Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Customer Support


A few days ago I posted an article detailing the live chat initiative we’re working on at Automattic. One of the big things we’re finding is that the synchronous nature of live chat support is one of the biggest benefits to our customers. I think there are many reasons for this, which I’d like to go into more detail about in hopes that some more teams might consider trying a live chat option for their customer support.

Instant Feedback

This strikes me as the biggest benefit of live chat and other synchronous customer support methods. When corresponding via email, both the support agent and customer could go days without talking, and so a significant amount of time could be spent just reviewing what’s been said previously in order to craft a coherent reply. I understand that many email support interactions can be resolved quickly and with only one or two replies, but there’s always a few that take quite a bit of time and lots of replies. With live chat, we can walk through issues in real-time and walk the user through step by step, with them able to ask questions throughout the process. This usually means that the customer’s issue is resolved by the time the chat is over, which is around 10-15 minutes on average.

Quick Response Time

When contacting support via email, it might be a few hours or even a few days before you get a reply. With live chat, you’re connected almost instantly with an operator who begins assessing your question. In general, faster response times equal happier customers. When a customer is able to minimize the time between first contact and issue resolution, they’re almost always going to rate and speak well of your product and its support, and live chat allows us as customer support agents to accomplish that.

Informal Interaction

From my experience as both an operator and a customer, live chat tends to be a bit more informal than other means of customer support. The quick back and forth seems to bring out the humanness and personality in both parties involved. People tend to respond better in situations where they feel comfortable, and I think this informal-ness lends itself to a more comfortable environment for problem-solving to happen.

What do you think?

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