5 reasons your agents perform better over chat

Sara Yonker

January 2, 2023

Many companies migrate to customer service chat because of its clear cost benefits. But is it better for the customers? How do agents perform over chat compared to traditional customer support channels, such as phone calls? 

We recently took a deep dive looking at how customer service interactions went over phone calls compared to chats.  We analyzed more than 1.6 million chat conversations at companies in a cross-section of industries that included consumer products, financial services, insurance, entertainment, and professional services. 

Then, we compared the chat performance with another analysis of millions of phone conversations at the same companies. Our newest ebook has all the data, but here’s a quick digest of just a few key findings:

  • Difficult conversations were more than 2X as frequent over the phone
  • Customers were 3X more likely to express frustration over the phone
  • Journey friction was 3X higher over the phone 

Live chat support agents have some distinct advantages over call center agents. Here’s a few reasons we think the metrics showed that customer journeys often go smoother over chat. 

1. There’s less room for misunderstanding over chat support

When you talk over the phone, you instantly risk being misunderstood because of your rate of speech, poor connection issues, or differences in how we talk, whether that’s a regional accent or using colloquialisms in your speech. Chat eliminates nearly all of that. Customers and agents have the opportunity to reread a sentence to help understand each other. 

In our study, there were zero “Can’t understand you” moments in chats, compared to an average of 3% of calls with a miscommunication. 

2. You can provide complex directions through knowledge base articles or links

Confusion over company policies, installation instructions, or product functionally can all prompt a call to customer support. For many such cases, offering support over chat removes some confusion, especially if instructions are complex.

Many live chat agents work alongside chatbots that can recognize key moments in a conversation and suggest helpdesk articles or pages on a company website that address the issue in detail. A conversation over the phone may still address these issues, but take longer and require more back-and-forth. 

3. You have more undivided attention from customers

You don’t know what your customers are in the middle of when they call you on the phone. They could be driving or  in the middle of running errands. When you talk to customers over chat, you know they’re either sitting in front of their computer or have their phone in hand. This helps guarantee a little bit of their attention, even if they toggle between one tab and another. 

Phone calls open up conversations to all kinds of other distractions that may limit your customers’ ability to focus on the conversations: other calls coming in, loud background noise, or loss of connectivity. In chat, the same distractions exist, but your customer has the ability to reread the transcript and focus on questions before answering them. 

4. Agents and customers can eliminate slips of the tongue 

Sometimes, we all let a few harsh words slip out when we’re talking face to face or over the phone. But typing out those same words takes a bit more of a concerted effort. It seems we all filter our thoughts better over chat than over the phone.

In our study, we found that all types of emotional conversations were less frequent over chat.  On phone calls, 3X as many customers expressed frustration. Negative agent language was also lower during chats than on phone calls. 

5. Waits, transfers, and interruptions aren’t as obvious 

When agents talk to customers, they may not have immediate access to answers or internal systems. Perhaps they need to transfer customers to a different agent or supervisor. They may get distracted by something else going on in their personal workspace. 

When any of those circumstances happen over the phone, it can create a major problem for the call. Agents place customers on hold, or transfer to another agent where they have to restate their entire situation. 

Response times for chat have more leeway, so you have the opportunity to focus on your response to the customer after any interruptions occur. 

See how your chats and calls compare

Interested in how your agents perform over all of your customer service channels? Tethr analyzes all your communication channels and can help you optimize your customer service, no matter what channel you’re on. Schedule a call to learn more here

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