The Best of Live Chat: How You Should Use this Customer Service Channel

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By Johna Richman

Customer service is no longer just about being available via phone or email. Today’s customers want you to answer their questions immediately, and without a lot of extra work on their part.

That’s where live chat comes in. Live chat is a website-based feature that lets you communicate with customers in real time, connect with them in a whole new way, and help them quickly and efficiently. Many companies already use it to provide excellent customer service, and if you follow their examples and implement best practices, you can make the best of your live chat opportunities.

How Live Chat is Changing Customer Service

Customer experience is heavily influenced by customer service, and live chat will help your company create a better customer service experience for customers visiting your website. In fact, live chat has the highest satisfaction rates among customer service channels. More specifically, 73 percent of those who have used live chat within the last year said they’ve been pretty happy with the experience. In comparison, 61 percent who reached out to companies via email said they were satisfied, and 44 percent of phone users were satisfied, according to Econsultancy.

Live Chat is an Important Feature on Your Website

In addition, almost one-third of companies in the U.S. have started using live chat. And companies that use this tool engage in about 1,500 chats a month, which is nearly a 50 percent increase since 2012. That means more and more companies are realizing the importance of live chat. At the same time, more consumers are beginning to place importance on being able to access the feature. And they’re using it more than ever.

The variance in customer satisfaction levels shows how big of a difference live chat can make. Not only does it give you the opportunity to offer a convenient method for customers to get their questions answered, but it also gives your customer service reps a better chance at answering those questions in a satisfactory manner. In addition, the fact that more companies are using live chat, and are receiving more chats from customers, means people are starting to expect it from businesses. In other words, if all of your competitors are offering live chat, but you don’t, customers who value that type of service may just move on once they get to you.

Examples of Companies that Use Live Chat for Customer Service

The number of companies using live chat has increased drastically over the last several years. Their time-tested methods—including trials, errors, and successes—can help other companies just starting to use live chat. Their best practices will make sure your company is as effective as possible when serving the customer through this channel.

Roku, a streaming platform, started with the goal of improving communication between agents and customers. They employed a few customer service agents to handle a couple of inquiries via live chat at a time. The feature became such a big part of the company’s customer service strategy that 10 agents grew into more than 200, handling more than 8,000 chats per week. Live chat became the number one support tool used at Roku after a year of implementation.

The sports nutrition company, CrushFit, started using live chat on its ecommerce site as a quick and easy way to answer customer questions about products. In this process they also discovered the feature to be a great sales channel. In fact, the company says they’ve been able to convert nine out of 10 people that they communicated with through live chat.

Having a live chat feature on your website can lead to benefits for your business and your customers. It’s an increasingly popular option for people with questions or concerns to effectively communicate clearly and concisely with your team—it’s often, simply, the best method for them to use. That communication may lead to increased satisfaction, more sales, higher conversion rates, or any number of other benefits.

Primary Reasons for Choosing Live Chat Over Calling Customer Service


Four Best Practices for Putting Live Chat into Practice

In order to get the best results from your live chat feature, you can’t just simply add it to your website and hope for the best. There’s a lot more that goes into running a successful customer service initiative through live chat.

Here are some best practices for using live chat to improve your customer service and grow your business.

Have a goal in mind

The first step in any successful live chat initiative is to know what you want to accomplish. Simply wanting to provide better customer service is not concrete enough: You’ll want to get more specific. For example, if your product is of a technical nature, a goal might be to help people better understand it so that they complete the purchase. In that case, you want to train agents to fully understand the product and explain it well. After this you will want to measure how successful the initiative truly was. A way to go about doing so could be by tracking sales increases after employing the live chat feature.

Be ready to respond

No matter what your goals are with live chat, you’re not likely to achieve them if you’re not available to respond when people contact you. This means you need dedicated agents who are ready to reply within minutes of being contacted. Track your website traffic to learn when it’s at its peak, then create a schedule based around those statistics—your data will vary based on your business type and customer base. However, if you can’t provide chat support at every hour your customers need you, or 24/7 as some customers prefer, set specific hours that you’ll be available online. Set up an autoresponder that lets people know your hours if they reach out outside of that time frame. In addition to the autoresponder, post your live chat hours on your website or any other point of contact (e.g., social media, email signature blocks).

Respect your agents’ capabilities

In order to respond to your customers quickly and effectively, you must make sure you have enough agents available to cover the number of chats. Figure out how many customers each agent can or should be able to handle and set up a system based on this. That way they can give each customer the required time and attention they deserve, and solve their inquiries in a timely manner. According to statistics, it takes about 23 seconds for the agent to initially reply and 42 seconds for them to resolve the issue. Making this form of communication the quickest and most sought after for customers.

Increase Conversions and Engagement with Live Chat


Give customers reasons to contact you

Your live chat initiative isn’t going to do much good if people don’t use it. Since live chat is increasingly becoming more popular, some website visitors may see that little box on your website and not take much notice—if your customers don’t think contacting you via live chat can help them, they aren’t likely to use it.

Make it easier for them to see the benefits of chatting live by proactively reaching out to them through a drown drown or pop up message. For instance, if you want people to reach out to you to ask about how your product works, you could say, “Have a question about how this works? Chat with us now!”

A simple example can inspire customers to reach out to you. That, in turn, gives you the opportunity to provide great service. This interaction could translate into increased sales, sign-ups, or other countless benefits for your business.

Keep track of results

Once you start using live chat to communicate with customers on your site, you need to continually track what is and isn’t working so that you have a better idea of how to improve your experience. For example, if your goal is to increase sales by being available to explain products to customers, then track sales changes starting from the time you implemented live chat.

Also consider measuring how certain changes impact the effectiveness of your chats. If you add a new headline or call to action to your chat box one week, find out if that change increases the number of chats or if it had an impact on any other metrics for that specific week.

Live chat is an important customer service tool that should be carefully considered. Follow these best practices to take full advantage of this powerful tool.


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