We live in a society where people expect instant gratification, if they have a problem, they want a solution to it straight away. So, having a live chat feature on your website seems like a logical solution – it’s cheaper and easier than a traditional customer service team and will add a personal touch to your website, right?
For the uninitiated, live chat does exactly what it says on the tin. In other words, if a visitor to your website has a problem, they need help with, they can connect directly with a representative through a button on the page. While live chat is still frequently manned by a customer service representative, automated bots are becoming an increasingly common way of answering customers’ queries.
According to one study, 75.8% of website retail shoppers abandon purchases after adding items to their cart. This is often because they are just browsing or want to compare prices elsewhere. But it can be due to technical problems with the website. This is where a live chat feature could make all the difference. The ability to contact a customer service representative immediately could be the difference between purchasing and abandoning.
Before live chat, there were 2 options if you had an issue with a company – phone, which involved 10 minutes of listening to options and waiting in a queue, or email which can take hours or days to get a response. A Live chat gives you instant access to customer services, which can really improve conversion rates.
But there can be problems with using a live chat on your website. Here we examine the pros and cons of using a live chat plugin.
Advantages of live chat
- Faster support
Customers can reach you very quickly, there is less queueing than traditional customer service phone lines. People love to be able to communicate in real-time, if they have a question, they know they can get an answer to it straight away. Operators can deal with more than one conversation at once allowing for faster resolution times and better customer service. Exhibition stand contractor Quadrant2Design is looking into adding a live chat facility for exactly this reason, MD Alan Jenkins said ‘We think live chat could really benefit our customers as staff could deal with several enquiries at once and not be tied to a phone call for a long period’.
- Efficient use of employee time
The ability to deal with multiple chats at once increases employee productivity. It is much more efficient than a member of staff being stuck on one phone call for a long period. It is also less stressful for employees; they are not being shouted at in person or over the phone by an irate customer.
- Instant customer feedback
You not only get feedback about your product, business or website via live chat, customers can also rate their experience allowing you to see how many were satisfied with the service and those who were not.
Compared to sitting on the phone for hours, live chat provides an efficient, non-intrusive way to resolve problems. Customers can carry on with their daily tasks whilst talking to a representative. More than half of customers like live chat because it allows them to multitask.
If the problem is with navigation or technical elements of the website the customer service representative can see in the Message Centre exactly where the customer is on the site and what they have done, enabling them to solve problems quickly.
- Prevents cart abandonment
If a customer has a query about a purchase, they can seek help rather than give up. According to a Forrester study, 44% of consumers say that having the ability to talk to an agent in the middle of an online purchase is one of the greatest live chat advantages.
Live chat enables supervisors to see common problems for customers much more easily than would be possible through a traditional helpdesk. The software also gives analytical insights like the number of chats and the speed of response.
Customers like live chat as they don’t have to spend a long time listing their name, address, phone number, etc. they can get straight to the problem.
- Lower costs
Manning a live chat facility requires significantly fewer resources than a traditional customer helpdesk. A 2010 Forrester study suggests that a live chat session is about 20%-50% cheaper than a phone call.
- Tool for online sales
By providing instant customer service, live chat can also be used to encourage people to purchase. Customers can be invited to ask questions or be offered special deals which may benefit conversions. If you see the chatbox as a way to reach out to customers via a text message, you can start the conversion process early on. Including the right text on your chatbox can welcome your customers and give them a good opinion of your business from the start.
Disadvantages of a live chat
- Can be impersonal
Some people, particularly the older generation, may find live chat robotic and impersonal. They are used to receiving help over the phone and that is what they would prefer – to speak to someone properly rather than text. Those manning the system should be trained in not only customer service but also sales techniques in order to get the best out of the software.
- The need for 24/7 support
The internet is always on, and customers may be in different time zones. It may not be possible for you to offer 24/7 support for live chat which is what many people will expect. There may also be peak periods during the day when you don’t have enough representatives to man the facility fully. Having to leave messages and not get answers will annoy customers and defeat the object of live chat.
- Identity verification
Live chat is anonymous, if you are dealing with situations that require the personal information to confirm a user’s identity, live chat may not be the best option. For instance, in banking, a telephone call is required. The anonymous nature of live chat can also lead to problems of abuse by trolls, though there is usually the facility to block users.
- Technical issues
Some live chat plugins do not function well on mobile. There are also issues with speed when the system is busy. Some complain that conversations are easily lost if you click away from them. You also need coding knowledge to install some plugins. For help with this, you can contact a web design company like Koreti to do it for you.
One solution to the need for 24/7 support for live chat is to introduce chatbots to enable automatic answering of the most common customer queries. The rise of artificial intelligence has led to a huge growth in these. Facebook Messenger has been used to create 300,000 bots in the last 2 years. They have the benefits of even faster customer service as there will be no waiting for an operator which may improve customer satisfaction. Providing immediate answers to questions may improve conversion rates. Labor costs will be reduced due to needing fewer staff to answer questions. They also enable you to gain insights about your customers by understanding the most common issues.
However, chatbots aren’t perfect, they only have a limited choice of stock answers and no emotions. They can’t improvise. This may lead to frustration in customers who can’t get the answer they need and may put them off using them. They can also be expensive and time-consuming to program in all the questions and answers that will be needed to solve customers’ problems. They require ongoing maintenance to check their knowledge base and the way they are interacting with customers which require resources.
So live chat and chatbots have a number of advantages and disadvantages. Overall, the benefits of live chat in terms of better customer service and speed of resolution probably outweigh the disadvantages. The businesses that don’t like live chat are usually using it in the wrong way. Their answers are often dull and robotic. Live chat only works when there are well-trained, responsive people creating customized answers for visitors. Is live chat for everyone? It’s probably helpful for most types of online businesses that need some form of customer interaction. However, whether you choose to go one step further and include artificial intelligence probably depends on your budget.
Written by Caroline Grey, a Content Writer with a wide variety of experience across a number of different industry sectors.