Live Chat Essentials that you need to know

Live chat is increasingly popular for businesses of all sizes. This is part 1 of a two-part article on live chat.

The technology has been around since 2002, but it is only now that consumers are becoming more comfortable with it and better tools have become available to help businesses implement it on their websites.  We think it’s also grown due to the number of people working in open plan offices, not wishing to share shopping information with their colleagues.


How Can You Use Live Chat?

Live chat provides a way for website users to instantly get in touch. Customers who access the service will be connected to a customer service agent who will chat to them in real time. The agent can answer questions, provide recommendations or offer other kinds of help.

Live chat can be used for

  • Customer support
  • Product suggestions and sales conversion tool


Live chat as a customer support tool

The most common use of live chat is to provide customer support. Many businesses offer a live chat service where customers can ask for help. However, live chat can have other uses too. Some customers and businesses choose live chat as their preferred contact option, instead of the phone or online forms.


Live chat for product suggestions and sales conversion tool

Other businesses are using live chat for sales by suggesting products or helping customers to make their choices. Live chat enables agents to take a proactive approach, rather than waiting for the customer to make contact first.

When it is used effectively, live chat can provide a valuable service for your customers that will enhance your reputation and boost sales.


Advantages of Live Chat

We’ve written about the benefits of live chat for business before and how UK retailers use live chat. Additional reasons why so many businesses are now providing live chat on their websites is that customers increasingly expect to be able to get in touch in this way. Since so many websites offer live chat, customers can be put off if they have to wait to get a response from you. Live chat offers some significant advantages for both customers and businesses.

  1. Instantly connects customers with agents so that they don’t have to wait for replies or phone up only to be put on hold. By responding immediately, you’ll avoid losing customers who give up before you can get in touch.
  2. Provides a personalised service that ensures customers get answers that are tailored to them. An effective live chat service can improve customers’ experiences and make them feel valued. One survey found that live chat had the highest customer satisfaction rate at 73% compared to email and phone support.
  3. Generates feedback on your website and can identify common problems or questions that need to be addressed. Analytic tools also enable you to evaluate the live chat service.
  4. Can enable your agents to get in touch with website visitors, rather than waiting for them to reach out to you. Live chat tools can also identify which customers may be in need of advice, for example if they’ve been comparing products for a long time.
  5. Costs a lot less than providing customer service by phone as agents can handle multiple chats simultaneously. Chat bots can also provide answers to basic questions without having to pay an agent. Live chat is estimated to be 17% cheaper than phone calls.


Disadvantages of Live Chat

Although live chat can be very useful for both you and your customers, there are some potential pitfalls that you need to avoid.

  • Live chat can be intrusive if requests pop up too quickly when people enter the site or if it happens too often. Timed chat requests or providing an easy to spot button on the page can be more effective.
  • The live chat service should only be offered when it is available. If there aren’t any agents at certain times then the service shouldn’t be offered. Customers should have a different route for contacting you, such as an online form, instead. If you only tell people the service is unavailable after they’ve clicked on the chat box, they will be disappointed and lose trust in your business.
  • Live chat can suffer from the same problems as customer support phone lines if your agents aren’t well versed in your business and free to customise the responses. Prepared or canned responses can improve efficiency, but they should be a starting point for agents to work from and not the only response they make. If agents aren’t acting like people, customers can find them very irritating and you might as well use a chatbot.


Choosing the Right Live Chat Tools

Live chat can be a very effective way to provide support for your customers or to increase sales through your website. The advantages of live chat can outweigh the potential disadvantages as long as you use them correctly. There are a number of different live chat tools that you can use on your site. It’s important to consider what you want to achieve with your live chat and to compare the different features that these tools can provide so that you can make the right choice for your business. Some of the best tools for businesses will be discussed in the next blog on live chat.