October 1, 2010, 11:40 AM

Texting the Talk

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Lamm says the monitoring and motivational tools that work in phone call centers translate well to live chat, such as having a daily morning huddle to discuss what went well or went wrong the day before. At Build.com, supervisors constantly monitor chats and provide spontaneous feedback, Lawrence says. They also audit five chats a month for each agent. Monthly bonuses are paid based on audit results.

Allen says a survey reporting tool in the Bold Software chat platform he uses keeps agents up to date on performance. At the completion of each chat, the e-retailer asks customers to rate their live chat experience. Those results are combined with an agent’s chat volume to come up with a score for each employee and results are posted so that everyone can see how they stack up, which acts as a motivator. “Everybody in the company is going to know how well they are doing and where they are struggling. It’s kind of like a supervisor in itself,” he says.

USA 800 managers review chat interactions for quality and make sure agents know how they rate in their peer group and, most importantly in an outsourced call center situation, how they rate on key performance indicators set by the client, such as the post-chat conversion rate and revenue per hour. Agents interacting with potential new customers of a wireless phone client earn incentives over and above their hourly wages when a customer converts.

Face-to-face interaction with management also motivates agents and makes them feel their work is appreciated, especially in outsourced live chat situations. While USA 800 supervisors are responsible for chat agent performance on a day-to-day basis, representatives from the firm’s wireless carrier client, which Davis declined to name, provide prizes for high-performing chat agents. They also visit monthly to update agents on new web site developments and encourage them. Davis says the client representatives also seek chat agents’ feedback on the telecom company’s web site and how well it works from a consumer perspective.

E-commerce leaders at ShopNBC.com have a similar arrangement with 24-7 In Touch, the e-retailer’s live chat outsourcing vendor, says Carol Steinberg, ShopNBC.com’s vice president of e-commerce. “We are in constant communication with them about our promotions, up-sells and things we want them to mention,” she says.

Lawrence says she receives more inquiries about joining Build.com’s in-house chat team than she has jobs available, and takes that as a sign agents are enjoying the work. She expects to double the team’s size in the coming months as Build.com live chat agents begin offering chats to browsing customers, instead of waiting for site visitors to initiate the exchange. That means Build.com, like many e-retailers, will be training agents to translate the sympathetic noises and cheery demeanor that work so well on phone calls into simple text that can be typed into a chat window.


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