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We are currently integrating a web chat functionality on a utilities website, where customers can query their bill, or changing plans etc. with their electricity bills. (this will be available to all customers whether they are logged in or not).

The web chat will sit top right on all paged, and when clicked, will initiate a web chat sessions. In the event of a bottleneck of chats starting, we need to design a pre-screen before the chat initiates with an agent. I cannot find any best practice information our there, so my thought was to provide the following while the user waits:

  • An apology message saying that chat agents are busy.
  • Current wait time: XX minutes.

Would this be considered an overshare of information to the customer? or is the visibility and transparency appreciated and considered good Ux? Any hats thrown into the ring on this one are much appreciated! A brief mockup is something I put together below as a first pass:

enter image description here

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    Knowing how long I need to wait for something is absolutely a better UX than not knowing how long I need to wait. So you are definitely in the right sharing that information. – DA01 Jul 16 '15 at 19:17
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+50

Think about what it means to be staring at that loading spinner:

  • The user doesn’t want to do any of this. He has no interest in managing his utilities. It’s something he might have to do from time to time, but he’s hardly happy about it. This had better be a smooth experience.
  • The system has failed. Few people go straight to support without a problem arising. Something broke.
  • Self-help failed. He’s tried to work around the problem himself without talking to a service rep (because that’s rarely fun), but he hasn’t succeeded. Now he’s headed to support in an irritated mood.
  • His problem is being dismissed. Support has in effect told him, “Yes, we see that our system has failed you, and yes, we see that you need help. If you continue to sit here for a poorly defined amount of time, maybe we will decide to show up and do something about it. Thanks for being a valued customer.”

Ouch. How can we mitigate this situation?

  • Get the tone right. “All our web chat agents are currently busy” does nothing to acknowledge that the wait is a problem.
  • Be concise. The big, obvious part should be the thing that the user is looking for: How long is this going to take?
  • Offer an alternative. Allow the user to stop waiting and instead submit a support ticket, so they can be notified when there’s a response instead of waiting for one.

Here’s a quick example of one possible solution:

enter image description here

Once the user is speaking to an agent, consider offering him something for his trouble, maybe a discount, anything to make him feel that the issue is acknowledged and something is being done about it.

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    Also: Let the user start writing the problem description while they're waiting. That will usefully absorb much, sometimes all, of the wait. – keshlam Jul 17 '15 at 4:25
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    Great answer and great comment! I'm going to award a bounty on this. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jul 20 '15 at 13:12
  • Second that, this answer pretty much covered everything for me, +1 – IronBasset Jul 20 '15 at 19:37

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