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Ask an MSP ExpertQ: Our customers always applaud us for our quick, timely responses. Lately, we have been contemplating live chat to further accelerate our responses. After hearing various opinions from other MSPs, we are undecided on whether this is the best move for our business. What is your opinion on live chat?  

We are in an era of speed and 24/7 service. Clients expect fast, sometimes instant, responses. But is live chat right for your MSP?

To help unpack the issue, we turned to a couple of experts to walk us through the pros and cons. With something like live chat, each MSP has different needs and capabilities. You’ll have to choose the one that is right for your organization.

“Live chat is one of the least utilized tools in the MSP toolbox, but one that we are seeing more demand for, through our outsourced service desk,” observes Dan Goldstein, solutions architect for VVDN Technologies in Toronto.

Some fear that live chat will open the floodgates to customers inquiring about every little problem, problems that a client might try to troubleshoot on their own first. The flip side is that sometimes, if a client has a small issue, being able to chat remotely about it can help them fix it — before it becomes a bigger problem that requires a more costly MSP visit.

While not every support issue is created equal, many less critical matters can be addressed quickly via chat, which naturally allows the end-user to multi-task and stay on target.

“The trick from a support standpoint is ensuring that handle times don’t drag on as a result of this added convenience,” warns Goldstein.

Live chat for all sizes

MSPs of all sizes can utilize live chat.

“While more operationally mature ITSPs and MSPs may have better infrastructure in place to optimize this from the outset, service providers of all shapes and sizes can make this work with a bit of planning,” advises Goldstein.

For starters, ensuring that service desk agents and users can seamlessly share screens and, if necessary, a transition to a phone call without skipping a beat are absolute musts.

From there, introducing strategies such as self-service articles and automated workflows will naturally lead to better use of your support agents’ time, as well as a better customer experience. Chatbots aren’t a viable alternative to live chat yet, because the bots are still more suited for simple sales conversations.

For another view of chat, we turned to Jamie Warner, CEO of Australia-based Invarosoft. Warner believes that live chat is not the best tactic for most MSPs.

“I think the future will be chatbots,” predicts Warner, adding that his company is launching them in 2020.

“The key thing to understand is there are three channels for support: phone, email, and a PSA portal. The portal never gets used as MSPs don’t give it to clients. That only leaves phone and email,” observes Warner, adding that even if you wanted to provide chat support — where would you put it?

“It’s fundamentally a URL link which is hard to distribute across all the clients and devices you manage. The net result is no one can find it anyway,” states Warner.

Live chat gets lost

Warner’s key is to provide customers with a seamless all-in-one-window experience, which is what Invarosoft is developing via a desktop and mobile app.

“By having an IT button on every desktop, it’s easy to find and use as their ‘one pane of glass’ experience. The point is that if they can easily get access to the app, you can put links to things like chat in it,” explains Warner. If customers can easily access it, it will get more use.

“A good example is MS Word. Do you use the App or the O365 browser version? I bet that 99 percent of users only use the desktop version because it’s easy to find and use. Trying to offer things to clients in the browser just never works at scale. They can’t find it and can’t log in. Ultimately, chat support won’t work if you can’t find it,” advises Warner.

Even if they can find it, you need enough staff to be able to handle the chat requests. Most MSPs don’t have the staff needed to field the inquiries.

“Most MSPs have 5 to 15 person staff, so they can’t afford to have someone ensuring they don’t miss a chat for 8 hours a day. The future will be chatbots, given the capacity issue most MSPs have,” predicts Warner.

“The future is a CX Platform to the front end, the PSA with a desktop App on every device linking to whatever the MSP and client needs. This is the true solution to reducing phone calls and getting better information in the ticket, versus email support, which never gives you the correct information,” says Warner.

Of course, one of the benefits of live chat is that it is relatively inexpensive to implement, so you can experiment with it and see if it fits your needs. The key is to find a way to stay connected to your customers, in a way that works best for you.

Photo:  Song_about_summer / Shutterstock

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Kevin Williams

Posted by Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams is a journalist based in Ohio. Williams has written for a variety of publications including the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and others. He first wrote about the online world in its nascent stages for the now defunct “Online Access” Magazine in the mid-90s.

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