How to Handle Multiple Chat Conversations Effectively

live chat signs

This question got us thinking:

Does anyone have any tips for agents to handle multiple chat conversations effectively, but also ensuring satisfying customer experiences?

Read on to discover the suggestions made by the professionals in our LinkedIn community.

The Lag Time Between Customer Responses Creates an Opportunity

Firstly, handling more than one live chat is always going to be tricky. The assumption is that the lag time between customer responses creates an opportunity for efficiency and as a result, you can let the agent take multiple chats to maximize efficiency.

There is, however, the possibility that more than one customer response can come in at the same time and the delay to respond from the agent will impact the customer experience negatively.

It seems that this delay is in most instances almost expected by the customer, so the impact may be minimal.

The question then is, what is the experience you are hoping to create for your customer?

So to answer using my own opinion.

  1. I would not suggest handling more than two chats concurrently.
  2. If possible, implement one chat with email handling between lag in chat responses from the customer.

Of course… I’m no expert on the matter because the real expert would be you. You are the one in the best position to know what works for your customers.

Thanks to Marc

Aim for Two Concurrent Chats

Aim for two concurrent chats, but allow the agent to pull down a third chat and bonus the agent with the highest concurrent chat rate and CSAT score.

Thanks to Andrew

Delay From the Start of the First Chat Before the Second Starts

Skills/proficiency on chat topics needs to be factored in, along with how proficiency impacts the AHT for that person. This tied in with concurrency is also key – handling a max number of chats at the same time obviously has its advantages, but at what point does the second or third chat get delivered to an agent?

My experience is you want a delay from the start of the first chat before the second starts – this stops overload of the agent taking x number at once and in turn provides first contact quality and experience for the customer.

Thanks to Dean

Monitor Maximum Concurrency and Average Concurrency  

Effectively managing multiple conversations (chat concurrency) is the secret to really being able to maximize productivity and performance on a chat program. While there is some good information out there, most of it is buried in a sea of misinformation, some of it wildly wrong.

I could write a book on this, so keeping it short is tough.

First – there are two main KPIs: Max Concurrency – think of this as top speed possible – and Average Concurrency – rear-looking view at what the typical concurrency was over the period.

Max – Determined through testing – this is a very program-specific measure, and is influenced by contact complexity, other systems agents use, etc.

Average – This is more of a measure of how efficient you are in leveraging your workforce to maximize that productivity.

Taking your most tenured chat agents, increase concurrency until you see handle time start to increase significantly or quality drop.

For new agents, understand how quickly they can progress from zero concurrency to max.

Optimizing chat concurrency requires both dedicated and skilled chat agents (not supporting multiple channels), but also sufficient chat volume to keep those resources performing optimally.

Thanks to James

Do Not Give Agents Too Many Concurrent Chats

Yes, do not give agents too many concurrent chats.

First of all, it runs the risk of getting customers mixed up, and secondly, the customer has to wait too long in between periods where the agent is serving other customer questions.

It’s one thing waiting 5–10 mins if you get the answer that resolves your query; it’s something entirely different if it’s an unresolved question where the customer’s had to wait.

Oh, and ensure your system allows a transcript of the chat to be sent to the customer afterwards. I’ve been on chats where I’ve been told it’s not possible. If that’s the case, change the tool, because it is possible.

Thanks to Ian

Take Chat Complexity Into Account

Interestingly, apology rates and chat cadence are two of the most impactful things in this space, based on analysis of >100k of them.

Most businesses think their agents are apologizing every time they need to… the unfortunate truth is they end up getting distracted by treating the customer as a ‘problem to be solved’, rather than being free to use a framework to get to the outcome and empowering the agent to be more free to ‘be human’.

Chat complexity, too, is important. We’ve seen that as complexity goes up, so too does chat time, frustration for the customer, and likelihood to escalate goes through the roof. We’ve seen chats where customers have spoken about upwards of 5 issues on a single chat!

If it’s too complex, or there’s any sign of complaint, voice is a far better way of dealing with the situation on first call and maintaining costs/times.

Thanks to Paul

Concurrency Depends on Query Type and Complexity

It totally depends on the query type and complexity that comes through webchats.

Concurrency is king for efficiency, but it’s a fine balancing act due to AHT stretch as concurrency increases, which in turn decreases customer satisfaction.

A decent sweep of data and you should be able to graph and analyse the dependencies on concurrency, interactive chat length vs. total chat length and any AHT bloat that goes with it.

Agree that customer experience is key to the decisions made from that data set.

Thanks to Matt

There Is No One-Size-Fits-All

It really depends on the industry and type of questions. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all when providing great digital customer service through chat.

There are many ways you can provide personalized responses that leave customers feeling they have had their questions answered and equally keep company efficiency satisfied.

Personally, if I’m considering multiple chats for a client, it would never be more than three at a time.

Concurrency is a difficult conversion to forecast for chats. Perhaps it’s time to consider a different metric for live chat??

Thanks to Karen

Have a Good and Easily Accessible Knowledge Base

A good knowledge base that is accessible to the agents will go a long way in ensuring that the agent responses are consistent and correct grammatically, as well as aiding the agents in being able to answer queries quickly, as opposed to being under pressure and therefore making mistakes and taking too long to respond. Please note that the better the knowledge base content, the more it will help the agents.

Thanks to Paulo

Utilize Prewritten Response Keys

To ensure that your quality doesn’t drop, think about how you could utilize prewritten response keys and preserve the tone of voice of the business. That gives you a sound baseline and will give your agents more time to personalize and add in the other details when necessary.

I’d agree with the other comments, a max of three concurrent chats, but it all depends on what they are chatting about; for instance, it might mean that due to the complexity of the support, you set a max of two.

Thanks to Lydia

Make the Agent Experience Simple

Someone has already stated that not one size fits all. However, if the contact centre (CC) can make the agent experience simple, the CX will follow.

I am a big promoter of the unified user experience (UUE). There are many ways to have UUE on the agents’ end and the CC should investigate (speak to the experts/trusted technology partners) for best practices that will work in their environment.

Thanks to Pushkar

Combine Conversation Flow Mapping Software With an Integrated Knowledge Base

I’d combine conversation flow mapping software with an integrated knowledge base.

This will give you ~80% of the responses you are looking for that can be used as canned responses. This provides you with consistency and speed of response.

Then the agent can freehand non-standard queries, and these queries can then be added to future conversation flows by your CX team, again, to create consistency and speed of response.

Thanks to Jimmy

Keep Training Staff

Juggling takes practice. The best chat handlers are highly skilled in their topics, and their use of knowledge management systems and the chat system.

For those with an eye on the bottom line, bots and concurrency are the reasons for investing in chat: efficiency, in other words. It’s worth training, training and training again to optimize concurrency and satisfy customers.

Thanks to Paddy

Focus Staff on Providing Resolutions

Presence of mind, being quick in thinking, remembering what the customer is asking for and making sure of addressing the issue at hand instead of going around the bush.

The number of concurrent chats also will make a difference, so I suggest no more than two, which will enable a good CSAT as well as AHT.

Train the agents on providing resolutions and closure in order to be effective. This will also prevent repeat contacts.

Thanks to Karan

Don’t Just Focus on Concurrency

In my opinion, solely focusing on concurrency can have a negative impact on customer outcomes.

My suggestion would be to combine all efficiency measures into Chats Per Hour (CPH – No. Chats/ Staffed hours).

Targeted correctly, this then places sufficient accountability to the chat rep to use their time as they require, so where needed, they can spend more time with a certain customer (rather than focus on AHT), or reduce concurrency if dealing with a more complex chat.

This should then achieve the balance between efficiencies and customer experience.

Thanks to Martyn

Hire Agents Effective for Chat

Up-front, you need to make sure you are hiring agents effective for chat (grammar, focus, language, etc.); too often, contact centre leadership assumes a great phone agent will be a good chat agent – sometimes, but not always true.

Second is concurrency. As a WFM leader, my gut instinct is to load them up to increase capacity (joking, a little), but we are not made to handle more than two–three conversations at a time while maintaining the customer experience.

The spiral is that the more concurrent chats that are occurring, the more you have diminishing handle time, adherence/conformance, and customer experience, which creates a need for more agents, raises cost, makes line of business appear poor, etc.

Thanks to Michael

Other articles on Live Chat

Author: Rachael Trickey

Published On: 25th Nov 2022
Read more about - Call Centre Questions,

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