I have always been a reluctant user of web chat on any website I visit – which stems back to the first few times I tried to use web chat as a customer.

The first time I used web chat there was simply no one on the other end. After 15 minutes I got a response but then each response took about 15 minutes. I gave up.
My second attempt got an immediate response – but it became clear that the responder was in no way going to be able to help me. In fact I am confident that the chat responder was outsourced and had no idea about any of the product and existed to collect details.
My third time – there simply was no one available and it asked for my email address so they could get back to me. (That is not web chat – that is web annoying!)

So when we looked at the web chat feature for eOne there were a couple of key requirements: 
1. If no eOne staff were available to chat – then chat did not appear as an option on our website. 
2. We hved to have good, knowledgeable people answering chat.
3. The person taking the chat had to own that question through to successful answer – even if it was referred to support/consulting.
4. Chat like all other communications needed to integrate with our Microsoft CRM.

So we selected the Contivio Chat System that is hooked into our Contivio Soft Phone and call center solution. This means that just like logging into your soft phone – you could log into chat. Contivio had an out-of-the-box integration to Microsoft CRM activities. 

For the first few days I decided I would be the dedicated Chat Manager to see if anyone wanted to use chat and get a feel for the systems. When we launched I was astounded that our first real chat came in 90 seconds after we went live. I was able to answer the question and had a happy customer. A good start. 

Since then we are taking 10-15 chats per day and it has been very successful. The questions vary significantly but include “I need to place and order”, “What is the price”, “Where can I download …”, “I am getting a strange error message”, “I have an issue with license keys” and many variations on these topics. What chat has meant is that these customers are getting much much faster answers than if they were to send in an email. Web Chat for eOne has been super successful. 

Weirdly one of the funnest parts of my day is when I accept web chats! Why?

1. First of all I love the reaction of our partners and customers when they see someone called Martin answering their Chat. I always get “Is that really your Martin Olsen? Why are you on Chat? You’re the Owner/CEO?” Then they apologize for bothering me!! But is there a better way to say to a customer that we care about them – when the CEO answers their pricing questions?
TimeOut!: Just took a chat call right then from Leanne – in the middle of writing this blog.  A long time reseller was unaware of our online manual and documentation. Easy answer, 30 seconds and happy customer. 

2. There is no better way for me to know what our resellers and customers are experiencing than to talk to them? A couple of things I have been learning about my own company in the last few weeks: 
  • That we have the best and easiest to use Website of all Microsoft ISV’s.
  • That we can make the ordering process easier and navigation on our website can be clunky (we are on to it). 
  • That people tend not to use our Knowledge Base. I am often answering questions by sending links to the answer. 
  • Despite the worlds simplest pricing model and clear pricing displayed on our online store – people still like to ask/confirm the price!
  • Email response is too slow and unacceptable in 2014.
  • Many customers are helping themselves and bypassing the traditional ‘ask your VAR first model’.
  • That people need immediate responses and support queues are so yesterday. 
  • Our resellers have a lot to learn about our products and we need to ramp up our training and education efforts. 

So for these two reasons alone – I would encourage all Business Owners to spend some time answering web chat. It might be the best few hours you spend all week.