Live chat support: should you use it only for sales or also for tech support?


6 Nov 2012


support tiers

In technical companies, such as web hosting providers, there are generally two departments that take support calls and tickets: the sales department and the technical support department.

Within technical support, there may be two or three sub-groups: the first group might administer the help desk ticketing system, another might deal with common incidents and requests, and perhaps a third will deal with more complicated problems.

It’s possible to offer one single chat option that offers the same chat options to everyone. But that’s not always the most efficient way of handling support requests. As your business grows, you might find that live chat becomes inconvenient and troublesome for your staff, with busy technical engineers being bothered by basic questions.

So what’s the answer? By using tiers, live chat requests can be efficiently split between the people who are most likely to deal with issues initially.

What are support tiers?

Tiers describe a hierarchy of groups. In the example above, sales staff and technical administrators would be considered Tier 1 staff. More advanced technical engineers would be assigned to tier 2, tier 3 and so on. Wikipedia lists a description for common support tiers here.

If you’ve got a technical support department, you might already be using a similar system for managing and prioritising support requests. Live chat can be used in exactly the same way. You can target new chats to tier 1 staff initially, and have tier 2 and above available for referrals from tier 1.

By using tiers, you’re giving clients access to your support and sales departments in the most appropriate way. Segregating your teams makes the whole process more efficient and speedy for both chat participants.


Example: In a web hosting company, a simple pricing question will directly be answered by the tier 1 support person. If the question is more complicated – for example, if someone has a very specific question about e-commerce hosting – the question can be redirected to the second level support tier. In a pre-sales scenario like this one, it makes sense to answer questions as fast as possible.

An important question is whether technical support for existing customers should also be dealt with via live chat. If the question is complex and takes more than 15 minutes to be solved, it makes sense to transfer the case into the ticketing system. This way it’ll be easier to trace and manage.

One thing you should avoid is rejecting incoming chats from existing customers. All customers should feel equally valued, and people who have already signed up should get the same attention as prospective clients.


How do I create tiers?

Most popular live chat tools support a tier or group system.

  • Olark allows users to set up a tier system, assuming you have an account that provides a login for two or more operators. You can assign Operators to Groups, and different Groups can be assigned to different pages within your website. You can initiate Targeted Chats with different types of users based on rules and triggers and pass chats from one operator to another.
  • Zopim calls its tier system Departments. Visitors can choose which Department they want to speak to when initiating a new conversation. Chats can be passed between operators.
    zopim departments
  • SnapEngage supports the transfer of chats between agents, and also allows the creation of tiers. The SnapEngage system aligns well with the concept of tiers, as it’s designed to be a hierarchical system, unlike other providers which don’t necessarily base tiers around that concept.
  • Userlike supports agent-to-agent transfer and the creation of groups. New chats are targeted at the operator with the least active chats within the relevant group.

As mentioned previously, you can combine your existing ticketing system with live chat. Find out whether your preferred helpdesk solution has a live chat function built-in. We hope this article has inspired you to make live chat more efficient in your business.

If you have any other tips or tricks, do let us know in the comments.

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