Trialling ‘Live Help’ on the Statistics NZ website

The background

Last year we thought about how we could help customers find the information that best suits their particular purpose. Methods for communicating with our Information Service are changing – virtually nobody visits a Statistics NZ office these days to find statistics, and faxing is virtually dead. Emails now outstrip phone calls.

We had also just done some promotion aimed at helping more small and medium-sized businesses use statistics and noticed that more people preferred to look on the website than phoning us first. So, with people’s preference swinging to online we thought that a ‘live chat’ service would potentially help customers as they look for information on the Statistics NZ website.

You may have noticed that many commercial companies offer interactive help on their websites. Some use it as a way of getting you to pre-canned help, some connect to a real person. We had a look around but found very few government departments using it, and no other national statistics offices around the world that we could see. 

Testing whether live chat helped

The best way to test this seemed to be to set up a trial and see what happened. So that was what we did. We activated live help on a selection of webpages, experimented a little with the messages, and our Information Centre staff would activate the service if they could spare some time from the existing channels. When we have no available staff, the message simply does not appear. 

What happened?

  • People like it. They liked the instantaneous nature of chat, the ease of access to data, and how it makes things like finding the right page on the website easier by simply sending a weblink via a chat session.
  • Chat has proved perfect for questions like 'do you have data on etc etc', with a simple yes or no answer and a suggestion of where they could find the data.
  • Information      emails and chat has worked together perfectly, as emails have just slotted      into 'gaps' between chats.
  • For chats      that have needed more detail or instruction, clients have been happy to      call into the information line (many have not known about the 0508 number)      or send an email that can be responded to.      

So what now?

We are going to keep live chat on. We have now made it active on most webpages – and have noticed a corresponding increase in use. We also want to make it available for more hours in the day, but need to work out how we can free up people to provide the service.

In the future we will look at whether we can refine the service, giving good service to customers in an efficient and effective way.