Public libraries have seen potential in live chat as a customer service tool for a long time. However, in many cases technical and logistical challenges have limited its usefulness and popularity with patrons.
In this series of posts, we’ll address five common mistakes libraries make with live chat that hamper its utility as a customer service channel. Fixing these things will produce more chats, more patron activity (checkouts, downloads, visits, sign-ups), and fewer phone calls and emails for staff to deal with.
3. Slow or Inconsistent Response Times
In addition to the chat widget’s limited availability and mobile functionality, another limiting factor we often run into is slow or inconsistent response times. Have you ever tried to chat with a service provider (maybe your cell phone or TV provider) only to get radio silence? What did you do? You might have navigated to another tab in your browser and went about your business, only to remember a few minutes later and find that an agent had belatedly responded and then ended the conversation.
Unlike email, or even text messaging, chat is meant to be a channel for synchronous (immediate back-and-forth) communication. There’s nothing more frustrating than thinking you’re going to be able to chat with someone only to get no reply. Slow or inconsistent response times severely hamper the utility of live chat by setting an expectation in the patron’s mind that it’s unreliable.
To make your chat service a reliable communication channel that’s convenient for online patrons to use, library representatives must respond quickly and consistently. The problem – and solution – to inconsistent response times is often related to the staffing strategy the library deploys to handle incoming live chats. That’s something we’ll discuss in part four of this series.