Live Chat is All Too Human

By Christian Evans, Social Media Researcher

Live chat is a great tool for providing instant customer service. It lets people get quick answers to their questions by interacting with a live customer service agent online to get real-time answers to their questions. But let’s face it: live chat is all too human. Here’s the story of Creative Virtual USA’s VP of Marketing, Karen McFarlane and her customer experience with Dell.


Karen ordered a new personal computer from Dell. When her computer didn’t arrive on the estimated delivery date, she checked her account and saw that the computer was listed as still “in production.” Anxious to get her new computer, she decided to contact Dell using their live chat feature. When she started the live chat session, she saw that she was the 29th person in the queue and had an estimated wait time of 47 minutes and 41 seconds. Their automated message apologized for the wait time since they were experiencing heavy volume, but is a customer really expected to wait 47 minutes for customer service?

CV - Dell


And therein lies the problem: live chat requires live people. Unfortunately, people have one major flaw; they can only do a few things at once. On average, live chat agents can handle anywhere from 2-4 people at one time. And while that number is up to 400 times that of live agents providing telephone customer service, it’s a mere fraction of what an intelligent virtual agent can do.

In fact, intelligent virtual agents can handle thousands of customers all at once in virtually any channel, in any language and on any device. That’s not to say that the ability to work with a live person isn’t a good thing. In some cases, you need the human touch. Partnered with live chat, IVAs can be a powerful complement to your live chat service. By simply identifying commonly asked questions that don’t require human intervention, you can source those inquires to an IVA and free up your live agents to focus on more complex queries and higher level customer service. Our clients love to augment their live chat tools with IVAs seeing satisfaction levels increasing to 70% after implementation.


So back to Karen. Did her question require human intervention or could it be handled by an IVA? It depends on the data available to the agents – live or automated. What about the other 28 people in the queue? How many of those customers’ questions could have been answered in less than 47 minutes? How many could have been answered in less than 2 minutes by an intelligent virtual agent? Our customers have achieved contact deflection rates of up to 50%. Using this metric, half of Dell’s live chat customers may have been able to get fast online service with the help of an IVA.

Customers want fast answers online, and you have to find innovative ways to provide it. The good news is that you can using intelligent virtual agents to complement your live chat solution. By doing so you can make your current tools work much more efficiently than they’re working now. In return, you’ll save money, reduce costs and earn happy customers that have great experiences with your brand.

Learn more about how to provide fast answers online by downloading this Stratecast | Frost and Sullivan whitepaper – Customers Want Fast Answers Online, Not Waiting on a Phone Line: Virtual Assistants Are Essential.