The Five 'W's Of Live Online Chats With Customers

Customers can sometimes have a cold and robotic experience when visiting your website. Whether it be to purchase a product or service, or to get help on a pressing issue, it's nice to have a human to reach out to.

Live online chat allows a customer to have a quick text-only chat right in their app or web browser with a trained representative of your company.

Moxie, a digital customer engagement company, recently released their Live Chat Handbook and it's chock full of practical information on this now-critical area of customer service and support. Here's everything boiled down into the five 'W's of live chat - What, Why, Where, When and Who.

What is live chat?

A live chat or online chat is an engagement with a customer or potential customer through a business's app or website. It enables fast and instant communication with a representative of the business without having to pick up the phone, open a "ticket", or email back-and-forth. 

The live chat usually involves integrating a third-party chat service provider such as GoMoxie.Com or LiveChatInc.Com. Pricing for live chat normally scales depending on the number of customers and chat agents simultaneously using the chat service. Integration with the business's app or website is relatively straightforward nowadays. "Inbound" live chat can benefit "outbound" lead generation when paired correctly.

Why live chat with customers?

Research shows that live chats with customers can build rapport, increase sales and encourage customers to return to the website:

  • 38% of online customers said they made their purchase because of a chat session.
  • Shopping carts grew 20% when live chat was involved.
  • 63% of online consumers said they would be "more likely to return to a website" which has live chat.

There are also some less-than-obvious benefits to live chat - it can help customers with accessibility issues (such as being hearing-impaired), provide a more private environment, as well as cater to the "text-happy" younger generation that (for better or worse) prefer online communication to voice or face-to-face communication.

Where does live chat happen?

The live chat then occurs in a separate window, or, preferably, in the same web page where the customer initiated or accepted the chat. Live chat can also occur on mobile devices with a mobile-friendly website design.

When should live chat occur?

It's best to be proactive with live chat customers. The handbook mentions that a chat invitation initiated by the business is accepted at least 1 out of every 10 times. Of course, it is recommended that you do it for good business reasons:

  • Are customers getting stuck on a page?
  • Are customers experiencing errors?
  • Are you targeting increased sales of a particular product or category?
  • Are you encouraging a customer to add more items to their shopping cart?

Timing is also important. The handbook suggests measuring how long visitors spend on a page and inviting them to chat at the 60%-70% mark. Do NOT invite customers to chat the moment they reach the website. Do NOT aggravate customers who have already refused a chat invitation.

Who should chat with customers?

The handbook suggests hiring and training staff to form a "chat talent pool". It highlights the 3 'E's:

  • Educate your agents on what the company wants to achieve through live chat. Obviously, they need to know the products well - customers can be turned off if the chat agent's knowledge can't match a simple Google search about the product.
  • Etiquette is essential, not just in politeness but in terms of tone - think about whether it should be friendly and casual (eg. for a fashion e-store) or strict and formal (eg. where financial products and services are involved).
  • Encourage your agents to let you know what they need to "delight their customers" then "get out of the way".

Chat with the experts

Live chat is here to stay. If you need assistance with expanding your customer support team to handle phone as well as live chat support, don't hesitate to get in touch with us.

Photo credit: Flickr/Francisco Osorio. Research credit: Live Chat Handbook - A Practical Guide To Drive Engagement, GoMoxie.Com