Intelligent Online Engagement for Customer Services

White Paper

Today, the enterprise can assess how potential and current customers are responding to its Web channel in real time, and take steps to positively affect the outcome of online visitor sessions. By deflecting a greater number of customer care interactions away from the costly phone and email channels, and into the more efficient chat channel, contact centres can concentrate resources on the kind of one-off problem resolution that makes or breaks the loyalty of their customers. This whitepaper explores how you can enable the contact centre to segment visitors who require personalised assistance from those who will successfully self-serve using a self help tool.

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The Results of Intelligent Online Engagement

Online engagement requires a third-generation platform to deliver the results enterprises need to ensure success of their Web channel. Enterprises using the LivePerson third-generation engagement platform consistently realise:

  • A 25 percent decrease in contact centre operational costs
  • Customer satisfaction scores above any other human-assisted channel
  • Maximised agent productivity, far above the industry standard
  • Improved first contact resolution
  • Lowest cost of chat channel ownership in the industry

The Importance of Domain Expertise Experience in Sales isn’t the Same as Experience in Service

Much attention has been paid to the benefits of online engagement in the sales environment, so much so that implementation of an intelligent online engagement solution has become a priority for most enterprises. The expanding market for chat has prompted many technology players to add chat to their portfolio. But merely adding a live chat option won’t deliver the specific results that contact centres need to achieve.

To begin, sales and service deployments require significantly different approaches. For instance, a service solution requires secure data integration with the enterprise’s CRM, inventory, billing and other supporting systems. Such systems contain data variables that enable the enterprise to identify and proactively target visitors in need of assistance in real time. And because service deployments seek to rescue at-risk customers and eliminate frustration, it is critical that the targeting of visitors be tied to the availability of agents who have the right skill-sets to address the visitors’ concerns.

From the assessment of specific behaviours that typically result in a poor customer experience, to the development of a rules-based methodology assuring important customers they’ll receive the assistance they need, service deployments are distinct from sales initiatives. For this reason, contact centres must ensure that their online engagement provider has extensive domain expertise via multiple experiences in such deployments, as well as a proven strategy for driving incremental cost savings, first contact resolution (FCR), customer satisfaction (CSAT) and retention.

Focus on Incremental Contribution

Why the focus on incremental cost savings, FCR, CSAT and retention? As every call centre manager knows, websites receive self-servers: Visitors who come on site for the express purpose of using one of the site’s self-help tools. Those self-help tools lower costs by deflecting calls from the contact centre, and increase customer loyalty.

It is all too easy for online engagement implementations to inadvertently interfere with self-servers. Why? Because an unsophisticated implementation will attract visitors into chat before the opportune time. Self-servers clearly have similar attributes as at-risk visitors, and those attributes can result in their being targeted for an engagement. Targeting self-servers too early, or at the wrong time, is a costly mistake, as agent resources are applied to visitors who don’t require personalised care, thereby unnecessarily driving up the cost of customer care.

In contrast, a third-generation engagement platform will target behaviour that typically results in calls or emails to the contact centre, and proactively invite the visitor to chat or speak with a customer care representative. For instance, business rules may be leveraged to proactively invite visitors to chat if they’re unable to log in to an account, e.g., passcode reset call type. Likewise, visitors who search on ‘cancel service’ can be targeted for a chat or voice engagement with a customer care specialist, who can answer questions, explain products or offer alternatives to the visitor.

Such interactions will deliver incremental lifts in CSAT, FCR and cost-savings, enabling the enterprise to better service more customers while lowering their operational costs. These interactions represent the true value proposition of an online engagement solution.

A third-generation service engagement is focused on deflecting costly calls and emails to the contact centre, and should be considered successful only if it demonstrates a significant decrease in contact volumes by problem type.

This paper reviews the generations of online engagement platforms to date, and explores the criteria that are essential for achieving sizeable and sustainable incremental contribution.

Three Generations of Engagement Technology

There are three generations of engagement technology, each of which enables sites to engage visitors online in real time. The commonalities, however, stop there. This section examines the technology behind each generation, along with the benefits, opportunities and limitations.

Each generation of engagement via chat provides progressive level of benefits for the enterprise. On the lower levels, service is initiated by the visitor only. Higher levels offer proactive opportunities to reach out to visitors in need based on agent availability. The highest third-generation enables specific targeting of visitors encountering specific issues, such as trouble signing into an account.

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First-Generation Chat Platform

First-generation chat is essentially a static, reactive channel: Retailers place a click-to-chat button on their Contact Us and Customer Service pages and wait for visitors to initiate a dialogue. Sites that use first-generation platforms successfully are likely to have less than five hundred unique visitors per day, and engage somewhere between .03 and .05 percent of their online visitors. Chats are often handled by the business owner or administrative staff.

First-generation platforms are unable to tie the availability of its click-to-chat button with the availability of agent resources. In short, the chat channel is always on. For higher volume sites, an ‘always-on’ chat button will flood a company with enquiries and require over-staffing to support desired service levels. Failure to increase staff levels runs the risk of frustrating visitors with unacceptably long wait times to begin a chat.

Equally important, inbound-only deployments do not enable site owners to reserve their chat resources for high-priority visitors (those for whom an engagement is essential to ensure customer retention). Chat agents simply respond to the visitors who initiate the engagement.

That said, visitors who chat are highly satisfied with the experience, and chat is certainly a cost-effective alternative to providing support via toll free numbers. For enterprises with goals of first contact resolution and driving cost efficiencies, a first-generation chat platform will not provide the required functionality to meet their needs

Second-Generation Chat Platform

Second-generation chat platforms allow sites to break out of an inbound-only channel and focus efforts on targeting specific visitors. Second-generation solutions offer a few options for visitor engagement, including:

  • Dynamic click-to-chat buttons on high priority pages
  • Simple rules to invite visitors to chat proactively, e.g., send invitations to visitors who linger on a specified page for more than a minute.

Consequently, second-generation chat platforms will increase the percentage of visitors engaged to .05 to 1.0 percent of their daily visitors. For sites that receive high traffic volume, second-generation engagement platforms are not without drawbacks. To begin, the simplicity of the rules used to target visitors means that many self-servers will inevitably be targeted, increasing the cost per interaction as well as limiting the enterprise’s ability to reserve chat resources for those visitors who will benefit from them most.

Moreover, second-generation platforms use static rules, where logic downloads to the visitor’s browser upon page load, rather than pinging the server at regular intervals to test for agent availability. This hinders the ability to control invitations based on agent availability. For high-traffic sites, the result can be long wait times for visitors who have accepted an invitation to chat, as well as poor agent productivity as measured by chats-per-hour.

Second-generation solutions still have a place in the market. Such solutions are perfectly suited for sites that receive small to moderate traffic. In fact, LivePerson provides several second-generation solutions to small and mid-size businesses. However, for sites that receive 10,000 visitors a day or more, second-generation solutions will not deliver desired results.

Third-Generation Intelligent Online Engagement Platform

A third generation of engagement, defined by LivePerson, has emerged. This generation is distinguished by its emphasis on incremental contribution to the contact centre, as measured by:

  • Provable increases in FCR, CSAT, customer retention, and lower cost per contact
  • Targeting of higher volumes of at-risk customers
  • High agent productivity, as measured by chats and interactions per-hour-worked
  • High service levels as measured by wait time and abandonment rates
  • Proactive deflection of costly phone and email contacts to the economical chat channel to lower the total cost of support

These results stem from the very design of the third-generation chat platform, and the unique manner in which it:

  1. Targets contact types, e.g., passcode reset calls
  2. Maximises agent productivity by targeting only those visitors most likely to benefit from an engagement, i.e., visitors exhibiting frustrated behaviour with a self-help tool
  3. Measures outcome and reports on results on a continuous basis in order to adapt to changing market conditions and optimise the initiative

Determining Whom to Engage for Incremental Contribution

As stated earlier, success is measured by the number of deflected telephone calls and emails from the contact centre. Cost per interaction is a key metric in service deployments.

A third-generation platform measures total cost savings by comparing key contact centre metrics ‘before deployment’ and ‘after deployment.’ For instance, it compares the phone and email volumes that are targeted in proactive chat to measure how much of that volume is deflected to the chat programme. At the same time, it compares costs by contact type in all channels, and defines savings as the difference between costs by contact, multiplied by the number of customers deflected to chat. By reviewing both costs and contact channel volumes before and after programme launch, LivePerson is able to validate a more economically efficient contact channel.

Comprehensive Agent Availability Engine

While the goal of all online engagement initiatives is to target as many contact types as possible, the number of engagements offered must be tied to the number of qualified agents available to assist those visitors.

To achieve this goal, LivePerson’s third-generation platform provides a comprehensive availability engine that evaluates agent availability and sends invitations only when agents are immediately available to engage with them. In the event that there are more priority contact types than there are agents, the availability engine limits invitations. As more agents become available, more invitations are sent. This approach enables sites to enhance visitor experience by eliminating unacceptably long wait times. Equally important, it maximises agent utilisation (which represents the bulk of the ongoing costs of the chat channel). Such maximisation is a significant differentiator between the generations of chat platforms. Only the third-generation platform enables site owners to keep agents fully utilised and manage the visitor experience simultaneously. These attributes increase agent productivity and lower the cost per interaction.

Sophisticated Rules Engine

A centre piece of the LivePerson third-generation platform is its sophisticated rules engine, which uses “if-then-else” logic and infinite variables to target complex visitor behaviours. Business rules are essential for delivering incremental contribution, as they enable the solution to differentiate at-risk visitors from self-servers, as well as track self-servers who convert to at-risk during their session. The rules engine enables contact centres to optimise resources by growing the number of email and phone contact deflections. Rules can be used to identify and target customers who are likely to abandon a self-help tool or bypass it altogether.

Multi-Channel Engagement

Offering multiple channels for communication enables enterprises to engage with visitors using the channel most appropriate for the issue at hand. For example, visitors whose online behaviour indicates their intent to cancel service are best handled by voice interactions, and should be presented with a click-to-talk invitation. Visitors who search an FAQ knowledgebase are clearly comfortable with the Web channel, and should be presented with a click-to-chat invitation if their behaviour indicates they’re not finding the answers they need. LivePerson’s rules engine ensures that each visitor receives an invitation to engage with an agent using the appropriate channel.

LivePerson’s third-generation platform delivers all visitor interaction details to the agent prior to the start of the chat or call, giving the agent instant insight into the visitor’s issues. As a result, the agent is positioned to address the visitor scenario immediately, and visitors are spared the burden of ‘starting over from the beginning.’

Measure Outcomes and Report on Results

To ensure ongoing success, every event that occurs within the engagement initiative must be planned, tested, executed, measured and assessed on a continuous basis in order to achieve desired performance levels. LivePerson Professional Services is responsible for tracking and maximising customer performance, leveraging a value-based methodology that includes:

  • Scorecards to measure performance trends, incremental value, and operational cost savings
  • Rules analysis to ensure each active rule is driving incremental value
  • Domain expertise to execute all changes required to optimise performance
  • A hands-on account management approach, coupled with an extensive array of programmes to optimise the enterprise’s implementation

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Third-Generation Platform Total Cost of Ownership

Factoring the total investment of the programme (including agent headcount, technology and the cost of ongoing optimisation programmes), LivePerson’s third-generation platform offers a significantly lower total cost of ownership when compared to its predecessors:

  • 20 percent improvement in agent utilisation
  • 25 percent decrease in customer support costs for the specific contact types in scope

Customer Spotlight


A telecommunications provider replaced a second-generation platform with a third-generation solution in order to improve its customer service efforts. Satisfaction rates rose significantly, while the cost per interaction is far less than what it was using the second-generation platform.

Online Retailer

An online retailer receives two million visitors each month. Sophisticated business rules target visitors in service scenarios. Upon upgrading from a first-generation to LivePerson’s third-generation solution, this retailer has realised:

  • 35% increase in agent utilisation
  • Increase to 1.7 concurrent chats

Financial Services

A financial services provider replaced its second-generation platform with LivePerson’s third-generation solution to offer customer service to its clients proactively. The company has realised the following results:

  • 50% year-over-year reduction in phone-based password reset transactions handled
  • 95% ‘Top Two Box’ CSAT (exit survey measured)
  • 90% first contact resolution (as measured by customer exit survey question)
  • 78% deflection rate from phone channel (70% phone / 8% email) as measured by customer exit survey question asking customers “Before today, how would you have contacted us for support?”
  • 90% increase in productivity per labour hour
  • Cost/chat interactions are roughly half the cost of similar phone interactions

Criteria for Comparing and Selecting Providers

Below is a starting point for contact centre executives to ask of all providers they’re considering. The goal is to ensure the vendor is capable of meeting third-generation criteria, and thereby deliver on the true value proposition of chat: Incremental contribution with optimal agent productivity. A complete list of criteria is available from LivePerson. To request a copy, please send an email to enquiry@


How is return on investment measured? In a service scenario, ROI cannot be clearly identified without measuring reduction in total contacts, lower costs per contact, increases in both labour hour efficiency and customer satisfaction, and a reduction in total call centre labour costs.

Domain Expertise

What kind of resources and programmes will the vendor provide to ensure solution performance? New online channels for use in service scenarios require experienced resources to ensure critical mass is achieved (technology deployment and user training are not enough). Established and proven services programmes are often a reflection of experience and maturity in the market.

Agent Productivity

Does the solution offer an availability engine that ties invitations to agent availability? If not, how does the solution manage the visitor experience to avoid sending invitations when agents are not available to engage targeted visitors? If yes, how does it assess agent availability?

An availability engine should use algorithms to compare agent availability, queue length, concurrent chat capability and average handling time. The goal is to maximise the number of visitors engaged while minimising abandonment due to long wait times. As well, does the solution provide the ability to route contacts based on specific skills? Can the skills-based routing functionality perform with both rules-based and pre-chat survey inputs?


Comprehensive vs. Basic Rules

Describe and show how business rules work, including how they target visitors using multi-variable rules. How are rules used to ensure agent efficiency? Targeted rules that use “if-then-else” logic and infinite variables are able to target complex visitor behaviours — an essential criterion for eliminating self-servers from the engagement funnel. Comprehensive capability is also an indication of deep domain expertise and an understanding of the cause/effect relationship of online behaviour.

Rules Deployed in Secure Server vs. Visitor Browser

Do business rules reside on the company’s secure server or are they downloaded to the visitor’s browser? With browser-based rules, the logic sits on the visitor’s browser, not on the server of the company or vendor. Rules residing on the visitor’s browser appear to offer a lower cost of ownership, however, their inherent limitations will curb the potential for incremental contribution. Server-based rules track visitors throughout the site and compare visitor behaviour to business rules for at-risk triggers throughout the entire session.

Active vs. Static Rules

How often do business rules “ping” servers to assess agent availability? Visitors don’t necessarily exhibit at-risk behaviour right away. An active rules engine that continuously monitors visitor behaviour is required to target visitors based on certain actions on specific pages, or across multiple pages or custom variables.

Performance Trending

Does the vendor employ a methodology to identify trending and determine net contribution of the programme? Weekly revenue reporting is a standard approach to address macroeconomics, seasonality and marketing programmes that may affect the contact centre. Weekly cost-savings reporting enables operations to measure areas of performance optimisation which would drive increased efficiencies and additional benefits. Vendors should offer a standard and consistent report card methodology to measure business contribution over time.


The Web is quickly becoming the consumer’s channel of choice for receiving customer care. While live chat technologies clearly help enterprises deliver superior customer service, it is equally apparent that a vast number of self-help events will happen as a result of the channel’s rising popularity. When implementing an online engagement solution, therefore, enterprises must ensure that the initiative steers clear of visitors who are self-servers. In short, the conversion solution must focus entirely on incremental cost savings, first contact resolution and customer satisfaction.

Ensuring incremental contribution requires a solution that is able to leverage sophisticated rules to identify the right visitor to engage at the right time in order to drive the desired outcome based on contact types. Equally important, it must deliver the tools to ensure agent time, effort and resources are fully maximised. If these objectives are met, the organisation will lower its total cost of ownership for the online engagement solution. LivePerson has built its third-generation solution from the ground up with these principles in mind, and as a result, offers a 20 percent improvement in agent utilisation, along with a 25 percent reduction in customer service costs — at a lower cost per issue handled than any competing alternative.

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