Remote work is becoming the norm for both employees and managers. While some will make a return to the physical office this year―either some or all of the time―a good percentage of workers will stick with the remote approach.
In fact, managers believe 26.7% of the workforce will be fully remote by the end of 2021, according to the December 2020 Future Workforce Report. Additionally, the report predicts the number of remote workers will nearly double over the next five years, reaching 36.2 million Americans by 2025.
Fortunately, remote work is, for the most part, going well, with 68% of hiring managers reporting that remote work is going more smoothly than it did at the start of the pandemic. Many employees now find they’re more productive and enjoy the more flexible work schedule.
But remote work still presents challenges. When people first started working exclusively from home, many found it hard to “leave” the office, with the lines between work and home blurring. As remote work continued, employees became more adept at finding a better work-life balance. Even so, a Harvard Business Review study found the workday is still 10-20% longer on average when compared to pre-pandemic times.
Another major area impacted by long-term remote work is communications. Most workers and managers found ways (like embracing videoconferencing) to get work done and collaborate on projects. Still, some find it a challenge to have the same kind of in-depth conversations and brainstorming sessions without being in the same room. And let’s not forget about the importance of spontaneous, informal meetings that happen over a cubicle wall or in the hallway. These types of chance encounters are important not only for social interaction and morale, but they can also lead to ideas that positively impact the outcome of a project.
Since remote work isn’t going away, it’s important for both employees and managers to find ways around these challenges. Not surprisingly, the technology exists to overcome these remote work obstacles, thanks to cloud communications. Lucky for you, we have four communications tips to share. Be prepared to have your remote work life changed (for the better) forever.
1. Avoid Video Fatigue
When everyone made the initial shift to remote work, video meetings were a popular choice. However, video fatigue quickly set in, as it became draining to always be “on” from one meeting to the next. Making sure you have the proper lighting and professional background for video calls can create an extra headache and isn’t always necessary. The face-to-face feel of a video call may be ideal for brainstorming sessions or other important meetings, but there are occasions when other communications tools are better suited for the task at hand. Perhaps screen sharing will make a meeting more productive. Break-out rooms with smaller groups may be appropriate when a large project needs to be tackled in stages. With MiCollab from Mitel, you can even start an ad hoc meeting with a single click. The use of varied communications methods keeps teams productive while removing the stress that can accompany a long day of video meetings.
2. Give Remote Employees Control With A Choice Of Communications Options
If you want to keep your employees inspired and engaged, give them options. An integrated unified communications solution provides a multitude of choices when it comes to communications and collaboration. Use video when you need to see someone’s facial expressions. Draw or write on a shared whiteboard when it’s time to brainstorm. Check a team member’s status in real time to see if they’re available to chat online or answer an urgent question. Share a file or post a comment in a shared workspace or create an agenda and assign tasks so everyone can see the status of a project. An innovative cloud communications technology platform has a solution for every task at hand. The best part is employees can seamlessly move from one communications channel to another, creating a frictionless experience which makes for a happy work-from-home day.
3. Make Time For Casual Conversation
We may not be gathering around the water cooler as much these days, but there’s no reason we can’t recreate the experience. The same tools used for collaborating on work projects can also be used to promote social interaction among remote staff. Chat is just one way employees can engage in casual, lighthearted banter spontaneously. Other collaboration tools can also be put to good use for less professional (but still important) work. Employees can share recipes for a delicious post-work dinner or recommend inspiring music. They can even create a space dedicated to helping each other reach health and wellness goals. Remote employees will feel like they’re back in the office, chatting away, in no time.
4. Create A Connected Culture
Company culture plays a huge role in employee satisfaction and retention, but there’s no denying it’s a lot harder to build and foster a culture when most of your workforce is remote. Unified communications technology, however, provides managers with new and innovative ways to make even the most remote employee feel like part of the team. It all boils down to connection. Shared workspaces, chat, video and web conferencing can all be put to work to keep employees informed and engaged. With so many ways to connect, unified communications technology makes fostering the company culture remotely a seamlessly simple task.
Remote work may be here to stay, but the feeling of remoteness isn’t. Put cloud communications tools and technology to work and make everyone feel like a team player.
HIPAA at a high level mandates that organizations:
• Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of e-PHI created, received, maintained or transmitted
• Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated threats to the security or integrity of the information
• Protect against reasonably anticipated, impermissible uses or disclosures
• Ensure compliance by the workforce
Unfortunately, there are no crisply defined rules on achieving compliance for web chat. HIPAA specifies the outcomes, but not exactly how to achieve them.
This means that the onus is on you as an organization to do your own due diligence in coming up with a HIPAA compliant chat, set of systems and processes to safeguard your PHI.
Do I need a HIPAA compliant chat solution?
If you are a CE (Covered Entity), then yes! CEs include, but are not limited to:
Covered healthcare providers (hospitals, clinics, regional health services, individual medical practitioners) that carry out transactions in electronic formats
Healthcare clearing houses
Health plan providers, including: insurers, HMOs, Medicaid, Medicare prescription drug card sponsors, flexible spending accounts, public health authority, in addition to employers, schools or universities that collect, store or transmit EPHI (Electronic Protected Health Information), to enroll employees or students in health plans.
Now we have have the basics out of the way, let’s dive into the checklist.
Is live web chat HIPAA compliant? A handy checklist
What must be in place to ensure a live web chat system is HIPAA compliant? Simply put – some chat systems are not HIPAA compliant, but some can be with configuration.
Here’s a checklist of things to look for to see if a chat solution is HIPAA compliant (or not).
1. BAA contract
No matter which web chat system you might ultimately decide to use to meet your HIPAA compliant chat needs, you need to enter into a contract known as a BAA (Business Associate Agreement).
The BAA is a contract that states your supplier adheres to the same procedures, policies, and obligations to protect and secure your data. There is a good chance you might have multiple BAAs with various suppliers depending on what services those suppliers provide.
Most off-the-shelf chat systems will not include a BAA, so be sure to check with the chat vendor that they will be willing to spend a bit of time with you to ensure the BAA is in place.
2. Employee access controls
HIPAA specifies that each employee at your organization should only see the “minimum necessary” information to do their job. This means your HIPPA compliant chat solution should have the ability to have separate permissions for different user roles. For example, agents should not be able to see chat transcripts from other agents. However, admins or “supervisors” may have a requirement to see all the chat transcripts.
Ideally, you should also have strong authentication controls to restrict access to the chat system. Solutions to this may include 2FA (2 or multi-factor authentication), IP whitelisting, SSO (Single Sign On), system-enforced password policies, or ideally a combination of all of these.
3. Data availability
HIPAA requires that organizations ensure patient data is available, including data that might be contained in a chat transcript. This means you need a HIPAA compliant live chat that is stable with consistent uptime (look for a minimum 99.95% uptime SLA) and that backs up your data.
You should make sure to thoroughly understand the availability of the chat system, not only does this mean understanding the data centre provider (public, private, hybrid or on-premise) but also the resilience of the application, database and other components that make up a chat system.
Where possible, ask for a report on historical uptime and any instances of lost or compromised data – both of which are obviously big red flags.
A great benefit of having chat transcripts and PHI data in the cloud is that even in the event of a disaster at your physical location (assuming you were storing chat records there), and everything was destroyed, you could still retrieve your records.
Storing data in the cloud is not without potential HIPAA-related drawbacks of course. You should be clear about where your data is stored, and the more third party providers that have access to PHI, the more stringent you will need to be with maintaining BAAs and compliance adherence.
4. Data security & integrity controls
HIPAA mandates secure data, so you need a solution with strong encryption. A HIPPA compliant chat solution should encrypt all messages – both while in transit and at rest.
Be careful to check that live chat providers encrypt all data at rest on their servers, in addition to encryption in transit). Most chat solutions will visibly show to the end user if they are served over HTTPS or HTTP, but encryption at rest is something you will need to verify.
Data storage must have a “high level of physical security”. Data centers should have policies for reviewing controls and should regularly oversee risk assessment procedures. Most major cloud providers such as AWS, Azure and GCP meet HIPAA compliance guidelines, but you should be careful to check for other cloud providers and be very clear about the risks of on-premise deployments.
5. Data sovereignty
HIPAA requires that your patients’ PHI data will not leave the United States territory. This is a simple one but easy to overlook – make sure that you are using a chat system with US-based data centers!
6. Audit controls
A core requirement that HIPAA mandates is to keep an audit log of user actions in the chat service. You need to be able to track who accessed which chat, when they did, and what they did.
Your HIPAA compliant chat software should be capable of creating and recording an audit trail of all interactions containing ePHI. Any chat service that archives conversations and provides transcripts of all chats will probably meet this requirement.
7. Recipient authentication
Any messages that contain PHI should go to the intended recipient and the intended recipient only. If those communications end up in someone else’s hands that represents a HIPAA violation!
As most web chat is “inbound”, you might think this is a straightforward one. Alas. Most chat systems will have a “chat transcript” option – this should be disabled for HIPAA compliance as it could send the entire chat transcript, inclusive PHI, to the wrong recipient with an accidentally mistyped email.
It’s worth underscoring the fact that having a HIPAA compliant live chat does not necessarily make you HIPAA compliant, it can at best only support your organization in its ongoing efforts to achieve compliance and maximize data security.
Is SMS HIPAA compliant?
Definitely not! SMS messages are not encrypted and therefore should not be used for sending or receiving PHI under any circumstances.
Is video chat compliant?
Video chat software, from a HIPAA compliance perspective, is actually very similar to live chat in terms of access, audit controls and encryption. WebRTC, a browser protocol that powers most video chat solutions, mandates encryption by default.
Assuming you have the same controls in place as mentioned for live chat, then video chat can definitely support a HIPAA compliant strategy.
Talkative will work with you to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) and our legal team can accommodate any changes to our BAA that you may require.
2. Employee access controls
Talkative can implement a number of agent access to control to ensure a HIPAA compliant chat service, such as:
Users have roles/permissions to ensure they only see the minimum required info
Agents can only see interaction logs that they have interacted with
IP addresses can be whitelisted for additional security
SSO is available
Our password policy mandates general info sec best practices
Agents are automatically logged out after pre-defined time intervals
3. Data availability
Talkative leverages regional AWS data centers with a fully resilient server architecture. The system is imaged and backed up at regular intervals to ensure data integrity in the event of any potential downtime.
We provide you with an SLA with guaranteed uptime and can share historical uptime details with you. Single tenant deployments are also available, and admins are able to search logs and find and delete PHI where necessary.
While typically chat transcripts and interaction data is stored in the Talkative database in the cloud, you can configure a variable data retention policy, whereby data will be permanently and thoroughly purged from the Talkative system. In this instance, we typically integrate into your preferred CRM or on-premise database, where we send all the data, transcripts and PHI. The benefit of this is that no PHI resides on Talkative servers, limiting your exposure for having a third party (Talkative) storing PHI.
4. Data security & integrity controls
The Talkative solution encrypts all data in transit and at rest, and we use HIPAA-compliant data centers (in this case the USA, but other regions can be selected).
Encryption – TLS 1.2 or higher and HTTPS/WSS connections for data in transit and at rest.
We use AWS for hosting the Talkative solution. Any of the AWS infrastructure locations can be used for the Talkative solution.
Physical Security includes locking down and logging all physical access to the data centre.
Data centre access is limited to only authorised personnel.
Badges and biometric scanning for controlled data centre access.
Security camera monitoring at all data centre locations.
Access and video surveillance log retention.
24×7 onsite staff provides additional protection against unauthorised entry.
Unmarked facilities to help maintain low profile.
Physical security annually audited by independent firms.
Operational security includes creating business processes and policies that follow security best practices, in order to limit access to confidential information and maintain tight security.
Business continuity plan focused on availability of infrastructure.
Independent reviews performed by third parties.
Continuous monitoring and improvement of security program.
5. Data sovereignty
As mentioned, Talkative uses US-based AWS data centers.
6. Audit controls
In line with a HIPAA compliant chat, the Talkative solution had a log of agent actions in chat conversations. We can audit the log to make sure that you meet this requirement.
7. Recipient authentication
By default, Talkative lets website visitors have the possibility to send the transcript of their conversation to any email address that they input. To make your chat HIPAA compliant, you should configure this option to be disabled. This is really easy to do, and if you do encounter any problems, we are always available to lend a helping hand.
Virtual agents are becoming an increasingly popular tool in contact centres. In this blog we take a look at what a virtual agent is, how it works, the benefits it can bring to a business, and finally, we offer advice on what aspects to look out for when looking to buy virtual agent software. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
What is a virtual agent?
A virtual agent is an artificial intelligence (AI) based system that provides automated customer service. It is employed by many contact centres to provide fast responses to customer queries and/or field initial questions before directing the customer to a human customer support agent.
What’s the difference between a virtual agent and a chatbot?
The difference between a virtual agent and a chatbot is not always clear, and we find that many people use the terms interchangeably.
The easiest way to differentiate between the two is to look at their capabilities; virtual agents are typically more advanced than chatbots.
Chatbot – a chatbot is designed to handle basic communication tasks. It is programmed to respond to questions with pre-approved answers using scripted decision trees. When a customer enters a query, the chatbot picks up keywords and responds with the most suitable scripted response from its knowledge base. In a lot of cases, chatbots require customers to choose responses from set phrases (e.g. to start the conversation the customer chooses between ‘account’, ‘order’ or ‘billing’), which limits the scope of user input and therefore the questions the chatbot can be asked.
Virtual agent – a virtual agent is designed to interact with a customer. Rather than relying purely on scripted answers, a virtual agent uses machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to understand a customer’s intent and respond in a more personalised, ‘human-like’ manner. An advanced virtual agent can also ‘remember’ previous interactions, which means it can learn to handle more and more customer queries.
The table below provides a brief summary of the capabilities of each system, showing clearly how they differ.
Natural Language Processing
Virtual agents use NLP to analyse text and make sense of it, whereas chatbots need exact keyword matches in order to respond.
Understand customer intent
Chatbots typically require an answer from a predefined list of suggestions, which means they rely on keywords and don’t pick up intent like virtual agents.
As virtual agents analyse text, they can pick up sentiment (as well as intent) and adjust responses accordingly.
Virtual agents can learn over time by ‘remembering’ past interactions. This offers huge potential for dealing with organisation-specific conversations.
Decision tree routing
Decisions trees are typically associated with chatbots, but virtual agents can also use decision tree segmentation to simplify a user’s journey.
While virtual agents draw information from a knowledge base and can only provide answers they’re ‘trained’ to answer, their responses are not scripted word for word like chatbots.
Draw information from knowledge base
Virtual agents are more advanced as they can grow their knowledge base by ‘remembering’ past interactions.
Both systems are best used to answer repeated queries, such as FAQs.
Answer complex queries
Virtual agents can answer more unusual and complicated requests than chatbots, but they’re still best at dealing with repeat queries. Both systems will need to hand over to human agents when complicated questions are asked.
Offer personalised interaction
Virtual agents don’t use scripted answers meaning they can personalise responses. They generally sound more ‘human-like’ than chatbots.
How does it work?
A virtual agent draws on its knowledge base, machine learning and NLP to answer customer requests in the most appropriate and accurate way it can.
When a customer sends a message, the virtual agent will analyse the words to determine sentiment and intent. Based on this, it will use the information in its knowledge base and experience from past interactions to respond.
In this way, a virtual agent needs to be ‘trained’ to respond how you want it to. Do you want it to simply direct a customer to the right department? Do you want it to handle FAQs from start to finish, minimising human input wherever possible? Do you want it to gather initial details to save time and then handover to a human agent? There is no right or wrong; you determine how you want it to function to best serve your business.
If you do want it to handle complete customer requests, bear in mind that the quality and amount of information you provide it with will affect the quality and range of answers it can provide, and even then it will have limitations. Virtual agents are great for dealing with routine queries, such as FAQs, but can get thrown by complex issues, which is why a human agent should never be too far away.
Key benefits for organisations
A virtual agent has many use cases and can bring plenty of benefits to a business. To help you determine whether your contact centre needs to invest in a virtual agent, let’s take a look at the benefits in more detail.
Improve customer experience – A virtual agent can help to improve customer experience and satisfaction in a number of ways:
Fast responses: one of the most important factors in determining a good customer experience is a fast response to queries. Virtual agents can answer customers instantly, making them a reliable way to provide fast responses.
Reduce contact centre queues: both phone and live chat queues are a big turn off for customers. In fact, 60% of customers aren’t even willing to wait on hold for just one minute! One of the best ways to reduce contact centre queues is to provide a virtual agent. As the virtual agent deals with FAQs and simple queries, it puts less demand on other channels and significantly reduces, if not eliminates, queues.
Gather customer insights: virtual agents are a good way to gather information and data on customer behaviour and journeys. What are the most frequent questions it answers? What webpages trigger the greatest number of interactions? Insights such as this can show you where in the customer journey your customers encounter problems. You can then work to improve these areas and offer pre-emptive customer support.
Reduce demand on agents – as a virtual agent can handle many customer requests, it is a great tool for reducing the demand on human agents in a busy contact centre. This will give agents more time to deal with complex customer problems and improve employee morale. (We do not suggest a virtual agent replaces human agents, but it can be a very useful complement to human-powered customer support).
Round the clock support – being able to offer 24/7 customer support with a virtual agent is a clear benefit for your contact centre. An automated virtual agent can operate without human input, which means it can take over all customer support during your closing hours, and is also a great option if you have customers in different time zones.
Generate leads – virtual agents can collect customer information, either via pre-chat forms or through the conversation itself. This information can then be used to retarget customers in the future with nurture marketing campaigns, updates and product promotions.
Virtual agent best practices
If you’ve invested in a virtual agent, how do you ensure you get the most out of it? The following tips are essential to making sure your virtual agent does its job and helps you deliver excellent customer service:
Build a decent knowledge base – even though a virtual agent doesn’t completely rely on scripted messages, its responses are still drawn from its knowledge base. This means you need to provide it with the necessary information. If its knowledge base doesn’t contain the right information, the virtual agent cannot provide the best answers to customers.
Integrate with existing applications – like any new software you introduce to your contact centre, it’s a good idea to make sure your virtual agent is integrated with your CRM and other customer service tools. This makes sure information is easily shared across tools (which adds to the virtual agent’s knowledge base) and makes it easier for live agents to take over from the virtual agent if needed.
Enable escalation to other channels(e.g. video and cobrowse)– a virtual agent is not capable of dealing with all customer queries, which is why it should be programmed to hand over to a human agent when it cannot deal with a certain request. There are different ways you can trigger a hand over (e.g. keywords, time passed etc.), but the key is to make sure the escalation is seamless and fast. Key channels for escalation are video chat and cobrowse. These offer customers a personal experience and ensure swift resolution to problems, which is essential if a virtual agent has not been able to resolve the issue.
Go omnichannel – offer your virtual agent where your customers want it! Virtual agents aren’t just for your website, implement it across the different customer contact channels you offer, such as a mobile app or other messaging platforms.
Proactive interactions – virtual agents are a good way to initiate a conversation with a customer. For example, if a customer has been inactive on a web page for a couple of minutes, a virtual agent can pop up to ask if they need any assistance. This proactive engagement is a good way to generate leads and guide customers to the next stage of your sales funnel. Set up rules to determine when your virtual agent is triggered (remember not to overdo it, virtual agents popping up as soon as you enter a web page can be very annoying and turn customers away!).
Automation – make sure your virtual agent is programmed to respond to customer requests and search its knowledge base without human input. Automation is key to reducing human involvement: without it, a virtual interaction will still need to be manually triggered by a human agent.
Multilingual support – if you serve customers in different languages, ensure your virtual agent can offer multilingual support. This can be achieved through real-time translation technology or by adding scripted FAQ answers in different languages to its knowledge base.
Compliance – like a live web chat interaction, virtual agent exchanges need to follow the necessary rules to be compliant with your industry. For example, if it gathers data, it needs to be GDPR compliant, and virtual agents for healthcare providers need to be hipaa compliant. Make sure it ticks all the compliance boxes before it goes live.
Remember when masks were for Halloween and “social distancing” meant ignoring phone calls? A lot can change in a year.
When 2020 threw business as usual out the window, we were all forced to make quick and sometimes major changes to the way we work, play and live. As we continue to move towards a post-pandemic reality, we have an exciting opportunity to re-evaluate how we do business, how we connect with coworkers and customers, and how we can improve the safety of our industries. The new normal doesn’t have to—in fact, shouldn’t—be an exact replica of the old normal.
Review, Revise And Reimagine
There’s nothing like an unforeseen disaster to highlight pain points, outdated processes, and inefficiencies. While under pressure, many businesses found that they could be more agile and innovative than they previously imagined.
As the trend towards remote and hybrid workforces continues, long-standing business practices must be reworked to support new realities for employees and customers. It is also time to evaluate what changes to keep and what should be rolled back to pre-COVID practices.
Laurie McCabe, Co-founder and Partner of SMB Group, Inc. suggests formulating a strategy for the hybrid future of work. To do this, you need to identify the tools, spaces and technologies needed to keep your workforce on track and scalable.
McCabe asks three questions:
For what purposes is it important for employees to be in the office?
How can office space be designed to accommodate these activities?
What do employees and managers need to work collaboratively and productively, and to track progress and performance?
Some employees are more productive and engaged at home, while others can’t wait to get back to their desks. For certain roles, the solution may be flexible, hybrid work. Companies can make informed and successful decisions by starting with a clear picture of the support needed for all scenarios.
No matter where your workforce is in the future, business has to be able to go anywhere at any time. Cloud services, for example, link employees and customers from wherever they are. As Frank Thelen, Founder & CEO at Freigeist Capital puts it, “Now more than ever, I suggest getting used to the idea of digitizing processes. Regardless of the current situation, the future of any industry is digital.”
Thelen adds that successful transitions to digital processes now will yield competitive advantages in the future.
Nurture Employees & Customers
Changing the way we socialize while working has been one of the biggest remote work challenges we’ve faced. It’s easy to become isolated from potentially productive collaboration if the only time you interact with coworkers is during scheduled, structured meetings. Impromptu huddles in the halls used to give people time to brainstorm, discuss customer needs and catch up with other aspects of the business. One big downside of remote or hybrid working is that employees can lose the ability to communicate spontaneously.
It is possible to foster human interaction in a virtual workplace, however. Scott Dawson, Author of The Art of Working Remotely, explains: “Communication and collaboration don’t happen by accident. You have to provide the tools and guidance for discourse. For tools, make sure you have platforms that encourage asynchronous communications. It’s key that communications persist so participants can jump in when it makes sense for them.”
Creating spaces for spontaneous collaboration and casual communication is just as vital as making sure everyone attends a video conference and doesn’t forget to mute their mic.
Relationships with customers, vendors and partners have changed, too. Customers are able to conduct business virtually, but it is still vital to support the relationships that were built through personal interaction. Michael Krigsman, Industry Analyst and Host of CXOTALK, stresses the importance of training remote workers to provide exceptional virtual customer experiences.
Krigsman suggests, “Offer every customer the opportunity for chat, phone call or a video meeting to ensure that they can connect in their preferred way. Make it easy for your customers to connect and be sure to make them feel comfortable and supported. Simplicity is essential.”
Workplace safety and security is about more than not using “1234” as your login password. New technologies that allow access anywhere, anytime are vulnerable to cyber threats. People with varying degrees of tech savvy are now tasked with maintaining security while working remotely.
Employees need to be trained on why cybersecurity matters and how to be cautious consumers of virtual services. This may take the form of test phishing emails, tech support for multi-factor authentication or open-ended conversations about which cloud services and apps are safe and necessary.
Shelly Kramer, Founding Partner & Senior Analyst at Futurum Research + Analysis, stresses that going forward, “…data security and compliance must be at the forefront of solution (and vendor) consideration.”
It’s crucial to give employees the tools they need to maintain scalability and flexibility while also keeping an eye towards cyber security: “Technology alone is never the answer—technology solutions that check all the right boxes when it comes to solving business challenges and which employees love using— that’s what personifies today’s best-in-class solutions,” Kramer says.
As we collectively start to think about what our post-crisis lives will look like, we may find that some emergency measures are worth keeping for the long term. Many workforces will continue to be remote or hybrid, while others will return to the office with new skills. It’s important to be aware of the tools and practices your business needs to keep employees and customers engaged, connected and safe.
How successful is your chatbot? Like all contact channels, you need to track certain metrics to measure the performance of your bot. These chatbot analytics will show you what your bot is doing well and the areas where it can be improved.
In this article we look at the top seven metrics you should be tracking in your chatbot analytics. How do we know these are the most important? We’re speaking from experience! These are the metrics we measure for our own successful chatbot. We also recommend all our customers track these too.
As well as performance metrics, this list also includes two cost-related metrics that are vital to consider when developing and deploying your bot.
Let’s start with performance metrics. To measure the success of your chatbot, you need to track five key performance related metrics.
Success means different things for different companies. To get the most out of your chatbot analytics and determine if your bot is ‘successful’, make sure you set clear goals and KPIs to compare your monthly data against.
This metric refers to the percentage of customer queries that are handled by your chatbot without any human intervention. It’s a clear indication of how well your bot is doing its job.
In most customer service scenarios, the role of a chatbot is to reduce the demand on live agents. The bot handles FAQs from start to finish, only handing over to an agent if it can’t deal with the customer request.
If your chatbot analytics show a low level of deflection, it means your bot is not adequately handling a good portion of customer queries. This could mean it’s actually creating more work for agents, rather than helping them.
Firstly, as chatbots act as an additional contact channel for customers, they tend to increase the number of interactions. This is great for customer engagement, but if your chatbot isn’t handling a lot of these additional interactions, it’s just more queries for your agents to deal with.
Secondly, if your bot can’t answer simple questions, customers will grow frustrated. When they are transferred to a live agent, the agent has to deal with their frustration as well as their initial query. This makes it a lot harder to ensure the customer enjoys a good customer experience.
Of course, your chatbot analytics won’t show a 100% deflection rate, and this should never be the aim. Bots are not designed to replace human-driven customer service – they’re just another tool to help improve the overall customer experience.
A good level of deflection will depend on your company and the type of customer queries you receive. Studies have shown that aiming to deflect anywhere between 40% to 80% of queries is a realistic goal.
In general, you should train your chatbot to handle common customer requests by building pre-defined conversation paths. When set up correctly, your chatbot will be able to handle these specific queries from start to finish, automating your FAQ customer service. If a customer has a complicated or unusual issue, your chatbot should be programmed to hand over to a live agent.
2. Unrecognised customer queries
Another important metric to keep an eye on in your chatbot analytics is the percentage of customer inputs that fall outside your chatbot’s prescribed workflow. In layman terms: what percentage of customer questions does your chatbot not understand?
This metric is only relevant if you use a ‘free input’ chatbot, i.e. you let customers freely type in their questions rather than clicking predefined options with a rule-based bot.
When you build a chatbot, the aim is to design complete, human-like conversations. Let’s look at an example. One of your most common customer queries is: ‘I can’t log into my account’, so you build an appropriate conversation path for your bot.
As long as the customer follows one of your pre-built conversation paths, the chatbot can handle the customer request.
If a customer asks a question you have not trained your chatbot to answer, it won’t understand the query and won’t be able to answer it. In this case, it will need to transfer the customer to a live agent.
You will never be able to predict every single question a customer can ask you, but the more questions you prepare your chatbot for, the better. Try to map out all likely customer conversations and cover as many eventualities as possible.
Combined with the deflection metric we discussed above, these two chatbot analytics will help you understand how in-sync your bot is with your customers. The aim should be to get it efficiently answering all of your FAQs.
3. Average handling time (AHT)
A good chatbot should help your agents’ workflows and provide efficient customer service. This means it should reduce your average interaction handling time.
One of the driving factors for companies adopting chatbots is the speed in which they can answer customer questions. Today, a timely response is one of the most valued aspects of customer service. Chatbots answer this demand.
When it comes to FAQs, bots will always be faster than agents. They can handle multiple requests at once, meaning no chat queues and, without the need to type or ‘think’, they can provide immediate responses.
Even your most efficient agent will be slower than a chatbot in an FAQ scenario. This is why your average handling time should be reduced after introducing a chatbot.
A reduction in AHT is another chatbot analytic that shows your bot is doing its job well. It’s taking care of common queries quickly and efficiently, while also freeing up agents to deal with more complex issues.
Average handling time is a metric that any good chat and chatbot analytics system will track automatically. You can track bot handling times and live chat handling times separately, but to truly know if your bot is making a difference, we recommend tracking an overall chat enquiries AHT too.
4. Customer satisfaction (CSAT)
Like all contact channels, customer satisfaction is a key metric to keep track of in your chatbot analytics. After all, every business wants satisfied and loyal customers.
The easiest way to measure customer satisfaction with your chatbot is to get feedback. This can be as simple as asking customers to click a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ button after an interaction, or to rate the experience out of 10.
For more detailed feedback you can give customers a short post-conversation questionnaire. By asking a few simple questions, you can find out what customers like and dislike about their experience with the bot, giving you a clearer picture of where you can improve.
That said, it’s all well and good measuring overall customer satisfaction with your chatbot, but it’s more useful if you have other data to compare it with. As a result, we recommend tracking two customer satisfaction related metrics in your chatbot analytics.
First, you should track chatbot customer satisfaction vs agent customer satisfaction. If CSAT scores are a lot lower for your bot compared to live agents, your bot needs improving. If it’s a lot higher, encourage more engagement with your bot (and maybe consider retraining your agents!).
Secondly, you should also track your customer satisfaction levels from before and after introducing your chatbot. Chatbots are supposed to improve overall customer satisfaction – if your satisfaction rates are lower after introducing your bot, it is not serving its purpose.
5. Lead generation
Is your chatbot generating leads? To know this you need to include lead generation in your chatbot analytics.
For sales and ecommerce chatbots, this is one of the most important metrics to track as these bots should be capturing high quality leads for your business. If they’re not, it probably means your bot is not adequately engaging customers.
If your bot is principally for customer support rather than sales, lead generation might be less important for you. However, customer data collection (such as names, contact details, and personal preferences) is always useful for targeted marketing campaigns, meaning lead generation can still be worth keeping an eye on.
What constitutes a lead can be defined by your business. Is it simply collecting a customer’s name and contact details? Or do you want a bit more information to qualify the lead, such as age range, product interest, company and role (for B2B)?
When you have defined what makes a lead, you can set up tagging in your chatbot analytics. With this in place, when a chatbot interaction fulfils the parameters of a lead, it will be tagged as an inbound lead.
To really know if your chatbot is succeeding at generating more leads, compare the number of inbound leads generated month by month before and after you introduced the bot. Ideally, you want to see a significant increase in leads after the chatbot has been put in place.
When researching the right bot for you, there are important cost-related chatbot analytics you should take into account. Price is always a factor when introducing new tech and features to your company, but time-related costs are equally important.
6. Development and configuration cost
Unless you have the expertise in-house to build your own chatbot, you will need to look to a third-party to both develop and set up a bot on your website. In this case, pricing always needs to be carefully considered.
Price will vary largely based on the complexity of the chatbot. For example, a rule-based bot that caters for a handful of FAQs will cost a lot less than a free text input AI chatbot.
The easiest way to ensure you are getting the best deal for you is to compare like for like. Know what you want your bot to do and request pricing quotes from multiple companies. Remember to get the cost for:
Developing the bot
Configuring bot on website e.g. customising the UX and chat widget (if required)
Integrating bot into existing workflows e.g. CRMs and chat systems
It’s also good to know how much support you’ll get with the price. Are you on your own after configuration or will you get continued expert support?
7. Time to go live
Another important factor to consider when choosing a chatbot company is the time it will take to develop your bot and get it up and running.
Much like price, this will be influenced by the complexity of your chatbot, but ideally you want a quick turn around.
A standard FAQ chatbot shouldn’t take long to develop and configure. With Talkative, for example, we can build the bot and get it live within a few days.
Consider how long you’re prepared to wait for your new chatbot and ask companies for an accurate timescale of development through to deployment.
The quicker your bot is up and running, the sooner it can start helping agents, improving the customer experience, and generating leads.
Chatbot analytics round up
To sum up, the most important chatbot analytics to track are:
Unrecognised customer queries
Average handling time
Deployment and configuration cost
Time to go live (development to deployment timescale)
Do you use any other metrics to measure the success of your chatbot?
When businesses transitioned to remote work at the start of the pandemic, their leaders and supervisors learned how to manage a virtual workforce. Now managers face another big upheaval: the rise of the hybrid workplace.
In the coming months, companies will reopen their office spaces and allow employees to return―with a few key differences. Many firms expect to adopt a hybrid approach, in which employees split their time between the company’s facilities and their home office.
That’s right. Just as you thought you had remote work all figured out, now there are a whole new set of challenges.
However, managers are the linchpin in this scenario, and the way you approach the transition can make all the difference in the success (and happiness) of your team. There will be new routines to master, but as the group leader, you’re in a unique position to set the tone. Think of it as a chance to reset routines and refresh processes and rules.
As you map your return-to-work plan, take advantage of some expert recommendations. These hacks will help you and your team navigate a more complex, yet exciting work environment.
1. Design A Healthier Culture
As much as work itself can be rewarding, it also comes with a fair amount of stress. However, the hybrid approach offers managers a chance to reset the culture and reduce workplace pressures.
Remote work presents challenges because employees tend to work longer hours. But that can create health issues. The World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently raised concerns about how teleworking blurs the lines between home and work―and may impact health. According to a study the organization conducted before the pandemic, the risk of dying from stroke and heart disease is higher if you work more than 55 hours a week.
The hybrid approach could alleviate both problems. The return to the office offers an unprecedented opportunity to change the work culture. Blending time in the office with work at home, employees may benefit from a better balance, finding it easier to log off on remote days and finally getting that social connection on in-person days. In addition, managers can improve workplace culture by actively fostering positive connections and relationships with and among team members, further helping to reduce stress levels.
2. Take Steps To Eliminate “Proximity Bias”
Managers and employees are both at risk of falling into the same trap: Relying on or trusting those we see most often. Experts call this “proximity bias“: the unconscious tendency to favor those near you or whom you see most often.
To keep remote employees from feeling disconnected, employers will need to take steps to strengthen connections.
Create and set expectations about how team members will communicate with each other. For instance, set guidelines for who should be invited to each meeting.
Pay attention to how you spend your day and be sure you give all team members a fair shake.
Set a basic rule that all meetings should be held on videoconference―whether employees are in the office or not.
You’re less likely to overlook remote workers (such as leaving them off meeting invitations) if you have clear communication policies in place.
3. Ensure The Right Communications Tools Are Available
Employees adapted easily to new communications tools at the start of the pandemic. But videoconferencing, web chat and other collaboration tools will retain their importance in the hybrid environment.
In fact, some upgrades to the company’s office space will be required to manage the needs of both types of workers. For instance, Deniz Caglar, principal, organization and workforce strategy at PwC, believes businesses will need to improve the video and sound quality of conferencing technology, as well as provide the right resources for hoteling.
Keep in mind your remote working technology should enable employees to switch easily between the company’s workspace and their in-home offices seamlessly.
4. Reconsider Productivity Measures
In the pre-pandemic world, managers often drew a direct line between an employee’s time in the office and their productivity. One study estimates that U.S. productivity will rise by 5%, mostly due to savings in commuting time.
In conversations with 150 chief human resource officers, the firm identified several themes and pieces of wisdom, including:
Inspire your team by focusing on your organization’s mission and purpose.
Support and care for your employees, and they’ll go the extra mile for you.
Communicate more, and when you do, be more transparent.
5. Focus On Mentoring
Mentoring is another tool at your disposal. The value of coaching and cultivating employees through a structured program has long been extolled. In fact, 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs.
In the hybrid workplace, you can establish mentor relationships to cultivate employee development and retention, as well as elevate your team’s well-being, cohesion and productivity levels.
What’s the best approach to mentoring employees both in the office space and at home? In Harvard Business Review, Marianna Tu and Michael Li of the nonprofit America Needs You (ANY), suggest a few tips to be a great mentor.
One strategy is to use open communication to build trust. Tu and Li recommend holding more one-to-one meetings and using the time to discuss both work and personal issues. As it becomes harder to separate work from personal life, creating an understanding of individual pressures can lead to collaborative solutions that help relieve stress.
The authors also suggest managers collaborate with employees in real time on goals. It’s more effective than simply sharing or telling an employee what needs to be done. In addition, using tools like screen-sharing will increase efficiency, effectiveness and buy-in.
The new world of hybrid work may seem daunting and challenging at first, but managers have an incredible opportunity to build a better culture for their teams. These hacks are a great way to start.
Even if you’re committed to offering the best digital customer service possible, there’s a number of pitfalls you can face.
So, how do you make sure you’re keeping your website customers smiling? How do you make sure they remain loyal?
By avoiding the most common online customer service mistakes. Take a look and see where your business is going wrong.
What is digital customer service?
A crucial part of the online customer experience, digital customer service concerns the assistance you provide your customers via digital channels. Like traditional customer service, digital customer service can be offered both pre- and post-purchase.
Examples of digital customer service channels include email, live chat, video chat, social media messaging, and many more.
Why is digital customer service important?
As the online equivalent of traditional customer service, digital customer service is important for much the same reasons as its offline counterpart: it can increase customer satisfaction, sales and retention. In fact, 89% of customers are more likely to make another purchase after enjoying a positive customer service.
Conversely, poor customer service has been proven to turn buyers away from companies, limiting profits and damaging company reputations. The same is true of poor digital customer service.
While 81% of customers will share bad examples of traditional customer service with their friends and family, poor digital customer service experiences are regularly published online for all to see.
It means thousands of would-be customers might be turning away from your business before you’ve had a chance to make a good impression. Just take a look at some of the reviews listed below. Would you want these kinds of reviews for your business?
The 11 worst digital customer service mistakes
Take a look at these digital customer service mistakes. Are you guilty of any of these customer service sins?
1. Ignoring customers
No business makes it their official policy to ignore their customers, yet this digital customer service mistake still happens far too often – whether accidentally or through sheer carelessness.
Either way, making this kind of error can lead to dire results. Businesses who routinely ignore customer queries through their website and social media channels can expect a drastic drop in their customer satisfaction. In turn, customer relations will suffer too, damaging customer engagement and, ultimately, your sales and retention.
To combat the possibility that you’re leaving customers ignored, make sure you analyse your contact channels’ efficiency and adopt processes to ensure you’re always replying to your customers.
You can even use website engagement tools to avoid this kind of mistake in the future. For instance, with social media listening tools, you’ll be notified about comments your customers leave online – even if they don’t tag your handle or your company name. It’ll help you rectify the situation fast.
This second digital customer service sin is arguably worse than the first. While it might go without saying that you should never be rude to your customers, nobody is perfect. Mistakes can easily be made.
But with 82% of customers citing friendly contact centre agents as an important aspect of the customer service experience, trying to justify rude behaviour simply won’t do.
The best way to combat this issue is to make sure contact centre agents are well trained and know how to diffuse customer tension.
By making a commitment in this area, you’ll not only ensure that you’re always treating your customers with respect, you’ll also know your contact centre agents are confident and well-supported. As Simon Sinek suggests, ‘customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.’
3. Keeping customers waiting in the dark
With 60% of customers stating that waiting is the most frustrating part of customer service, it’s clear that overly long waiting periods are never ideal. Unfortunately, they’re also unavoidable at times.
Even so, what turns a long wait into a digital customer service sin is keeping customers in the dark. If they find the wait frustrating, a lack of updates is only going to make things worse.
The reason for this frustration is understandable. When purchasing a product or service online, customers often need more assurance than if they were buying from a brick and mortar location.
After all, a queue in a real life store is much more tangible than a queue for a live chat interaction or the wait for a delivery to arrive.
This is why more and more retailers are making use of ecommerce chatbots and trackers to keep their online customers up to date.
The good news is that this digital customer service mistake can be fixed with a few key improvements.
Prioritize faster response times by offering more contact channels and leveraging self-service.
Don’t make promises on delivery or resolution times that you can’t keep.
Keep your customers up to date as much as possible – whether it’s good news or bad.
While the first two improvements can take a little more time to put in place, this last tip can help you improve your digital customer service straight away. By remaining honest and transparent with your customers, you’re proving your integrity and dedication to solving your customers’ problems. Even if they are still a little frustrated, think how annoyed they’d be with no update whatsoever.
4. Assuming one contact channel is enough
Different customers have different contact channel preferences. While offering traditional phone support might work for some, others will want to talk with your company solely through online means.
For instance, Millennials and Gen Z prefer email and social media channels respectively. So imagine trying to target these demographics while only offering customer service over the phone. It would quickly frustrate your customers.
The best way to tackle this kind of digital customer service mistake is to adopt an omnichannel approach to your online presence.
For example, for customers with a simple query, you can install a chatbot that can assist them quickly and efficiently. For more in-depth questions or discussions, you can escalate to live chat.
By offering as many sustainable contact channels as possible, you’re proving to your customers that you’re offering maximum accessibility as part of their customer experience. It means they’ll always deem you as a helpful and communicative brand.
What’s more, an omnichannel approach is the best solution to the following digital customer service mistake too.
5. Bouncing customers around
Bouncing customers between contact channels is one of the most frustrating challenges customers face. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence: only 20% of companies solve a customers’ query during first contact.
You might’ve experienced this digital customer service mistake yourself. If you’ve ever called a company up with an issue, only to be told to email them instead, it can feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back.
Nevertheless, the problem is understandable from both sides of the interaction. While customers will always prefer to have their issues solved on the spot, contact agents sometimes need to change contact channels to fully understand the customer’s problem.
In our previous example, we looked at how companies with an omnichannel approach can avoid this digital customer service pain-point.
This approach also allows agents to escalate customer interactions to different channels in the same session. It means that customers always deal with the same agent.
By making sure that customers never have to start from scratch with a new team member, customer tension is soothed. Their problems can be solved within one contact session. They’ll no longer feel like they’re running around in circles just to get your attention.
6. Getting the tone wrong
While this digital customer service mistake is most often committed via social media comments, speaking in the wrong tone to your customers can happen over any contact channel.
For instance, when customers are denied a request with a casual and unapologetic tone, 78% are dissatisfied with the service they receive. Dissatisfaction dramatically decreases if they’re spoken to with a more apologetic tone.
Like speaking rudely to your customers, getting the tone wrong during a customer service interaction is never a good idea. While you might think making a joke with your customers will ease the conversation and create empathy, you need to make sure you never cross the line.
The best approach is to encourage your contact agents to use humour sparingly. This is not to say that agents can’t be light-hearted at times, but they should always remain polite and professional.
The goal is to solve the customer’s issue, not to make them laugh. You’d be much wiser trying to make them smile with stellar customer service, saving the jokes for your social media feed – so long as you keep them wholesome and on-brand!
7. Not asking for feedback
One of the best ways you can improve your digital customer service overall is by asking for feedback.
A staggering 91% of customers leave a business without letting the business know why. That’s a huge number of customers who might’ve remained loyal had they had the chance to express their views.
What’s more, 77% of customers view brands who ask for feedback more favourably. Yet not enough businesses make the most of their customers’ views.
To avoid this digital customer service mistake, take the advantage over your competitors by reaching out to your customers. Prove to them that you’re listening.
It’s incredibly easy to do. Simply make use of the dozens of feedback and survey tools available online. Any negative feedback you gather can help you make vital improvements that’ll keep customers loyal.
There’s more added bonuses too: by asking for feedback, you’ll be proving to your customers that you appreciate their opinions, leading to an increase in customer engagement. Any positive feedback gathered can also be used for testimonials – another great reason to make the most of your customers’ insights and opinions.
8. Neglecting self-service
This digital customer service mistake can cause a lot of frustration for contact agents and customers alike. By neglecting self-service options for your customers, your contact agents will suffer under the strain of an overly heavy workload.
What’s more, some customers will get annoyed that they have to get in touch when they know full well they could solve the issue themselves.
With the use of self-service resources up by 80%, most customers are now well-versed in seeking out guidance online. You just want to make sure they’re looking to your resources, not your competitors’.
Fortunately, there’s a very simple fix to turn this mistake into a digital customer service win. Start by analysing your customer journey.
By locating the pain-points your customers experience on your site, you can start to develop a list of what self-service support information you need to provide up front. That way, you can start offering your customers the chance to resolve issues for themselves.
Chatbots, FAQ pages, and explainer videos are great places to start, but that’s not to say they can replace all of your digital customer service strategies.
Instead, tools like these can compliment your primary contact channels to make sure your customers are only getting in touch once they’ve explored all the resources on offer. It’ll mean more customers are able to solve their own problems quicker, which means less strain on your staff. It’s a win-win.
9. Impersonal responses
63% of customers have stopped purchasing products or services due to poor personalisation. So while this digital customer service mistake might not seem like the worst sin on the list, in terms of customer retention, it can easily prove the last straw.
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical example. Say a customer has ordered an item online and has been faced with a delayed delivery. They don’t receive any updates, and when they do get in touch, they are bounced from channel to channel.
Finally, they are told to email the customer service department, only to receive an impersonal response that neither addresses their problem, or even their name. The email simply asks them to be patient – ‘We’ll get back in touch with you as soon as we can!’
How likely is it that this customer will go on to buy from this company again? According to research, not likely: 85% of customers go elsewhere because of poor customer service that they deemed ‘easily preventable’. If using a customer’s name isn’t easy enough, we don’t know what is!
Either way, this digital customer service mistake is often a result of overstretched customer service teams and poor company processes. To make sure you’re not committing the same mistakes, there’s a few things you can do.
When speaking to customers via email, make sure your team always responds personally, politely, and professionally. If you use automated email software for acknowledgement emails, make sure your system is set up to respond with your customers’ names.
On the social media front, if you’re facing a large amount of queries, it might be tempting to use canned responses when speaking with customers. The same temptation might also arise when using digital customer service tools like live chat.
Even so, if you are going to use these kinds of templates, it’s best to take the time to personalise them for each use. By acknowledging your customer by name, you’re showing them respect up front. It’ll make the following interactions all the smoother.
10. Showing no appreciation
91% of customers said they are more likely to buy from brands that show appreciation for their business. So if you ever find yourself cleaning up after a digital customer service disaster, one way to rectify the situation is to show your customers true appreciation.
If a customer has already experienced problems with your product or service, they already feel short-changed. Don’t add insult to injury by taking their patience for granted. In fact, it’s on occasions like these where you should strive to demonstrate stellar customer service.
If you’re making up for a mistake, offer a sincere apology. Discounts and free gifts work great too.
You should also thank these customers for their business like you would with any other customer. After all, saying thank you is the polite thing to do, and an expression of gratitude can go a long way to perfecting a great customer experience.
Ultimately, the world is your oyster when it comes to showing your appreciation to customers. All you need is a little imagination to take your digital customer service to the next level.
11. Failing to improve
When it comes to the digital customer service mistakes that are the most damaging, this final entry on our list might be the worst sin of all.
After all, with 1 in 3 formerly loyal customers turning away from a business following a bad experience, you don’t want to risk annoying the customer base that remains. Even if these customers do put their trust in your company again, they aren’t likely to stick around if they suffer another bad experience.
The good news is that with effort, your digital customer service strategies can be improved quicker than you think…
How can digital customer service be improved?
There we have it, the 11 worst digital customer service mistakes you can make. And, more importantly, avoid!
After all, offering great digital customer service is a continuous process. It’s never too late to take advantage of the great perks that fantastic customer service has to offer. To get started, simply review the following pointers.
Always acknowledge customer queries.
Always remain polite.
Update your customers – even if it’s bad news.
Use an omnichannel approach.
Don’t bounce customers from channel to channel.
Use the right tone.
Ask for feedback.
Personalise your responses.
Which digital customer service strategies do you think are most important?
Over the last year, the pandemic has dramatically changed our lives. Most importantly for businesses, it’s changed the way consumers shop – across all sectors, remote sales have become the norm.
With everything closed, the shift to digital sales wasn’t surprising. But even as shops, restaurants, and offices are starting to reopen, the preference for online shopping is sticking around.
American retailer Target saw a 141% increase in its digital sales in the first quarter of 2020. In response to the ongoing demand for online shopping, it’s continuing to expand its online grocery efforts.
How can your business adapt to this change in consumer behaviour? You need to improve your digital presence with a digital transformation that will boost your remote selling.
What is remote selling?
Remote selling, or virtual selling, involves the sales agent and the customer being in different physical locations during the sales process. Sales discussions and meetings take place remotely, i.e. over the phone, email, or video chat (the tool that is becoming increasingly popular).
This has been a common selling technique in B2B sales for a long time, but we are now seeing an increase in demand for remote sales across several sectors – including retail, travel, and the food industry. Customers are enjoying shopping from the comfort of their own homes.
When done well, remote selling can significantly boost overall sales.
How to increase remote sales
To increase remote sales you need to engage and convert more digital customers. Let’s break down the top seven ways to achieve this.
1. Engage more customers online
If you’re not talking to online customers, then you can’t convert online customers. That’s why the first step in increasing remote sales is increasing customer engagement and communication.
In other words, you want to encourage customers to connect with your sales agents. There are a number of ways you can do this.
Live chat, for example, is a great way to initiate customer communication. Chat pop-ups can appear at key moments during the digital journey, such as on the checkout or certain product pages, or after a period of inactivity. These can proactively encourage customers to seek help and advice from your sales agents.
Chatbots are also a great engagement tool. They’re an effective way of capturing a customer’s attention, starting a conversation, and gathering customer information for targeted marketing and remotes sales processes.
There are a ton of different tools available that can really help you boost your online customer engagement.
Whether you’re a customer facing organisation in retail or travel, or a B2B company selling software, live video chat is the best way to engage with potential customers and, importantly, convert them into paying customers.
Video lets you speak to customers face-to-face. It makes it easier for the seller to pick up on non-verbal queues and tailor pitches accordingly.
It also makes it easier to show the customer your product, whether that’s through a software demo or physically showing them items. Customers can ask questions and the seller can answer and immediately address concerns.
Ultimately, video chat creates a more personal customer experience that vastly increases conversion rates. In fact, customers that engage with a company on video chat are 4 times more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t.
It may sound like a big investment, but in reality video chat software is quick and easy to set up, and doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Plus, the money you do spend on software and equipment will be rewarded with a boost in remote sales.
3. Establish a rapport
Like in-person sales, establishing a good rapport with the customer is key to increasing remote sales.
Why is rapport so important? It’s connected to trust, and building trust is vital in making any sale.
Most customers don’t automatically trust a company – only 50% of millennials and 42% of Gen Z say they trust businesses. This isn’t really surprising. Afterall, very few people will trust someone they don’t know.
This is why it’s important to build a connection with customers. The more a customer connects with you, the more likely they are to trust you, and the more likely they are to make a purchase.
Building rapport is key to establishing that initial all-important connection for remote sales. To do this, try engaging the customer on common ground.
For example, start the call by discussing topical news, trending TV shows or favourite sports. If you’re using video chat, maybe bring up something interesting you can see in the customer’s background. All this can help you get the ball rolling and start creating a sincere connection.
4. Be attentive
There’s nothing worse than trying to talk to someone who isn’t giving you their full focus. A must for any successful remote sale is to give the customer your full, undivided attention.
There are two aspects to this. Firstly, you can’t pay attention to someone if you are distracted, so you need to eliminate all distractions before starting a sales call.
For agents working from home, this can be achieved by having a designated work space with limited visual distractions.
In a contact centre setting, this can be a bit trickier – they’re busy places with lots of calls going on at once.
One way managers can help tackle the problem is by limiting distractions by establishing clear traffic flows around the workspace (i.e. avoid large volumes of people walking directly behind/in front of agents’ desks), spacing agents out wherever possible, and supplying agents with noise-cancelling headphones.
When using video chat, this becomes even more important. As customers can see you, video chats need to be treated like in-person conversations. Make eye contact and stay focused on the customer.
The other aspect of being attentive relies on how well you listen to the customer during a remote sales call. Be interested in what they’re saying and be alert.
For example, make sure you make a note of their name and use it throughout the exchange. This makes the interaction more personal for the customer, helping to build that rapport and trust we mentioned earlier.
5. Set a clear goal
How can your solution/product help the customer? What problem does the customer have that your solution/product can solve?
This type of remote selling is known as needs-based selling or consultative selling. Rather than focussing on all the benefits and features of a product/solution, you focus on the customer’s needs and how your product/solution can specifically help those needs.
In retail, for example, is the customer looking for a cheap product? A high-quality product? A sustainable product? Establishing what matters to the customer as early on in the call as possible will help you personalise your sales technique and increase the chances of converting the remote sale.
A lot of B2B remote sales calls are scheduled ahead of time, so it can be useful to determine these goals before the call starts. When potential customers book the call, ask them why they are interested in your solution/product. Additionally, do some research into the company ahead of time to gain a better understanding of what they offer and value.
These will help you form an idea of the goals before the call, but it’s still good to confirm them at the start of the interaction. This will make sure you address the correct needs and focus on the best aspects of your product/solution.
After the goals are established, get the key messages across to the customer as quickly as possible. This is a golden rule of any remote sales call. It will immediately get their attention and, if there are any technical issues that cut the interaction short, it ensures the customer hears the most important points.
6. Let the customer ask questions
Remote sales interactions shouldn’t be one-sided presentations – they should be conversations.
While the seller is likely to do more of the talking, it’s important the customer feels comfortable to ask questions.
This is particularly key if you’re giving a demo. Let the customer know it’s fine to interrupt you with questions, or to dig deeper into a certain feature. Don’t save all the questions to the end! It can be harder to address things out of context so real-time questions are always best.
Not only will this two-way conversation style help the customer get all their questions answered, it will also give you more insight into what matters to them the most.
Do they ask a lot of questions about a particular feature/product? Do they ask a lot of questions about cost? This can help you know what key aspects to focus on and play to.
7. Follow up
Not all remote sales happen there and then. Sometimes customers need to think about the purchase before they make it.
This is especially true for luxury purchases and B2B sales. When spending a large amount of money, a lot of customers will require time to make their decision. For B2B remote sales, conversations within the company will need to take place before any decisions are made.
In these cases, it’s really important to follow up on the meeting. A great thing about using video chat is that you can easily record the interaction and send this to the customer after the call, along with any additional notes and information. This ensures they have all the information they need to review the potential purchase.
We highly recommend recording all remote sales interactions, whether they are video calls or inbound phone calls. Not only can it assist with compliance regulations, the recording can also be a point of reference in future sales meetings with the customer. Recordings are also great training tools for new agents.
It’s also a good idea to make sure the customer has the right contact details to get in touch with any questions. Rather than a general company email address, a good practice is to provide the contact details of the agent who carried out the call. This makes it more personal and ensures a consistent interaction with your business, creating a seamless customer experience that will boost remote sales.
If you don’t hear back from the customer, don’t hesitate to contact them. It might be good to establish a timeline within the call itself, i.e. “If I don’t hear back from you by X, I’ll get in touch to see how you’re doing”. This helps create a post-call plan for both parties to work towards.
Top tips for increasing remote sales
Mastering the art of remote selling is important for nearly all businesses going forward. Customers want to continue to shop online and businesses need to adjust in order to accommodate this demand.
To help your business and contact centre further adapt to online sales, our seven tops tips for increasing remote sales are:
Engage more customer online with effective engagement tools
Use video chat to connect with customers
Establish rapport with customers to create a connection and build trust
Be attentive during interactions
Quickly establish clear goals and get the key messages across
Let customers ask questions
Follow up after the call (if needed)
Do you have any more great tips to increase remote sales? Let us know in the comments below.