Bad Live Chat or No Live Chat

Is bad chat better than no chat?

Whatever our professional role, we’re all consumers too, so it’s often interesting to experience the results of customer facing technology from the other side of the fence.

Recently, I was setting up a delivery account with a household name UK supermarket and had a question to which no obvious answer was available online. However, a chat tab was there, so I duly filled in the form, hit submit and… the response popped up “we’re offline at the moment, please try again”.

A number of things went through my mind: Why did they ask me to fill out a chat form if it wasn’t available, how frustrating it is wasting time like that, and not to mention, my opinion of their brand dropped in an instant. Of course, this supermarket isn’t alone, we can all meet examples every day of often poorly timed offers of help appearing then not delivering.

I wonder if the temptation to look the modern, mobile and efficient digital player can in fact have the opposite effect – to degrade both the brand and the technology in the eyes of the consumer.

Chat obviously plays an important part in many companies’ pre- and post-sales service, but it must have a logical and well timed place in the customer journey, and its supporting information channels in order to be effective. Email is another common culprit – it’s great to offer me a contact form; not so good to tell me to expect a response within 10 days…

From the consumer’s point of view, which can be wholly subjective, but very influential nonetheless, the company’s ability to manage information channels is critical. Many times, it’s better to take the wider view behind the scenes, than opt for the cosmetic ‘quick fix’ that masks the true long term opportunity.

In the case above, ‘bad chat’ happened, and my consumer memory of an otherwise positive brand may take some time to forget!