3 Questions With Ryan Stewart: Chat In The Contact Center

"As contact centers push to shrink cost and increase efficiency in light of increased consumer demands, live chat is seeing a resurgence as a go-to customer support channel."

As contact centers push to shrink cost and increase efficiency in light of increased consumer demands, live chat is seeing a resurgence as a go-to customer support channel. We recently picked the brain of Ryan Stewart, our Vice President of Canadian Operations and Global Contact Center, to learn why chat is gaining in popularity, how it compares to other customer communication channels and which organizations should be using it.


1. Chat has been around for two decades, yet it recently seems to play a larger role in the contact center. Why do you think that is?

Chat was previously a staple in high-end tech support, as well as for website support in retail and other industries where better website engagement translates into better sales. However, in today’s contact center, we’re primarily focused on the convenience of live chat for the customer.

As society becomes more connected through mobile devices with fast data transfer rates, channels such as chat are seen as a quick way for consumers to get the information they need promptly and conveniently. Speed is key, and contact centers that are leveraging live chat to offer quick response service levels and are responding to this consumer desire.

What’s more, chat is more economical for contact centers and their clients because it enables customer service associates to handle multiple chat conversations simultaneously, as opposed to a single voice or email engagement. That’s one reason why phone and email are taking a back seat to more cost-effective concepts such as FAQs, IVR self-service, and chat, and why restaurant chains and other non-traditional markets are really starting to implement it.


2. Do you find most consumers like to use of chat for customer support?

In my experience, two factors drive consumers to use chat: speed and trust. Those looking for a quick answer to a question are more inclined to use the chat feature on a company’s website, rather than to pick up the phone and engage in dialogue with a customer service agent. There are different etiquette rules when it comes to chat – a customer can simply disconnect after they have their answer, whereas those having a phone conversation feel obligated to make small talk and use pleasantries.

Trust is usually associated with the subject matter of the conversation. We find that consumers are more apt to pick up the phone to speak with someone if the topic concerns financials or compensation. Many also have the perception that they can influence a decision in their favor if they have a voice conversation with someone because it’s more personal. So, those hoping for a refund or some sort of compensation for a bad customer experience tend to call rather than to engage in live chat.


3. Does using live chat for customer support make more sense in some industries versus others?      

Chat is a viable support channel for any organization that has customers or partners who would elect to use chat to conduct business. It’s worth exploring for most companies that offer a service that requires either pre-sales, post-sales or product support. Companies that wish to build a reputation for support should focus on customer convenience and, as such, offer multiple channels through which customers can reach and interact with the company. Chat is a quick response, convenient and mobile option that is quickly becoming adopted by most sectors. The key is to make it easy for your customers to connect with your customer support team in whatever way works best for them.


Rebecca Scanlan is a strategic communications professional in the CX space who has been working with Market Force Information for over 10 years optimizing online presence and brand identity through media relations and global PR messaging and positioning.