Live chat, is it all that?

Live chat has been around for quite a while, it’s no longer an emerging technology or trend. The general idea behind it is to break down a barrier to customer engagement or cut costs by enabling support teams to deal with requests more efficiently (and therefore more cheaply).

When we say live chat, we mean any popup window / box that enables a customer to talk directly in real-time via a textual medium. A common place you’ll see this is instead of a technical support telephone number, or used alongside to take the load off time and infrastructure intensive telephone support.

In our opinion there are two main types of live chat, although they work in the same basic manner in terms of the technology. The type that will prompt a potential customer to interact with a live chat agent. This is called proactive engagement and has the motive of increasing the chance of a sale or conversion. It might be triggered if a user views a product page for a certain length of time, this shows potential interest. The live chat dialog box might then pop up and ask if you need any assistance or further details. You might also use it to draw attention to a promotion or other hook. A key aspect of this style of live chat is that it’s instigated by automated messages (which may be disguised to look like they’re from a real person, or not). Once the visitor reacts the request can be silently passed onto a chat operator.

The most common style of live chat is the reactive chat request / response model. A visitor requests a live chat session with an operator, it’s then allocated by a queue system. As mentioned above this can be used to save resources on providing customer support, a chat agent could potentially have multiple sessions active at the same time and deal with them simultaneously. Larger companies often look to implement live chat to dissuade visitors from dialling a physical telephone number.

There are a few pretty notable benefits of providing a live chat facility:

  • No accent issues if your support is outsourced
  • Can be used to send pictures, videos for a richer experience
  • Non-intrusive, customers don’t have to pick up the phone and tie themselves up
  • Chat transcripts can be emailed / retained for reference
  • Less of a barrier to interaction – visitors more likely to interact online that dial a number

Regardless of if you’re looking to streamline your support system or offer a richer experience to customers and increase your conversions, live chat shouldn’t be overlooked. A slick implementation can provide a great user experience or have a direct positive effect on revenue.

It’s actually easier than you might think to get started with live chat, a basic feature set of often available without a monthly charge from many providers (such as Purechat or Smartsup). If it proves to be successful it’s then possible to move to a paid plan with more features / users / chat sessions. You could even look at offering live video, sound, file transfer and similar facilities.

Are you sold on live chat? Want to take a look at how it could transform the way your company handles client interaction? Drop us a message! We can offer bespoke implementations on your existing website – we find it can be made to work with nearly any site layout with a little bit of planning and technical know how.

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