Live chat software enables real-time instant messaging on your website between agents and customers. But this doesn’t just have to mean a popup text box: it can also include screen sharing, voice conversations, video and more. In most cases the software is browser-based, meaning that your customers don’t have to download or install anything, but it can also be implemented as part of a mobile app – with full functionality including screen sharing and on-screen pointers.
To get the most from live chat it can't be a standalone function. It will always work alongside a range of other customer service channels, including self-service customer portals, online knowledge bases, traditional call centres, social media and more.
That means your live chat offering should be integrated with your help desk software, which in turn should be a seamless part of your CRM solution.
If you decide that live chat is the right solution, there's still the challenge of implementing it properly. There are two important things to focus on: finding and training the right agents, and knowing when live chat will be most useful to customers.
Customers’ expectations of live chat are high, so keep staffing at a level where you can deliver a good service. If you don’t plan to offer a 24-hour service, make the hours of availability very clear – perhaps on the chat window itself. You might also consider only offering the live chat option at times when there are enough agents available, avoiding the long waits that customers find frustrating.
eDigital Research’s Customer Service Benchmark 2013 found that 64% of consumers expected to wait 1 minute or less for an agent in live chat. They recommend making agent availability very clear to the user both before and during the chat session, with messages telling them how long they are likely to wait and also showing when the agent is typing a response.
In terms of efficiency, the number of live chat sessions you can handle in an hour is comparable to the number handled by a call centre; although a single agent can handle several chat sessions at once, web-based chat sessions tend to last longer than a comparable phone call.
It’s also important to have the right agents. Use experienced customer service staff, but also give them special training on live chat. They will need a different set of skills to agents working on the phone; accurate keyboard skills and a clear writing style may be more important than a friendly voice.
Proactive live chat – where you prompt the customer asking whether they need help – is a great opportunity to leverage your website and customer journey analytics, helping you to choose just the right moment for a prompt to chat. Appropriate points for live chat in a customer journey might include:
As with other context-sensitive communications, using this information to trigger chat sessions is a really smart way to tackle known customer pain points. Focusing your effort here can really pay dividends in terms of customer satisfaction and conversions.
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Live chat is key to delivering great customer service today but is just one part of a bigger solution. A truly end-to-end, omni-channel, customer service solution is needed to take your customer service to the next level and keep your customers truly happy. It can also turn your cost centre into a profit centre.
On average, Salesforce customers have seen a 45% increase in customer satisfaction with Service Cloud.
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