Here's a good case for using online chat to support customers

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Consumerization of the enterprise is about empowering employees by enabling them to use the tools of their own choosing -- requiring a change in the mindset of many IT professionals used to having control over network and data access.

But this consumerization imperative – which favors the user over processes and tradition – also is shaking up the world of (ironically) customer service. More enterprises are turning to web- and social-based service platforms to adapt to customer preferences and to save money.

ACN, a multilevel marketing company that sells telecommunications, television, electricity, natural gas, and other services through a network of independent agents, was in the customer service dark ages. With operations in 23 countries and four continents, ACN still was handling all customer transactions over the phone. It was inefficient and costly, both in terms of higher expenses and lost revenue as customers and potential customers tired of long phone queues to reach a service rep.

The North Carolina-based company decided in 2011 to implement a web-based chat platform that would cut service costs while improving the experience for customers and independent reps.

“Chat services was the perfect match to meet our growing needs,” says Tonda Crowe, ACN’s manager of process improvement and performance assurance. “They also provided another touchpoint to our independent business owners and their customers.”

ACN wanted an easy-to-use software platform that could integrate with the company’s Avaya phone systems. Other top priorities included an intuitive interface and the ability for service reps to handle multiple customer queries and requests simultaneously, a critical feature to improve efficiency and cut costs.

The company looked at offerings from IBM, Avaya BoldChat, and WhosOn before settling on Moxie Software’s Service Chat software.

“Moxie was selected because it not only met our ‘need to have’ feature requirements, it also fulfilled a majority of our ‘nice to have’ feature requirements,” says Crowe.

It also didn’t hurt that the software got some support from within ACN. “We also have several employees who had experience with Moxie in other businesses,” she says.

Among the features in Service Chat is one that allows support agents to share a customer’s screen to visually guide them to answers and information.

Service Chat also enables the sharing of customer interaction histories across multiple agents and channels, giving reps greater context regarding a customer’s request or query.

For IT pros, Service Chat can be run in-house or on a software-as-a-service basis. The software includes reporting and analytics for analyzing customer data and agent performance.

Service Chat can run as a stand-alone chat platform or be integrated with other Moxie collaboration, knowledge sharing and social software.

From the customer’s perspective, Service Chat allows them to contact support reps using any standard browser or mobile device, without having to download an application.

Since implementing Service Chat in 2011, ACN has reduced customer-support costs by 12.5%, deflected 16% of calls to the online service, and increased customer requests by 7%.

That last number reflects both shorter wait times and higher satisfaction from customers who feel they are being helped and not set up for the kill.

Moxie, Crowe says, is “more conducive to a customer-support environment versus a sales environment.”

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