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Web chat for multiple sclerosis support

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Multiple sclerosis organisation, MS-UK, describes how it introduced web chat to improve access to its information and support.

Background

MS-UK is a national charity dedicated to providing information and support to anyone affected by Multiple Sclerosis. That includes families, carers, health professionals, friends and colleagues. It recently launched a web chat service to improve access to information and support.  

The issues we faced

We realised users of our information were increasingly engaging with us through social media and our website and decided to improve online access to meet this demand. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a complex condition, affecting people differently. It is important to offer a range of ways to access support. 

The great thing about web chat is it is a live conversation. People get information instantly in the same way as calling our helpline which in January 2015 received 32 per cent more calls than in the same period the previous year, and this rise was also why we launched web chat.

The actions we took

We researched providers online to whittle a choice down to three. We arranged for key staff to view demos and tested each provider for user friendliness and front-end access. We also looked at how easy it was for advisors to use the software and to cost. Eventually, we chose Click4Assistance live chat.

We branded software for consistency and customised the back-end for reporting purposes. Then we wrote a tailored guide for staff on how to use web chat to provide information to clients. This included technical information and guidance on style, tone and language as we recognised styles for communicating information vary depending on the channel. The guide provided us with the basis upon which to train staff.

We spent approximately two weeks testing the software, honing how we would work and ironing out any bugs. We decided to soft launch the service so that the team was not overwhelmed while it got to grips with the technology. Six weeks later we started to promote it.

Positive outcomes

It was great to find a product that was easy for staff and clients to use. The software is intuitive and the customer support team was very good at helping us learn it. By launching the live web chat service, we have been able to offer people another channel to connect with trained MS advisors. Not everybody likes talking on the telephone and web chat provides clients with an instant response to their concerns. The feedback from our clients has been positive.

Negative outcomes

Creating graphics for customisation of the front-end of the software was tricky. As a small charity with limited resources we do not have in-house designers to create these. After a number of attempts at producing graphics, with varying success, we contacted the web chat support team that was very happy to help us.

Lessons learnt

So far, the web chat service has proved popular, and shown steady growth since its soft launch in January 2015.

MS-UK can support more people affected by multiple sclerosis and just over 14 per cent of all those who contact us are doing so via web chat. In total, we had over 70 web chat requests between January and April 2015, and the number of requests for information via social media has dropped which is what we hoped.

By talking to people via web chat, and reducing the number of those contacting the helpline on social media, we can ensure confidentiality. Web chat has also enabled us to drive traffic to our information and support web pages and target our social media appropriately. 

Contributor

Page last edited Aug 17, 2015

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