What we learned in the first 180 days of the “Hired Agents Beta”

If you are adding live chat to your website, or hiring outsourced chat agents – this is a must read.

This is Part 2 in a series of “What we learned from the “Hired Agents Beta” – If you missed the Key Learnings from the first 90 days, be sure to check them out here in Part One.   This is a wrap of our Key learnings over the second quarter at the 180 day milestone – as a means of sharing information for both our current clients and anyone considering outsourcing their chat to hired agents :

1. A correct answer, is better than a fast answer

If you have ever worked in a call center, or even visited a call center for that matter, you will probably recall the unmistakable energy in the air during peak periods. That energy usually comes in one of two forms :

  1. the We have got this handled energy
  2. or the Something is about to blow energy..

During some of our ‘Something is about to blow’ moments, when we were at peak concurrency answering hundreds of chats at one time (and probably under staffed, to be true) we picked up on a human behavioral trait that has helped us to all become much better agents :

  1. Even when you are under intense pressure, make sure you understand what it is the visitor is asking.
  2. If you need more time, it is a better experience to inform the customer that you have received their message, and that you will find the answer for them in a few moments.

What we found, is that when humans are under intense pressure in a multi-chat environment, they resort to speed of response vs accuracy. That’s a mistake.

Any salesperson worth their weight will tell you that a good customer, is an understood customer – and customers are almost always happy to wait a few seconds so as long as they know they have been heard, understood and someone is looking in to their issue for them.

So before you shoot off that canned response ; be sure to understand what the visitor is asking, and if you need to buy yourself some time – just let the visitor know that you will look in to the issue for them and respond in a few minutes.

2. Go full speed, then adjust

Now that we have had the chance to on-board hundreds of customers to the Hired Chat Agent service, we’re starting to see patterns of which clients are the most successful and which clients fail to see the true benefit of live chat. To give you some context, as you may (or may not) be aware, we currently offer 4 ‘plans’ for Hired-Agents – 10 hours/week, 40/hours/week, 128/hours/week or 24×7 – clients get access to an Agent Scheduler, where you can schedule agents down to 15 minute blocks.

When customers first sign up to the Hired-Agent service they tend to come in 3 categories :

  • Scenario 1 : They have never used live chat before, so they don’t know what to expect.

or

  • Scenario 2 : They have the tawk.to widget installed on their site already, understand the benefit of live chat, but are not sure if hiring agents is a good idea.

or

  • Scenario 3 : They have hired chat agents in the past or have in-house staff, understand the benefit, and simply want to reduce their costs to $1/hr

In the last Scenario, it’s an easy adjustment and the client almost always starts off with the 24×7 plan. In Scenarios 1 and 2 however, a client often has doubts (and rightly so) about how we can answer on their behalf proficiently for $1/hr – so they start with our lowest plan (10/hrs a week). That’s a mistake – they should start with the most # of hours possible, then decrease/increase accordingly (we’re very flexible)

Let me explain why.. and it’s not that we’re trying to sell you on a bigger plan, in fact; quite the opposite :

  • Every account receives a minimum of 12 human agents attached to their site, even if they are on the lowest plan (I’ll explain why 12 is the magic # in point 4 below).
  • We train 12 agents on your site, read all of your FAQs, existing chat history, and Knowledge Base.

..and even though we do our best to ensure every agent reads all of your on-boarding materials, if you only commence with 10/hrs a week  – it could take months for all of the agents to take enough chats on your behalf in order to gain enough ‘experience’ answering to be effective.

What we now suggest is that clients commence new campaigns with as many hours as possible (24×7 is optimum) for the following benefits :

  1. So that all of the 12 agents attached to your account get real-world exposure and experience with your visitors
  2. So that you can gauge when the true traffic peaks and troughs are on your site – until you add a chat widget to your site or app, and turn it on 24×7; you don’t truly know when the most sales/leads will occur.
  3. So that we can collate a true list of true FAQ-BYCs (read the next key learning to understand that acronym), to arm agents with the shortcuts and knowledge-base they need to be effective.

3. FAQ-BYCs

If you are (or ever have had the chance to meet) a truly seasoned entrepreneur, they will often tell you that the #1 most important factor in arriving to a ‘Product-Market’ fit scenario, is to Know Your Customer.

Truly, deeply, and fully Know Your Customer – and what I mean by that, is to truly know what pain-point you are solving for your customer.

In the second cohort of customers that signed up to the Hired Chat agent service in Q2, we decided to issue invite codes to a group of startups (i.e. first-time founders) – the common theme across this cohort was that the FAQs we received to answer on their behalf hardly got used, so we coined the term Frequently Asked Questions – By Your Customers – as the questions you think they are going to ask, are (more often than not) not actually the questions that your clients seek answers to.

As a result,  if a question comes in that agents do not have the answer to, then we ‘escalate’ by saying something like “Unfortunately I don’t have that information handy, though if you provide your name and email then I’ll raise a ticket, and a member of our service team get back to you asap.

Once a client responds to the escalated ticket, we update the FAQ.. so that the next time the same question comes in from a new visitor, the agents won’t need to escalate again.

4. 12 is the magic number

There are an average of 730 hours in a given month, and an human-being usually works an average of 160/hours a month – so whether you are hiring agents through us, or hiring your own agents in your office,  you would still need to hire 4.56 agents (730 / 160) – and given that you can’t hire .56 of a human-being, you would need 5 full time staff with :

  • No Vacation period
  • No Sick Days

So we now train and allocate a minimum of 12 agents to your account, so that if (inevitably) a team member gets sick, needs to take a holiday, needs a bathroom-break etc, then there is always someone available to cover.

Just as a comparison, if you were to hire 12 full-time employees in-house at $10-15/hr it would cost $19,200-$28,800/month.. and we charge $1/hr ($728/month).. hint hint, just sayin’! 🙂

Ok enough with the sales-plug (promise), let’s get on with the key-learnings :

5. Ask less, get more .. but ask enough, so customers feel understood.

When attempting to harvest a lead in chat, there is a direct correlation between the # of questions you ask a visitor, and how happy they end up at the end of a conversation. More questions does not always lead to a captured lead, and not enough questions, can often lead to a customer feeling like the agent is a robot just taking messages.

We’ve tested this over and over.. believe us when we tell you that the number and type of questions an agent asks,  can make a massive difference to visitor sentiment.

A good example of this is when a visitor is seeking pricing information – though the agent tries to capture the users details without first saying something like “In order to tailer a plan to suit your specific needs, can we first run through a couple of quick questions – that will help me to determine if I can give you a quote right now, or at a minimum, direct you to a team member that can assist?”

99/100 the customer is happy to know they are being understood, even if you don’t disclose the price at the end of the clarifying questions and harvesting their contact details.

A few key points to remember :

  1. If a visitor has a problem, and they are seeking a solution – don’t just jump in to immediately asking for their contact details, without ensuring they know that you understand what their query entails exactly.
  2. If you ask too many questions, without being able to fully service their query, they will get annoyed.
  3. If you don’t ask enough questions, to clarify their requirements, they will get annoyed.
  4. Comprehend > Qualify > Capture – that’s the process.

6. The way you treat your Agents, is the way they will treat your Customers

This famous quote by Sir Richard Branson probably says it best :

Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees , they will take care of the clients. Sir Richard Branson

Nobody ever said this service was a good-fit for everyone, and in the several hundred clients we have happily on-boarded over the past 180 days, we have only come across 1 or 2 complete douche-bags; that really didn’t understand this premise. So we fired them.

Regardless of whether you are hiring agents internally, or through an offering like our Hired Chat Agent service ; you need to treat fellow humans with respect and dignity.

No agent is ever going to perform well on your behalf, if you treat them poorly – you as our customer, may be paying $1/hr; though our agents are getting paid great salaries. They are college-educated, native-speaking agents, working from our offices in Las Vegas, throughout Europe and Australia.

Ask yourself, do you really want someone answering on your behalf that you just spewed profanity at because you’re having a bad day? Or do you want someone representing you that you show empathy, compassion and take the time to train?

7. Use the Dashboard to provide feedback and communicate with Agents

One of the great features that often goes unnoticed of the tawk.to dashboard, is the “Groups” and “Direct Messages’ feature, which works in similar to say a Slack channel.

Just because the Agents are taking the chat load off of your hands, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be involved in the ongoing feedback and discussions to keep bettering the service through iterative refinement.

As a Hired-Agent customer you will get direct access to our management team and each of the agents, directly in the Dashboard in a Private Group – so that you can message us at any time, and provide feedback and input on how we are doing. You can also install our mobile apps so that you can communicate with your agents while on the go.

The clients that use the private group on regular basis to provide ongoing feedback, are seeing better end-customer satisfaction, as they agents are armed with the knowledge they need to resolve problems on first contact.

8. Potato, Patato, Patata..

All of our agents speak and write in the native language they are answering in fluently and proficiently, they are all well educated, well trained and very well versed in managing conversation flow.

With all of that said.. They make spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes and mathematical mistakes. And do you know why ? Because they are human beings. And human-beings make mistakes.

So do feel free to point out those spelling mistakes if you see the same agent making them over and over, but maybe do it in a Direct Message? Rather than embarass them in front of the rest of the team. I just spelled embarrass incorrectly did you see how I did that? Good – it happens, I’m human.

Regardless of whom you hire, typos comes with the territory – especially with text based communication.

9. Don’t forget, chat is a Conversation not a Form.

We have experience a few use-cases where clients have requested that we stick to a very specific script, and ask questions in a very specific order to do the way their lead-capture form is structured.

This. is. a. bad. idea.

It is fine to work questions in to the conversation, and we absolutely guide the conversation flow; though if you try and treat a Human-to-Human experience like a Human-to-Form experience; it is all going to end in tears.

  • The customer will feel like they haven’t been listened to
  • It will be a painful experience for the agent
  • Your conversion / engagement rate from chat to lead will be abysmal.

9. Triggers. Triggers. Triggers == More Leads & Sales

Sometimes your site content and structure is just so good, that visitors don’t have any questions.. But your “Call to Action’ is so bad, that none of your visitors convert to leads/sales or your Average Order Value is low.

That’s why you added a live chat widget to your site, right? Hoping that a chat box could magically create more conversions? But it didn’t change much, why? Visitors are not chatting, why?

Your answer, is Triggers.

Have you ever walked in to the dairy aisle at your local supermarket, and a salesperson offers you to try a new brand of cheese? Wow – that cheese is sooo—dammmnn—gooood! you say to yourself.. I’ll take the big pack thanks!

That’s called ‘generating a trial’ or in some industries ‘suggestive selling’.

In chat, that’s what Triggers do.

A trigger is a pro-active visitor engagement that sends a targeted Message to a visitor based on a set of conditions.

The best way to explain the benefit of this great feature, is a real-world example that we set up for one of our e-commerce customers that sells Men’s Apparel  :

  • If the visitor has added 2 pairs of socks to their cart and they are headed to the checkout page, and you’re trying to increase your AOV (Average Order Value) you may send a trigger like this :”I see you have 2 pairs of BrandX socks in your cart, did you know that if you spend at least $40 in a single order, we will upgrade your shipping to Next-Day absolutely free?” – Reply to this message now to learn more.

With that simple trigger hack, we managed to increase AOV by %46, and create a personal connection with their customers. Triggers are your friends, use them!


In conclusion :

Over the past 180 days we have on-boarded hundreds of customers working in a myriad of different industries, and successfully answered more than 1,000,000+ chats on behalf of those customers; we continue better both our systems and the tawk.to software as a direct result.

The more chats we answer, and the more different use-cases we are exposed to; the more insight we gain to build better software for the now 990,000+ agents that are answering themselves (we should hit a million this week!)

We periodically issue new invite codes to on-board new customers so if you are interested in hiring an agent to answer on your behalf for just $1/hr, please register your interest here we will happily hop on a quick chat or call with you, to determine if there is a good fit for hiring agents. No pressure, no hard-sales tactics – just a friendly chat.

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