Online Chat Usage Increasing in HR Outsourcing

Picture this: You need to ask your bank a question. After navigating through its website unable to find the needed information and then trying to determine what you think is the correct toll-free phone number to dial, the fear sets in. Will I get lost forever in an IVR queue? Will I be on hold for an interminable period of time? Will I finally reach a live person only to be transferred and put on hold…again and again? We’ve all faced this, and it’s not pretty. But recently, after spending way too much time searching for the information I needed from my bank, I had a great experience getting an actual answer – yes, it’s true! – via its live online chat feature. After I clicked the button, the online agent greeted me in less than a minute, and within three minutes I had the information I needed, including follow up questions I had.

Granted, a key component of HRO providers’ core expertise is top-notch customer service via both websites and call centers. But what if there was another, alternative method for gaining desired information? Enter a Mercer news release issued earlier this week which carried the headline, “Mercer reports significant increase in online chat usage.” The announcement stated that use of its online chat capabilities has increased 55 percent since it piloted the offering with two clients in the beginning of 2009. 11 clients are now making the service available to their employees, and a number of clients plan to roll out the capability later this year. And usage by employees of the two pilot clients has upticked by 48 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in usage volume between 1H09 and 1H10.

Such a large increase in number of online chat sessions clearly indicates desire and demand for this type of communication – whether it be for questions on defined contribution plans, defined benefits plans or virtually any outsourced HR process. One of the reasons we’re seeing this surge is that live chat marries online ease and personal touch.

My advice to HRO providers considering adding live chat capabilities to their offerings portfolios – and I know of several that are currently evaluating the possibility – is that customer support must be absolutely world-class, employee satisfaction-focused. Within seconds responses, kept-to promises of when the answer will be delivered to the employee if it’s not immediately available, highly knowledgeable and skilled reps – not only in policies and programs, but also in quelling concerns…all of these are critical to ensuring the success of online chat. Fail in any of these areas and you’ll not only have an unsuccessful offering, you’ll have those who experienced a poor interaction blogging and tweeting about it. They will…you can be certain of it. These are tech-comfortable individuals who will have no qualms – or technological challenges – in doing so. Be prepared, start with a pilot, learn from the pilot and you may have a winning service offering for you, your clients and their employees.

Care to share your online chat experience?

Gary Bragar, Senior HR Outsourcing Analyst, NelsonHall

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Explore posts in the same categories: benefits administration outsourcing, health and welfare administration, hr outsourcing, hr outsourcing research, hro, HRO providers, hro research, nelsonhall, outsourced learning, outsourced training

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