you have someone on board who really understands what a chat experience for a customer is going to be like and making sure that that person is really kind of going back and checking the work and saying, okay, Hey, that may work on calls, but it may not work in chat. Uh, this will work really well with chat whereas you might have even thought about it for doing it because you don't do that on the phones. So I think that's a, that's a really good point.
Andy: Yeah. And to Kevin's point, I think my number one piece of advice would be if you, if you have a website that is getting lots of traffic, there are customers that want to talk to people that are avoiding your phone lines and that's where chat is going to be the most beneficial piece to any business that is either small or fortune 50. Um, there, there are customers that want to talk.
Liz: Great. That's a, that's a great way to wrap it all up. Well, Kevin Barry, Brittany Bell, and Andrew Meissbach the Chat Avengers of TTEC. Thank you very much for a fantastic conversation and good luck saving the universe.
Andy: One chat at a time.
Liz: One chat at a time. Exactly. All right, thanks guys.
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