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Marketing Insights for Entrepreneurs

Live Chat: The Must-Have Customer Service Tool

In today’s competitive marketplace, superlative customer service is no longer optional: It’s required. Yet how can online businesses reach all the way across cyberspace to deliver exceptional customer service?

Live chat technology provides the timely, relevant and friendly communication online customers crave and online businesses need to succeed. We spoke to four companies that offer cutting edge live chat technology to understand how live chat enhances customer service.

Anticipate Potential Problems and Frustrations

The Internet is supposed to make searching for a product or service quick and simple. Yet given the wide variety of customers seeking products to suit their specific needs, confusion and frustration are inevitable. If customers can’t find what they are looking for, then sales will be lost. Live chat allows companies to offer real-time assistance to customers, sometimes even before they ask for help.

“Live chat enables businesses to invite customers to chat if their online behavior indicates they’re having trouble,” says Erin Kang, corporate communications manager at chat software company LivePerson.

“With real-time visitor tracking capabilities, the chat rep can see exactly where the customer is on the site and can give very specific instructions without the customer having to explain their problem.” In this way, problems are often avoided and the customer proceeds to checkout instead of logging off.

Provide Immediate Access to Relevant Information

Instant gratification permeates every aspect of our lives, especially online. Today’s customers demand and expect instant access to the information they need and live chat delivers.

“When customers have questions, you need to answer them while they are still on your website,” says Sunir Shah, chief marketing director at Olark, a live chat software company. “Whether they are considering buying something or about to abandon their shopping cart, live chat gets you in front of your customers when they need you.”

Personalize the Experience

Customers want to feel special. They want attention and an experience tailored to their needs. Live chat allows online companies to provide a personal touch to each and every customer.

It’s easy to understand how live chat personalizes the customer’s online browsing and shopping experience. But did you know some companies use live chat to personalize customer service after the sale, even weeks later.

“Our technology allows a service rep to share a unique link with the customer so that the customer can later click and instantly connect with that same agent to resolve any issues,” says Kang. “This allows the agent most familiar with the customer to solve any remaining issues.”

Instill Trust Beyond the Glass Screen

Traditional brick-and-mortar stores employ salespeople who help customers find what they need, from start to finish. Without live chat, that reassuring human touch is missing from the online purchase experience.

“Immediate contact with knowledgeable professionals builds trust,” says Szymon Klimczak, CMO at LiveChat, Inc. “Adding a human touch to your website is a huge advantage over static pages without people on the other side.”

Knowing trust is a very important factor in the online buying process, the team at SnapEngage designed its live chat software to display the agent’s name and a real photo (no avatars or clipart). Chris Vieville, community caretaker at SnapEngage notes, “We have seen that adding real agent pictures has one of the biggest impacts on whether or not a visitor will actually engage with the chat software. A visitor wants to know there is a real live person there to help them.”

Put Consumers in Control

While many website-savvy visitors easily navigate sites, unfortunately, just as many feel lost at sea; ready to abandon ship. Live chat gives customers the confidence to take the helm and chart their own course.

“Nothing makes customers feel out of control more than when they are confused, doubtful, or unable to continue,” Shah says. “And nothing makes them feel more in control than instant access to a person focused on their questions and needs.”

Reduce Buyer’s Remorse

Have you ever made a purchase and then a few days later, returned the item to the store?  If you said, “yes,” you’ve experienced buyer’s remorse. And while most retailers have flexible return policies, they lose millions in annual revenue from consumers feeling regret post-purchase.

In fact, online shopping statistics show that customers who access assistance from a live chat representative are less likely to return items. It also turns out that just the sight of a live chat window can inspire customers to shop with more confidence, knowing help is available. “Post-sale, chat acts like a return-prevention device,” says Klimczak. “Thanks to chat, return rates drop by 50 percent.”

Live chat provides the missing link between faceless businesses and remote customers. For company websites, live chat is the must-have tool to deliver attentive and personalized customer service. And for online customers, live chat serves a personal support gateway; always at the ready to enhance the experience.

Does your business use live chat technology? How does live chat technology bridge the gap between your business goals and customers’ online experiences?

  • http://www.live2support.com Jeniffer

    Live chat is a wonderful tool for businesses and customers alike. By quickly responding to customer’s questions and concerns, your customers will be more loyal to your company. Live chat support allows you to personally interact with your customers on a daily basis, and leads to happier customers and more sales.

  • http://ca.linkedin.com/in/shawnmichaelhooper Shawn

    Implemented LiveChat for a client earlier this year, something that their direct competitors do not offer. The visitors to their website absolutely love the feature, often commenting on it at the end of a chat. It has helped them close many sales where the customer just wasn’t quite comfortable enough yet to spend the money.

    The biggest challenge to implementation is making sure that you have staff trained and available to be “operators”.

    • Allison Canty

      Hi Shawn – that’s great to hear! Thanks for sharing your experience implementing live chat.

  • http://www.testingthewatersaz.com Ginger

    Any companies out there offering this service?

    • Allison Canty

      Hi there – have you looked into the 4 tools mentioned in the article? LiveChat, Olark, SnapEngage and LivePerson would be great tools to start with.

  • http://www.webprez.com Michael

    So does grasshopper have any suggestions for a Live Chat service? Is this article insinuating that Grasshopper HAS this service integrated?

    • Allison Canty

      Hi Michael – we ran test using live chat (we used Olark for the test) on our site and loved the information we gained and the ability to answer customers questions right on the spot. As a result, we’re working on getting it added to our site. Have you checked out the 4 tools mentioned above?

  • http://Www.staffedwebchatinc.com Mark Felker

    Three years ago our small company started providing contract live chat services to anyone with a website. Soon we found a niche in the medical services vertical markets. Now we handle chat for dental offices, retail and transortation companies in 3 countries and growing. We staff, train and supply the software licensing for a fraction of the cost companies would spend doing it themselves. You can email me for details. Our site is being rebuilt.

  • http://www.cybergenic.net Rene B.

    Great article! Livechat service and support can greatly improve customer experience and thus revenue. Every website regardless of nature should add livechat as another way to interact with the visitor or customer, just like phone and email.

  • Ryan Fitzgerald

    I am a representative with the online live chat service, Bold Chat, a product of LogMeIn. I would check out our platform for all of your live chat needs, it’s incredibly powerful!

    http://www.boldchat.com

  • Greg

    Nice write up. I’ve been using live chat on my site for over a year now, it has worked out great – helping us increase sales as well as offer service. I’d like to give a shout out to ClickDesk (http://www.clickdesk.com/) – the live chat service I use.

    I think there’ll be more and more organizations will be looking to offer live chat support, it’s more efficient than phone or email.

  • http://www.heybubble.com Timothy Cocores

    I love this topic Instill Trust Beyond the Glass Screen. Customer Service has gotten a bad wrap, with companies that don’t care and are trying to save face to companies that see their customers only as dollar signs. Here at HeyBubble Inc. Wen like to be as transparent as possible no hidden agendas, many companies don’t live by these standards. We know about customer service experience providing live chat software. (www.heybubble.com)

  • RobertMeddyson

    Great article Allison, you are so right, ever since we have started using live chat on our webshop, we have seen increasing sales and quite a few return customers.

  • http://www.emmasiemasko.com/ Emma Siemasko

    Glad you’re seeing success with live chat, Robert. I love using it myself to get help. Thanks for the comment.