Web tip: using live chat to connect with your customers

WT---Customer-serviceAre visitors to your website spending a lot time on product pages but not purchasing? Or perhaps your abandoned cart rate is higher than you’d like. Customers with unanswered questions could be a reason.

A 2013 LivePerson Connecting with Customers report said “83% of consumers consistently needed some type of support during their online journey.” Even more frightening for retailers, 48% will abandon the site if they don’t receive it within a five minute timeframe. Live chat, which saw a 24% rise in usage from last year (Forrester), may be the solution.

It’s the preferred method for customer service with 57% of customers preferring to use live chat rather than the phone or email (LivePerson). Plus it helps visitors feel comfortable purchasing. One study showed chatters are 7.5x more likely to convert (BoldChat) than visitors who don’t chat. So, it helps your customers make purchase decisions and has the side benefit of boosting your conversion rates! What’s not to love?

Live chat basics

While features may differ slightly among live chat services, their core capability is the same – enabling a real-time conversation using text. A customer comes to your website and clicks on a link or button that says Live Chat or Text Chat. This opens a separate live chat session window.

The customer enters her name and any other information you’ve set the system up to request then clicks a “Start Chat” button. From there, a new window opens up that has two chat panes – one for the customer rep and one for the customer.

WT---live-chat-windows

Once the customer has all of her questions answered both parties close their chat windows. That’s all there is to it!

Implementing live chat

You’re convinced that this is an option worth looking into, but you probably have some questions. What’s the process for implementation and how long will it take? Will you need more or fewer customer service reps? Let’s look a little closer at how a live chat implementation could impact your business.

Live chat solutions range from free plugins to services costing hundreds of dollars per month. Some of the more common chat service providers we have seen are LiveHelpNow, Zopim, and Live2Support and Olark. Compare features and pricing plans to pick one that will serve your and your customers’ needs and can grow with your business.

Every live chat service will be different, but the general implementation process is fairly easy. You, or your developer, insert code from the chat service provider onto your website or install the live chat software and configure the backend to get started.

We don’t suggest getting rid of your phone-based customer service, but instead augmenting it with live chat to reduce overall costs. Live chat allows customer service reps to handle more than one chat conversation at a time, and it lowers cost per interaction. A March 2013 whitepaper by Stratus reported that using live chat resulted in a 25% decrease in operational costs. It also noted that live chat agent productivity was double that of phone reps.

Ready, set, whoa!

Before you fire up that “Start Chat” button on your site make sure you and your reps are ready. Start by staffing the chat support channel with trained reps from the first day of using live chat.

If you don’t feel like you have enough resources to implement live chat well please wait until you can. An understaffed live chat implementation will hurt your business worse than not having it at all.

The takeaways

Live chat can increase customer satisfaction while decreasing the cost of providing customer service without sacrificing quality.

If you’re in an industry where most businesses don’t use live chat this can give you a competitive edge. On the flip side, if you’re in an industry where use of live chat is higher, such as retail (69% use online chat according to RAZSOR) it’s a must-have!