There’s no such thing as business hours in the online world. Retailers, banks, service providers, and other businesses need to be able to help customers complete their tasks at any time, day or night—even if agents are off duty or tied up with other inquiries. Customers have high expectations for an efficient and satisfying digital experience, and competition for their business is fierce. Any hitch or annoyance can be enough to send them elsewhere—and you may not get another chance to earn their loyalty.
Today’s consumers are getting things done at all times of day or night. Average hourly sessions begin to rise at about 6 a.m., but don’t reach their peak until much later between 8 – 9 p.m., prime time for ecommerce, when the number of shoppers is highest and average conversion rates are strong. Given the three-hour difference in time zones across the U.S., the actual span of active hours is even wider. And even then, many night owls choose to engage in online business well past midnight. Online businesses can staff their contact centers for the busiest times, but they can’t afford to ignore customer needs at other times of day, or assume that there will always be an agent immediately available for each contact.
Contextual guidance offers a way to help customers 24/7, even when agents are busy or offline. In fact, providing automated, personalized digital assistance yields the same conversation results as chat, but without the cost of the resource.
Here are five ways online companies can use contextual guidance to help customers around-the-clock.
1. Don’t ask customers to send a message and wait for a response—be proactive
By the time customers reach out to an agent, they’ve already experienced a certain amount of frustration. After all, online business is supposed to be all about self-service empowerment and convenience. An agent can only respond to a question once it’s been asked—but a contextual guidance solution can anticipate a customer’s needs based on their online behavior, then guide them to the information they need before they have to ask for it. Whether they’re comparing two items, hesitating on the checkout page, entering an expired coupon code, or showing other signs of struggle, the system can offer the guidance they need to complete their transaction.
2. Don’t make customers wait in a hold queue for simple question
The vast majority of customer inquiries are simple and straightforward: what’s my order status? When will you have this color back in stock? How do returns work? And so on. Waiting in a queue for a question like this can be highly annoying, and it’s hardly an efficient use of a human agent’s time. By using contextual guidance to offer answers like these in the flow of the customer’s digital experience, you can spare them the hassle while allowing agents to focus on the few issues that really do need their live attention.
3. Let your agents go home, but don’t stop helping customers
Trying to match staffing levels to call volume can be an exercise in futility. Agents during daylight hours can be overwhelmed with sudden surges; overnight, they can end up idle for long stretches. Instead of maintaining a fully staffed 24/7 contact center, use customer guidance to cover the night shift. You’ll still be able to provide the immediate assistance customers need—in fact, you’ll provide it more proactively than an agent could—without having to keep agents online.
4. Skip the frustrations of bots
Companies seeking an automated solution to complement their contact center sometimes turn to bots. Ask any customer how they feel about this; the reviews are rarely positive. In some ways, bots combine the worst of both worlds: customers have to go out of their way to ask for help, just as they would with a live agent—but it’s also harder to explain their needs than it would be with a live agent. At best, a bot is a glorified FAQ—one that rarely has exactly the answer you’re looking for. It makes for a highly frustrating experience. A contextual guidance uses the customer’s context to understand their needs and offer the right kind of help, without the need for an explanation or an automated back-and-forth dialogue using canned cues.
5. Guide customers based on where they are in the journey
The best digital experience combines convenient self-service with the personalized assistance of a good retail associate. A contextual guidance solution can provide that kind of attention, reaching out to the customer at key points in the journey to offer suggestions for the next step, anticipate questions, and help them complete their transaction smoothly. That’s more than even the most capable contact center agent could hope to do—and it’s the kind of experience that increases conversions, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.
Customers hate it when they can’t reach an agent for help—but they don’t exactly love needing that help in the first place. By providing contextual guidance throughout their digital experience, you can delight customers any time they want to do business with you—day or night.