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With Channel Shift (or rather Omnichannel), all the rage, I have been in a few meetings lately. Many of these has brought up that curates egg of a subject, 'webchat'. It's the staple of many websites these days, but is it really worth a look, for social housing?
It's an initiative that incurs costs and to some, many of its benefits are not always that obvious. For general sales, I have seen stats suggesting 49%of respondents, in a recent survey cited purchasing as a result of the additional interaction. In social housing however, where a 'sale' is not the key think on our mind, are we seeing its ROI (Return on Investment)?
TVH (Thames Valley Housing) are one user of webchat. On a recent Housing Technology presentation, it was mentioned that it is only really available between 8am & 8pm. I.E. the usual hours that the TVH customer service centre was manned. To have webchat work, it needs to really be triggered by how the customer/tenant is interacting with the site. This is analogous to how sales people detect your movement near a tumble dryer, and instantly extol the virtues of 'crumple-free' shirts and blouses. It can add value if it is answering tenant queries and reducing the overall interaction time, while adding value. Webchat seems very popular on higher value sites too, where some up-sell is involved. E.G. flights, financial services, hotels.
As at least a couple of organisations have pointed out to me, webchat does not channelshift, it needs people, expensive trained customer service bods, in many situations. Hence a few RSL's have decided to give it a wide berth altogether. "Deliver me more self service for lower cost", she said.
Possibly use of webchat as a learning exercise, to decide what needs fixing with your existing website design, is worth a look too. Researching what tenants find problematic, fixing the sources of that in your self-service area and then reducing use of webchat, sounds like a good strategy.
Consider thinking out of the box if your organisation is considering webchat. Rather than channel shifting, you may be introducing another more expensive facility, with additional software costs too!
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Related Post: VR is back, are you ready??
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(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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