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Many Web sites offer visitors a list of contact information: email, toll-free number, address. But few offer what customers might consider the equivalent of "dial zero anytime to reach a service representative" that call centers often present. Executives at Cabela's Inc., a multichannel retailer of fishing and outdoor gear, wanted that type of feature for its Web site, says Darren Robinson, manager of call center technology and network services at the Sidney, NE--based company.
Initially, the only way customers visiting Cabela's Web site could digitally communicate with its agents was through email. This presented a real-time disconnection between customers and the company.
So Cabela's executives opted to slowly incorporate chat into the Web site with the goal to be up and running before that year's holiday season. After evaluating a few vendors' chat solutions, Cabela's executives selected eshare, which was later acquired by Divine Inc. and was rolled into Divine's NetAgent product line. Eshare enables agents to simultaneously chat with several customers without toggling between windows, which saves agents' valuable time. But what sealed the deal were customer reviews of the product and its stability.
The implementation process went smoothly and was completed within a month. The Cabela's technical staff even used the tool to communicate with eshare's IT team when installing the product. Initially, eshare was only linked to the customer service page of the Web site to minimize visibility, so the Cabela's agents were not overwhelmed with chat sessions. Within a matter of weeks the agents were comfortable enough with the eshare solution to support the anticipated high volume of chat sessions associated with the holiday season.
"We went through the first peak season with no hitches," Robinson says. "Then we put it on our home page and on every other page. You can find it anywhere on our Web site. As the chat volume increased we added agents."
Today, Cabela's averages about 1,000 chats a day. Chat sessions generally take longer than phone conversations, but because agents average between two and three chat sessions simultaneously the staff size needed to handle the chat sessions is considerably smaller than the number of call center agents that would be required to handle an equivalent number of calls.
No longer simply a forum for teens, chat is becoming an integral part of the cross-sell, upsell, and support strategies run by customer service.