Synchronous vs Asynchronous Conversation Priorities



Synchronous vs. Asynchronous conversation priorities

In this blog, I am going to answer some questions we get from many of our customers.

  1. What is asynchronous vs. synchronous? 
  2. How do I forecast staff for each type of channel?
  3. What does success look like for a best class customer service in each of these channels?

Let’s start with the differences between asynchronous vs. synchronous.  

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Synchronous Channels

Synchronous channels are session or time-based, which means, as a customer, I start and end conversations in the same session; this is how traditional web chat works. 

Typically you find this when you are on a brand’s website, and the chat bubble opens in a separate box with some expectation setting of “your chat session beginning.” This requires customers to finish their conversation in a single discussion and expect an immediate response.

Many consider this a more old-fashioned way of engaging with customers because it puts the chat owner, or brand, in control of when the conversation starts and ends. 

Other examples of Synchronous conversations are phone calls, in-person conversations, and video conferencing. 

Perspective for Staffing 

Customer Experience: If their session unexpectedly ends or times out due to external factors, it can leave them without resolving their issues. The customer then must rely on the agent to have made notes on the account or chat history (if available) to search for confirmation.

Agent Experience: A conversation doesn’t close until it is complete, resulting in fewer conversations since they are waiting for the customer to respond or for the session to timeout to close the conversation. 

Brand Staffing Needs: You may need to hire more agents to handle Synchronous channels because they cannot handle more conversations at a time.

Asynchronous Channels

Asynchronous channels are continuous and can happen over time, which means, as a customer, I can start and end conversations at my convenience. This type of conversation is in your everyday life, text messaging, email, Facebook, Google Business Messages, WhatsApp, and other Messenger apps.  “Messengers” are often called chats, which causes even more confusion for anyone trying to understand the difference between asynchronous and synchronous chats.


Perspective for Staffing

Customer Experience: Asynchronous channels put the customer in control of “when” they want to engage with or respond to your brand. They don’t always expect an immediate answer if they ask a question, depending on their urgency. 

It's the intrinsic nature of the technology and how our brains have been trained based on personal experience.

I mean, how often do you expect your friend to respond immediately if your question is not urgent? “What up, girl?” vs. “OMG, you won’t believe this!”  

Agent Experience:  This often allows agents to start and end multiple conversations simultaneously or even answered by other agents. In this scenario, where the customer response time informs their urgency or situation, the Agent can multitask on other conversations. (You can multitask on Synchronous channels, it's just not as easy).  

Brand Staffing Needs: Your agents can handle more asynchronous conversations simultaneously, leading to a much more efficient staffing model and easy-to-measure results. In addition, it also focuses more on a customer-first experience, in turn increasing CSAT


Now then, how to be successful in either conversation type
Always remember that a technology change may require reevaluation of your processes. 

Here are some scenarios to consider and how they can impact your handling of conversations in terms of Customer Experience:

When chatting with a customer in a Synchronous channel, it is almost customary to ask, “is there anything else I can assist with?”
But for the agent to move on to the next chat, the customer must respond with a yes or no, close the video chat, or let it time out, leaving the agent with limited options. 

  • If the customer responds with “no,” the agent can close out the conversation. It is a low percentage rate that the customer will respond, and there is no way to close that conversation.
  • If they respond with a yes, the agent continues the chat and resolves the next question, then asks again, “Is there anything else I can assist with?” 
  • Rinse and repeat, becoming an ongoing conversation with no anticipated time to end until all customer’s questions are answered. 

Once the conversation is ready to close out, let’s say the customer asked four questions, and the agent resolved three. What is your close disposition? 

Resolved? Not Resolved? Won’t respond? (a very synchronous conversation in an Asynchronous chat)


In an Asynchronous chat, there is no chat window to close and end the session. Now, after asking, “is there anything else I can assist with” agents can move to a new conversation, leaving the customer with the ability to respond at another time. Now, an Asynchronous chat in the same scenario, giving the agent more flexibility to help your customers.

  • The agent's final response instead can be a statement, for example.
    “If there is anything else we can help with, just let us know!” 
  • Or even just close it out with a positive end statement like, “Happy we were able to assist! Have a great day!” 
  • Now you can close the conversation as Resolved. 
  • If the customer responds now, it's a new conversation. 
    • The chat may come back to the same agent or a different one. And if it happens to be the same question, the agent can see the history and use that to assist. (if you are tracking bounce, you can even add a tag here to track it) 

Routing prioritization for any channels should still be based on conversation type and urgency of need, whether it is Asynchronous or Synchronous. 

For example, if it is the “I need help now!” type of conversation, this is usually an indication that the customer will be frustrated, while “where do I find the FAQs?” is more of an I just need some direction. Of course, there are always the “I love your brand” posts, which we want to see more. So consider the Customer and the brand in each of these scenarios.


Quick use case comparison
Take into consideration the types of conversation for each of these. 

  • You may have a straightforward question like “where do I find the FAQ”, which could be answered by a simple link, one and done. The convo can take the same amount of time, whether in an Asynchronous or Synchronous channel. 
  • A more personalized question, like “why is my bill wrong,” the time to resolve may be the same for the Agent regardless of it being Synchronous or Async. The difference is how long it takes the customer to respond. 

In a Synchronous channel, the agent is waiting on the customer to respond before the session timeout hopefully. Whereas with asynchronous, the agent doesn’t need to wait. They can move on to the next conversation. When the customer responds, the Agent can pick up where they left off.

Ultimately your Brand’s success should be defined by the goals you set and your customer’s expectations. 

There is no set number on how quickly you should respond, and you cannot base your response times on what other brands are doing. If you are doing things the same as your competitor, you may just be setting yourself up for failure.

The best way to think about this is how quickly your customer expects you to respond to specific questions/posts.  

For example:

If you are meeting your SLA’s at 98% with a one-hour average response time, you are already meeting a great goal.
Now consider your sentiment and CSAT

Are there specific types of conversations that you could be responding to faster? A question about billing may require a fifteen-minute target in SLA. Then 1 hour SLA for an FAQ question; or even better, use a bot, so the agent never has to respond. 

Having a 15 minute or less response time on a high-priority conversation will improve your customer experience and raise CSAT. This is how brands start to target negative situations and turn them into positive ones.

A customer is less likely to be frustrated if your brand responds within fifteen minutes, improving the Customer Experience and the Agent Experience.

If you set customer expectations on wait times with bots or Welcome messages, the customer waiting on the FAQ answer probably doesn't mind the wait nearly as much.

Did You Know: The Khoros Platform supports both Synchronous and Asynchronous conversations.

If you have questions or ideas, please feel free to PM me @A11eyor comment below! 

I know technology and customer experience are continuously evolving, so I encourage you to share your experiences with our other Khoros customers  

Don’t miss my upcoming webinar, Sync vs Async: How customers choose their experience, with @MatthewHe

We will deep dive into Khoros Care to discuss different customer and agent experiences with asynchronous and synchronous conversation, as well as how to use automation to set customer expectations.

If you are looking for more on Best Practices in all Khoros Care channels, check out the Modernizing Digital Care Series. I discuss in-depth best practices for response times, staffing, optimization, and managing change.