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Why MSPs Should Consider Chat Support

In today’s digital world, live chat has become an important and integral part of customer service for many businesses, helping provide real-time responses and support to their customers. While it’s likely that only very large managed services providers (MSPs) or internal help desks may use a lot of chat, it brings two important things to the support environment:

  • Live chat is convenient for customers and end users. It’s readily available and easy to engage, the wait time to reach an agent is usually negligible, queries can be answered quickly, users can multitask during a session, and the conversation can be saved.
  • It saves money. Phone and email support systems take time and can be costly to maintain and setup. Live chat support is comparatively cheaper to implement and can often allow agents to handle more than one customer at a time.

As an MSP or IT pro running your own help desk, you probably already have chat functionality built in to your remote support tool. But, like any communication skill, chat requires some training to ensure your techs are using it well.

We interviewed Senior Manager May Galan of Technical Support at SolarWinds MSP, where she leads the Stevie award-winning chat support team. She offers some key insights on the types of things you may want to think about as you use your existing chat services or consider expanding your support to include broader chat functionality.

Q. Does your team need to be packed with product specialists? 

May Galan: All our techs have been fully trained in the product, depending on what division they support—cloud, backup, or on-premise services. So in essence, they are product specialists. We do, however, have plans to further strengthen the group by having senior engineers and application engineers in place who can collaborate with our techs if they are dealing with complex customer environments or issues.
Q. How do you route support questions—by product, severity, or region?

MG: All chats are routed by product. So the customer will open a chat either through the product UI or our Customer Success Portal and it will be routed to an available tech. We don’t filter enquiries by severity, region, or partner location; our techs are available to answer those questions anytime based on their demand. However, we do receive some requests from customers who want to have a remote session or call back that we need to forward to another team. We always try to set the expectation that another tech will handle the case.

Q. How many chat sessions can each tech handle simultaneously? 

MG: Most of the time we would expect techs to handle up to three chats simultaneously. Although, this number can rise to five sessions if the incoming volume is really high. The average length of chat sessions for the whole team ranges from 32 to 35 minutes, although that can go up to two hours for very complex issues.

Q. How do you measure success? 

MG: We do post-session surveys. We measure our success based on three criteria:

  1. Customer Satisfaction—Surveys are sent after case closure, with questions centered on measuring overall customer satisfaction of Product Features, Sales/Billing, Technician Knowledge, Customer Service Quality, Time to Respond, and Time to Resolve. Scores for each question range from 1 to 5 (5 being the highest). We target a rating of 90% to 95% here.
  2. Customer Effort Score—This is a specific question inside the case closure survey that aims to measure customer satisfaction based on the level of effort the customers have exerted during the chat interaction. Out target here is 85% to 90%.
  3. Service Level Objective—We measure the ability of the tech to provide timely and quality response to the partners. Depending on the case’s priority, expected response times are identified and set on the ticket to which the technician is expected to meet. Again we target 95 to 97% here.

Q. Do you have a set of “canned” answers for questions you get over and over? 

MG: Apart from the fixed opening spiel we have integrated on the chat platform, the rest of the conversation by our tech is spontaneous and is focused on ensuring that all questions are satisfied and resolved during their initial contact—making the customer’s experience an effortless one. All of our techs are advised to be more personal with our partners whenever they initiate a conversation via our portal. After every chat conversation, we promote and encourage our partners to use the self-help articles from the success portal by providing the link that solves the issue in the summary of our case update we provide to them.

Q. What’s your best “trick” for diffusing an angry customer?  

MG: After the fixed opening, we introduce ourselves and ask them how their day has been. We always ask them their name so we can address them properly. Acknowledging them through their name and asking how they feel at the start of the conversation somehow seems to break the ice. Paying attention to the details of the issues they are providing, clarifying if we are misunderstanding the situation, and always being ready with options to resolve their issues also helps to diffuse any frustration. If there is a situation that we can’t provide a solution for, we set an expectation of what we will do and make sure to follow through on the case. This also helps to diffuse any disappointment.

Q. What’s the one piece of advice you would give companies new to doing live chat support?

MG: Chat support is just another portal for our customers to interact with us. The success lies with the tech handling the case and the information we provide them with. The tech should be spontaneous, upfront, and always set the right expectation—what are they doing, and what if anything are they struggling with. They should also always share the solution so the customer can prevent the issue from happening again. Just like with any other portal, communication is the key.

On average, SolarWinds MSP handles around 10–12 chats per tech/day. We currently have around 40 techs managing three regions (APAC, EMEA, Americas) and three different divisions (Cloud, Backup, On-Premise). The support team recently won a Silver Stevie award.

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