Key Practices for Member Service Via Web Chat

Membership Associations Now September/October 2014 By: Michael Barbagallo

Tips from a veteran member-service center director for integrating web chat into your association’s customer-service operation.

It's a multimedia world, and your members want to communicate with you through any number of channels. While the telephone is the oldest and most popular communication channel and social media gets the most buzz, online chat is still a viable and popular way to serve your members.

Online (or web) chat has been used by customer-service centers for more than two decades. It still provides some excellent service opportunities, such as enabling members to connect with your agents immediately if they have questions about something on your website.

Over the years, call centers have developed several best practices. Here are a few examples:

  1. Measure your progress. Measurable metrics are just as important when using chat as when answering calls. Some basic chat metrics are average handle time, concurrent chat interactions, and chats per hour.
  2. Mixing channels is not efficient. Agents should not respond to chats while answering calls. Agents can respond to multiple chats and still provide sufficient attention. The same is not true when on a call. Agents should not be distracted with a chat while speaking with a member.
  3. Grammar and spelling count. Responses should be written in complete sentences and contain no abbreviations.
  4. More is not necessarily better. Limit the number of simultaneous chats to three. More than that can lead to delays in responding and annoyed members.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Live Chat Lessons."]

Michael Barbagallo

Michael Barbagallo is senior manager of member services at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.