Today, the importance of live chat for a company that provides customer service is beyond dispute.
Live chat is now one of the components of virtually any customer support toolset and used by businesses as one of the active customer communication channels.
The benefits of live chat are obvious. Customers prefer it for speed, convenience, smooth user experience that live chat provides. From year to year, statistics show a growing rate of customer satisfaction with live chat as their channel of communication with businesses – it reaches as high as 92%.
Companies maintaining a customer service department also appreciate the benefits of having a live chat – trust it helps to build with their customers, increased conversions and cost-effectiveness. Indeed, you can only have a phone conversation with one customer at a time, while a skilled agent can hold as many as four or five live chats simultaneously. The performance of the service team may get significantly higher.
At the same time, just installing and configuring live chat may not be enough to reach its maximum performance. In this article, I am going to share some best practices that can help you make the most of the live chat benefits.
How to make live chat benefits work for you
Live chat is already a powerful feature, but introducing some practices both in the chat technical setup and in the communication culture will help it reach maximum performance.
#1 Place the live chat widget strategically
In the majority of cases, the live chat widget is located in the right part of the screen, most often in the bottom-right corner. This is where your visitors’ eyes will look if they are searching for live chat. It would be wise to place your live chat widget there to make it easier for customers to find it.
Many communication tools that include live chat offer flexible configuration options that you can use to set up your live chat to be the most effective. Among other settings, you might find the positioning of the live chat widget where you can choose the most suitable placement.
Another tip is to include the live chat in all pages of your website. This way, the customer will be able to chat with you wherever they are.
#2 Be proactive
In other words, be the first to start the conversation. Customers might need assistance but won’t start the chat for various reasons – they do not see it, they do not believe there is someone on the other side, they are too introverted to start a conversation.
Offer assistance when your analytics reports certain customer behavior – they spend too much time on a page or they abandon their shopping cart, for example. Use specific chat templates for each situation where customers might need assistance.
#3 Remain human
Your customer should feel that they are talking to a human being, not a robot. There are quite a few things you can do to make your chats sound human and personal:
- Set up accounts with real names and photos.
- Use friendly and neutral language with a positive attitude towards the customer and their problem.
- If possible and appropriate, switch to voice calls with or without screen sharing, thus creating a more personal connection with the customer and building trust.
#4 Use saved responses
You can also find them under the name “canned messages”, and they are, indeed, a huge time- and effort-saver. Instead of typing a whole sentence, just use a key tag, and your pre-programmed text will appear in the chat window automatically.
Besides time-saving, canned responses, being prepared and verified in advance, are free from typos or any misleading statements. Using such pre-programmed messages makes your conversation much more professional.
#5 Integrate knowledge base in your live chat
While chatting with the customer, provide relevant links to your knowledge base. By doing this, you are killing two birds with one stone – complement your responses with full information and promote the knowledge base encouraging the customer to use it.
You can either provide links manually while chatting or offer a list of related subjects after the chat is finished.
#6 Offer a chat transcript
Your conversation with the customer can contain important information that they might want to use later. Provide an option to send the chat transcript to their email for further reference.
The best time for this option is upon the completion of the chat. Offer the customer to choose whether they want the transcript or not and include the field for the email address.
#7 Be mobile-friendly
Making your live chat available on mobile, on the one hand, increases your availability and exposure to your target audience and, on the other hand, makes your service more convenient for customers. They can reach out to you wherever they are and you, in your turn, can also start a conversation when they are browsing your website on their smartphones.
Besides, always consider live chat as an active component of your marketing strategy. Mobile marketing is getting bigger, thus, all your customer communication channels should be supported on the mobile platform.
#8 Monitor your live chat performance
Like with any other tool you use, it is never enough to just implement live chat and rest on your laurels. You need to monitor its performance closely to identify any deficiencies early and adjust them quickly.
The most effective way is to collect performance metrics showing how your live chat is doing. There are many of them – the first response time, the time to close, the number of messages per case, the number of requests per agent, etc. All of them describe your live chat situation from different perspectives giving a complete picture of its performance and showing whether it adds to customer success.
The most straightforward metric that you can measure is customer satisfaction. To get that data, simply add the rating feature to your live chat configuration. Right after the chat is closed, ask the customer to rate their experience as, for example, “Great”, “Medium” or “Poor”. Analyzing these answers for a certain period, you will see whether customers are satisfied with your live chat service.
Most communication tools include a reporting feature allowing to create and analyze various KPI reports.
How to choose the best live chat software
Now that we have discussed the benefits of having a live chat on a website and how to make the most of it, here’s the million-dollar question – how to choose the right live chat software?
While it seems like a major task – as it often is – with the right approach you will choose your perfect live chat solution if you know what to look for. This is what I am going to help you with. In addition, you can check reviews of the best solutions on the market.
There are very few standalone live chat products, while the majority of tools on the market are complex solutions offering multiple customer communication channels. At the same time, when choosing your live chat product, look for the ones that offer communication over the most popular channels:
- Social media
- Messenger platforms (Facebook Messenger, for example)
- Live chat directly on your website
A truly effective live chat tool offers the option of creating multiple message templates to target different leads at the proper times. Set up a number of automated messages to send to users based on their behavior on your website.
For example, you can configure an automated message when the user spends a specified length of time on your pricing page. You can offer assistance with pricing issues and engage the user in a conversation.
Your live chat should follow the same corporate style guidelines as the rest of your software products. Thus, look for software that allows sufficient customization. You should be able to insert your logo, apply your company colors and/or themes, use custom icons and buttons, and so on.
An effective live chat software product should support integrations with other tools that you are using in your business processes – Slack, Jira, Magento, WordPress, Google Analytics, and many other solutions that help you run your company.
Such integration not only creates a smooth working process for your team. It also improves the customer experience offering them a complete solution for communication with your company. For example, add a “Live Chat” link to your email templates, and they will be able to start a conversation with you directly from the email body.
The number of smartphone users worldwide is now 3.5 billion, and you should consider that fact in planning your communication strategy. Make sure the live chat tool you choose has a mobile version that both your agents and customers can use.
With a mobile chat application, you have much higher chances of engaging and retaining customers who are always on the run and are used to communicating via their smartphones.
Usefulness for lead generation
Like any content that you use on your website and in your customer communication, your live chat should help you in your lead generation efforts. In fact, it is not easy to pinpoint a specific live chat feature that can effectively generate leads. Rather, it is the overall chat performance and the customer experience it creates that makes the difference.
When can your live chat generate leads? When it satisfies the following criteria:
- It is real-time
- It is personalized
- It engages users via smartly targeted messages
- It is mobile-friendly
- It provides meaningful analytical data
I hope this analysis of live chat best practices and selection criteria will help you make the most of this powerful communication tool. When used smartly, live chat can really make a difference and bring your marketing campaigns to a brand new level.
About the Author
Lidia Bondarenko is a PR and outreach specialist at HelpCrunch, an all-in-one customer communication platform. Her professional experience encompasses customer service improvement, social media marketing, and SEO. Her free time she spends searching for new marketing trends and tv shows, and practicing yoga. You can follow Lidia on Twitter @Liya_Bondarenko.