Businesses rely heavily on interactive voice response (IVR) technology to handle their call loads, improve efficiency and reduce costs. They’re now also discovering the benefits of online instant messaging (IM) technology to do some of the same.
IVR systems can take the place of dedicated staff by answering phones, directing calls to appropriate staff or managing entire calls from start to finish. A good IVR system can take the place of an attendant and provide equally good service in many cases.
However, dedicated staff is sometimes necessary—particularly for technical support or sales that require educating the customer before purchase (such as for technical sports gear or computers). In those cases, IM can help.
Instant messaging is a real-time, text-based communications tool used on networks or over the Internet (it actually predates the Internet). In addition to text messages, advanced IM software can incorporate Internet links and live voice or video.
IM is most common on networks of specified, known users such as the employees in a company or a group of friends. When users are online, they can chat instantly and in real time with the other users on their buddy, friend or contact list (different names, same thing).
Businesses can take advantage of IM in the same way by setting up temporary connections for one-time chats.
Some retailers are now using IM to better help their online customers. While the customer is shopping or seeking technical support, an IM window will open (often with a picture of the salesperson or technical support person attached) and ask if the customer has any questions and would like to chat. All the customer has to do is accept for an automatic connection and start typing their question.
IM is convenient for businesses and customers because both parties can multi-task while carrying on an IM chat. A salesperson or technical support person can manage multiple chats at the same time, improving their efficiency. Meanwhile, the customer can carry on an IM chat while continuing their online search or doing whatever else they were doing.
Just like interactive voice response technology, IM provides another avenue for businesses to manage customer interactions and customers to get the information they need.