Live chat (4)No service

Not words you want to see on your smartphone. I thought it was because I was in a rural black spot but once I got home, it still persisted.

A quick check of the BBC website for O2 (my telecom provider) problems showed no new items.

“So when you have a problem, shouldn’t your provider give the best help?”

The O2 website pushes their products but 5 hours after initial reports of network problems, there was nothing on the front page. Having experienced poor customer support by phone, I couldn’t face queuing for ages plus trying to understand a strong Indian accent. I spotted the Live Chat option so thought I’d try it out.

Now Live Chat is a service that Medical Information people have considered as another communication channel. Done well, it can be really helpful. Before I converted to Apple computers, I found the Dell Live Chat facility to be quick, personal and helpful.

But O2?

Epic Fail.

Here’s a snap shot of part my conversation.

Live chat (4)


Later the BBC reported that 2 million customers suffered problems. They also quoted a status update page

So what went wrong with my interaction? Well, the classic things

  • when transfering a customer interaction, making them repeat the problem
  • making spelling mistakes (your continues patience)
  • using company speak rather than plain English to explain problems
  • unable to point out where I can find out more, despite there being a status update web page.

The agent said to just check my phone to see if it’s working again, despite me specifically asking for a web page to check the network status. Insulting really as it’s obvious that the way to see if your phone has network coverage is to check it!

Time for Google! I soon found the CNET UK Facebook page reporting the problem and the extent of the problem. 100+ comments showed me that it was common, not location dependent and CNET were tracking it. I could add my own feedback. All in all, social media done well.

So what is this telling us?

Do our customers want Live Chat? Ainhoa del Romero & Georgios Tramountanis from Amgen presented at the DIA EU Medical Information & Communications track on what HCP customers in Europe want from Medical Information. The preferred route for contact for doctors was via a sales rep (47%) followed by phone (30%) or email (23%). Pharmacists prefered the phone (67%), probably as they need quick answers for immediate patient care. No mention of Live Chat.

But is this a viable channel for MI? Would customers use it? How would they access it? Is it a cost effective channel? Like phone support, it’s synchronous so you need to have people available to handle queries. It has a lot of advantages

  • it’s “free” – the customer doesn’t pay for the call and the company don’t have to pay freephone charges
  • you can have multi-lingual agents supporting it as you don’t hear accents
  • you can push web page links to customers
  • you can be as personal or as scripted as you want.
  • you can offer other channels if Live Chat is not the best one to use
  • you are letting the customer choose the channel

AstraZeneca have tried it in the US (see this blog post on the service for an example but it’s more of how NOT to do it, than an example of how to do it well).

What do you think?

  • Unlikely to happen as there’s no obvious ROI?
  • Customers don’t want it so why bother?
  • Or worth a pilot to test customer satisfaction?

Need to calculate ROI for Live Chat? Try here for some quick calculations & ideas about where Live Chat will work well.

So who is out there using it successfully already? Some respondents in the recent Global MI survey were using Live Chat. Can you share your experience?