Chat? Again? Are You Serious?

Ladies and Gents, it it time again to revive a tool or technology I gave up for dead some time ago. You see, back in 2005 while updating a hype cycle for Gartner I said that Chat and Email where both going to become obsolete before they reached the plateau of productivity.  That meant that some other technology or tool would replace them or they would cease to exist.  In this case, I was deeply involved in the Customer Interaction Hub (CIH) and thought it was going to be the replacement for all stand-alone channel tools.  The prediction on chat caused some stir (about 15% of my 2005-2006 calls were related to it) since lots of people were using chat and wanted to know what to do.  My advise back then, just because it will disappear from the hype cycle does not mean it is not useful – keep using it and getting benefits out of it.

There were two reasons I declared it obsolete: lack of innovation, and lack of adoption.  In other words, nothing new was being produced or planned, and not many people were using it anyways (still today, adoption for Chat is circa 10%, not what you would call critical mass).  Among adopters of chat, they were mostly using it as a two-way conversation tool, as a cheap (if well done) alternative to phone for real-time escalation for their self-service sites.  I know of several technical support implementations, and some ecommerce sites, that have been successful with it – but for the most part it was an expensive (when done incorrectly), low use, and complicated tool to understand.

Fast forward some 3-4 years, and I am sauteing the crow to eat it – again (for the record, the best way to eat crow is sauteed with kosher salt, covered with a Marsala wine reduction sauce – delicious).  Yes, I was wrong.  Not only it did not become obsolete, it actually became useful.  In my defense, the model that works is the one I espoused for the CIH – but I did not think it was going to be done on an channel-by-channel basis as opposed to a single framework as the CIH proposes.  Further to my defense, although I was wrong in declaring it obsolete, the way it has come back and works is as an integrated components in a contact center, working in conjunction with business rules and knowledge management (almost a CIH, but not exactly).

Why am I bringing this up?  No, I don’t like to admit when I am wrong (although I will gladly do it if necessary), but because I want you to take another look at Chat.  Yes, Chat – I am serious.  The power of chat as an escalation channel for real-time communications is unparalleled (even call-back cannot accomplish the same, and I already talked about that), and if you do it right (you know, integrated with business rules, automate it with chat bots, tie it to your KM deployment to help you agents, offer it at the right time and the right place) you can certainly see many benefits.

Have you taken another look at Chat lately? What are your thoughts?