26 March 2019
Spotlighting the Use of Live Chat within Citizen Advice Bureaus
Citizens Advice is a network of 316 independent charities throughout the United Kingdom that give free, confidential information and advice to assist people with money, legal, consumer and other issues they are facing.
Many of the Citizens Advice charities operate with trained volunteers handling their customer enquiries; and as the digital era continues various branches have implemented live chat to offer instant customer support via their website.
Citizens Advice Bureau Medway
CAB Medway first started using live chat for small business software in 2010; it took pressure off their phone lines and enabled them to support more residents across the region. Their Gateway Supervisor Jack Lewis commented “If our telephone services are overbooked on a certain day and someone calls up seeking assistance, instead of telling them to try again on another day, we can suggest the Live Chat.”
During their initial implementation the charity experienced a rise in housebound clients and younger people which they attribute to having the live chat service in place. Lewis explains “We’ve noticed a very obvious trend over the years – if we advertise the Live Chat and recommend it, we’ll get clients logging on throughout every session. It is on our leaflets and the link is available on every page of our website, but it seems that unless a client is told either at our Reception or through our Switchboard, they tend not to use it. There’s a steady stream of young people always accessing the Live Chat but the numbers only tend to increase when we advertise it.”
Live chat has doubled the Bureau’s staff productivity as advisors are comfortable handling 2 chats at a time. This allows them to remain focused on the conversations they are providing advice in whilst helping more than one person at a time. “However it depends on what the client wants assistance with and how forthcoming they are with information.” Comments Lewis before continuing “Sometimes a client might type out a long paragraph which answers any questions we may have needed to ask. Other times the client might just give us one word answers which does slow things down.”
Live Chat Training
Individuals who are looking for advice will need to go through a brief interview process called an Initial Check. This is done via any communication channel that the individual contacts the bureau through, including live chat. The initial checks is essentially a “triage” system that either allows CAB Medway to provide the required information straight away or they may need to refer the enquirer to an advisor or project worker.
Advisors are fully trained before providing advice via live chat, Lewis explains “We had previously been assisting clients via email so that did give those we trained on the Live Chat an understanding of digital advice already. The software comes with a built in training suite which enabled us to host mock conversations which greatly assisted with the training. The transition isn’t as bad as we initially thought it would be – our volunteers always learn how to conduct face to face interviews before they train on any other method of interview. This helps because the questions and interview process are mostly the same on Live Chat as they are on face to face.
“What we always have to do is make sure a volunteer who hasn’t used the Live Chat before has an in-depth one-to-one session with our trainer first so they can understand the software in terms of which buttons do what, the layout of the chat window, etc.”
Overall Thoughts of Live Chat
When asked if the bureau is happy overall with the software, Lewis responded “Very much so. It’s user friendly (for us and clients), does enable us to see more clients and is very useful for clients who may not be able to access us through the usual means, e.g.: client may be housebound. I think over the years we’ve only ever had one incident where there was a technical problem that prevented us from using the software which is very good in my experience. The extra features are also very useful to us, e.g.: you can set the software to generate a satisfaction survey at the end so clients can let you know how they felt about the service.
“We have no intentions of losing the software any time soon and as the world becomes more about digital services, we’re keen to expand it.”
Citizens Advice Medway is just one of the success stories within this network of charities. Click4Assistance has been working with the charity industry for over 15 years and works with many other Citizen Advice Bureau’s across the UK. For more information on how live chat for small business or corporate enterprises can improve your organisation’s operations contact our team on 01268 524628.